By D. Christian Nix
I remember my one and only Easter as a full-time student pastor far too vividly. It may be the only 'do-over' in egg hunt history. It was a beautiful day, but the sun was quickly blotted out by an untimely false start at the third through fifth grade egg field. There was an apparent miscommunication – I blame other people – and a handful of kids were somehow allowed to start hunting before the masses had made it to the starting gate from their hot dog lunch.
Oh, it was an ugly, ugly scene – tables were overturned, tears were flowing, blood was shed…or was it just ketchup? Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but it wasn't my proudest moment. Adults had to recover eggs from children with overburdened baskets, order had to be restored, angry parents assuaged and eggs re-distributed across the asphalt parking lot – it was more a mad chase scenario than a hunt, I guess.
The irony was thick, instead of a 'triumphal entry' I had created an 'angry mob.' I'm certain I heard chants of 'crucify him, crucify him' pointed in my direction. I had leveraged an event that involves a competition driven by greed – enhanced with monstrous prize eggs – to celebrate the selfless life and death of Jesus. In the midst of the hunt I had forgotten what it was we were supposed to be searching for.
The 'hunt' for Jesus began early in his ministry. He was constantly surrounded by crowds, many following him from town to town. When he took a boat across the sea, the crowds met him on the other side. Certainly they were enamored by his message…and his miracles. Like children at Easter, many were probably hoping to find a prize egg.
After a long day of caring for the sick and afflicted in Capernaum, Mark reveals that Jesus sought a quiet place of solace the next morning (Mark 1:35ff). After his disciples finally find him, in what must have been an exhaustive search, they chide Jesus for his absence – "everyone is looking for you!" Jesus calmly responds that it's time to move on.
Jesus appears to have had little interest in being the hunted. His driving motivation was not to be the center of attention, but rather to bring attention to the needs of communities, and to challenge the social, political and religious boundaries that diminished (and continue to diminish) the lives of so many.
Eventually the 'hunt' for Jesus takes a decidedly disastrous turn. The crowds that praised him vanish – apparently all the 'prize eggs' had been found. They are replaced by moneychangers, rich young rulers and religious authorities hell bent on his destruction.
Few stood by the cross as he died, and only three, two Marys and a Salome, visited his tomb. In the end, the hunt for Jesus comes up empty. As the angel tells them, "He is not here…" (Mark 16:6). The message brought fear and trembling, and maybe the anger that only true mourners could hold for their beloved – "Where are you?! Don't you know that everyone is looking for you!"
Yet, Jesus' posthumous call to his followers in Mark's Gospel was simple… 'it's time to move on.' Begin again. Challenge the authorities again. Put the rich young rulers in their place again. Heal the sick again. Comfort the afflicted again. Seek justice again. Be willing to die for it…again.
I've spent the better part of three decades trying to wrestle Jesus from his hiding place – "Damn it, Jesus! Don't you see the trouble in our world…do something! Don't you know that everyone is looking for you!" I think I've become just deaf enough to the Christian cacophony to finally hear Jesus calmly whispering, "Damon…it's time to move on. Why are you still standing by my tomb? Don't you see – it's the world that needs to be resurrected, not me."
"He has risen…he is not here" – those words are not a comfort, they are a challenge…and they leave me trembling.
-D. Christian Nix blogs at disillusionedgospel.blogspot.com.