Friday is about the embrace of Christ as he wraps our sinful selves – each and every one of us muddy beyond measure – in his infinitely loving arms, taking our sins upon himself while hanging on the shockingly sacred cross.
Saturday is about waiting with bated breath for the time to pass and for the Christ to breathe again. Knowing how the story ends does not lessen its glorious unfolding, and so Saturday is marked by holy suspense and wonderment.
Sunday is about life, hope, joy, disbelief, deep belief, new clothes, and a feast to end all feasts.
When that stinky, filthy, sorry and soiled son – just returned from a life of utter independence, and also utter pig stench – was embraced by his gracious, forgiving, gentle, and loving father, the story was not ended.
Not even close.
That son needed cleaning up (done by the father) and new clothes (provided by the father) and a joyous welcome home party that blew the roof right up off the house in a burst of wild celebration (hosted by the father).
The older son – who had never left home outwardly but had surely left it inwardly – wasn’t at the party, not because he missed it or wasn’t told. He skipped it. Entirely. Totally. Even after being warmly welcomed and invited. The older son didn’t want hugging. He didn’t want cleaning up. He didn’t want reclothing. He didn’t want rejoicing. He didn’t want a party – not that party, at least. And what we don’t want is not forced upon us. Ever.
The lost son was found, and the family partied like there was no tomorrow (even though there were endless tomorrows.)
When Jesus hung on that cross – dripping with the stink and stench and filth of the world’s sins – and held all of humanity in his embrace while breathing his last, the story was not ended.
Not even close.
Less than 48 hours after he’d been nailed to the cross, and maybe just 36 hours after he died – really and truly and totally died – Jesus’ tomb was empty. Really and truly and totally.
This is rather a big deal. A stupendously, shockingly, and stunningly big deal, in fact.
Resurrection doesn’t just happen every day (though a little part of me is brought to life each day after it has first died out really, truly, and totally).
And of course, no matter how much he’d told them it would happen, his best friends weren’t expecting their really, truly, and totally dead leader to ever be anything other than really, truly, and totally dead.
They didn’t know the end of the story yet. Their suspense and fear were real. Truly and totally.
So you can imagine their surprise when just 50 or so hours after watching him take his last breath, they saw Jesus right there with them – where they huddled behind locked doors for fear of what might happen to guys who were friends with the man who had turned the world upside down really and truly and totally.
Also understandable: their fear of what might happen to them was nothing compared to the shock of what did happen to them. Seeing a dead guy, that is. Who was really, truly, and totally no longer dead. He spoke. He embraced. He laughed. He comforted. He breathed in and out, in and out, in and out, no more breathing his last, now re-embodied in flesh and blood – flesh no longer just human and blood no longer merely shed.
And then the unthinkable: the risen Christ, breathing in and out, in and out, in and out – really and truly and fully alive – breathed in and out right onto his friends, much like God breathed into the first of humanity, eons and ages and lifetimes ago.
“Don’t fear,” he said. “It’s me,” he said. “I’m here,” he said. “Be at peace,” he said.
Then he breathed on them and said, “Be. Be born. Be new. Be mine. Be filled with the Spirit of holiness and life.”
So you see, there is no doubt that we all – each and every one of us – takes God’s breath away – not by force, but by the depth of his own holy love: first on the cross, where he breathed his last; then at the party (for that’s what happened behind those locked doors on Sunday night – a party indeed), where he breathed their first. Our first.
The Lord is risen. The tomb is empty. We have been cleansed. Our spirits are full.
We know how the story ends. Let’s now live into its glorious unfolding – really, truly, and fully.