What’s so great about Easter? Think about it, every year we gather and celebrate Easter. It’s a happy and joyous event, but if we’re honest, we’re probably more happy about the fact that Spring has arrived and the weather is getting warmer (well, at least in theory). Few of us stop to think about what’s so great about Easter. Sure, for Jesus it was a great Sunday after a really bad weekend, but for you and me – what? What does Jesus’ resurrection do for you and me?
For the answer we need to look to that great repository of human wisdom which is, of course, – reality television. Reality TV is more than just trainwrecking celebrities and cut-throat competition. There are also how-it’s-built shows, redecorating and remodeling shows, and my favorite –restoration shows. I love shows like Pawn Stars, where someone brings an old pinball machine into Rick, Corey, the Old Man and Chumley and it’s in terrible condition. Then they bring it to an expert who meticulously cleans it, rewires it, finds new parts for it and restores it. What begins as a piece of junk bought for a couple of hundred dollars, end up a collectable that is sold for thousands.
My favorite form of reality TV is car restoration shows, where classic cars are found, restored and sold at auction for incredible prices. A couple of months ago, I actually got to shoot a video project at one of those auctions in Amelia Island, Florida. We interviewed many of the cars’ owners and they told us stories of how they found their prize possession, often rusting away in a barn somewhere, neglected and falling apart.
There was one particular owner, an elderly man named Buddy. Buddy looked exactly like you think a wealthy old car collector named Buddy would look. Grey hair and moustache, plaid jacket, a beret and a walking stick that I’m pretty sure had a secret flask in its handle. He owned a particularly rare car, a gull-wing Mercedes from the 1950’s. He told me how when he found it, it was rotting away in an old barn, almost unrecognizable. Yet his expert eye was able to see it was truly a valuable car. Given the car’s deplorable condition, most people would have written it off as unrestorable. But Buddy looked at it and saw potential.
So he bought it for a few hundred dollars, spent years and thousands of dollars restoring it to its original condition. When it was finished, he brought it to car shows, where it would win the blue ribbon every time. Eventually, he put it on the auction block where it sold for a million dollars. Amazing, that what was once a rusting hunk of junk, neglected in an old barn, was now restored beyond its former glory and valued as priceless.
While shooting at Amelia Island, I needed to get a wide shot of the whole event. So I went up on a small hill that overlooked the whole golf course on which the event was held. It was incredible to stand there and view the entire the concours with hundreds of immaculately detailed, classic cars shining in the sun. If you were a car nut, you would think you had died and gone to heaven. As I stood there looking at them, I thought of the shot I wished I could have gotten. It would have been great to get a before and after shot of all of these restored cars together. Imagine if I could turn magically back the clock on each of these vehicles just a decade or so, and see all them in the condition they were before their owners restored them.
The scene would resemble, not an elegant car show, but an automobile junkyard. If I stood on hill overlooking that junkyard, I wondered if I would be able to imagine that one day, all those rotted hulks would one day be restored to a priceless condition. Could I make that leap of hope?
Actually, I think I could. The reason I could is because I had just seen an example of it in Buddy’s car. Because I saw it once, I knew it was possible. In fact, it made me think it was even possible for the sixteen year old rusting BMW with 165,000 miles on it I have sitting in my driveway. Imagine that transition, from automobile graveyard to concours de elegance.
That got me thinking. I wondered, if cars can be transformed from wrecks to classics, can the same be done with people? If I stood on hill overlooking a cemetery, would I be capable of making an even bigger leap of hope? Pondering all the individual lives and stories that a field of gravestones represents, could I ever imagine the rotted and decayed hulks of those human bodies restored – not just to their former condition, but to a glory even beyond that? Is such a thing even possible?
Actually, it is. We know it’s possible because of Easter, the event we celebrate today.
If we looked at Jesus on Good Friday we would have thought much the same thing as if we looked at a junkyard full of cars or a cemetary. Here was a man of God, whose teachings seemed so life-affirming, whose actions seemed like God was back in action again. Now look at him. Hanging on a cross, nails in his hands and feet and a spear hole in his side. How does God make a come back from that? Even his best friends and most loyal followers have abandoned him. No hope of Jesus being restored to his former glory, let alone something even greater. On Good Friday, any reasonable person standing before the cross would conclude that all hope was lost for Jesus and his followers. There was no way they could be restored to what they were just a mere week before.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul writes about Jesus’ resurrection. He says that the resurrection is the first fruit or preview of what is to come. On the first Easter morning, God began a process of bringing new life and a new creation into the world. It began with Jesus and continues through the whole world today.
Knowing it happened for Jesus makes it possible for us to believe it can happen for all of us. It makes it possible for us to stand on hill overlooking a cemetery and understand that human existence is not a meaningless struggle that ends in death. Easter is the preview of the promise that one day, the lives of all those people will one day be restored. That gives us hope.
That hope is not just for those who have gone before us and died, or just for us when we die. It is hope for us in the present too. You and I are like that old rusty classic car in the junk yard. We were built as shiny new works of art, with so much potential, and through our own bad choices and flawed human nature, we end up like discarded automotive skeletons in a scrap heap. We don’t like to admit it but there are days when we can no longer deny our own dysfunctional selves. The mistakes and regrets of our past eat away at us. Our own self-doubt and loathing break us down. And the fear of our impending physical death causes us to wonder if there is any hope at all.
Easter tells us that there is hope for us all. The empty tomb tells us that if God could raise Jesus from the dead, God can certainly raise you and I to a new life here and now. If the Risen Jesus appeared to his followers, the ones who deserted and denied him, and gave them new and purposeful lives, then that same Risen Christ can come to us, who desert and deny him today.
The Risen Jesus can resurrect you and me to new life, to new dimensions of life. He can give you and me a renewed purpose and direction. He can raise us from whatever junkyard we find ourselves in today. He can take the rusted hulk of our lives and restore them, not just to what they once were, but to what they were always meant to be.
Easter is not just a fanciful story about long ago. It is an in-breaking transforming reality right now. It begins with turning our lives around and following the way of Jesus.
On Easter morning, God inaugurated a new age in the world. Just as God created the world and it fell into death and decay, God was now re-creating the world anew. Through that Easter event, God extends an invitation to each of us, to be recreated, reborn and renewed.