“It was a dark and stormy night…”
This is the way the Charlie Brown’s beloved dog, Snoopy, began all of his stories about the WWI Flying Ace and his fight against the infamous Red Baron. This line was made famous in 1830 by George Earle Bulwer-Lytton in his novel Paul Clifford. With these few words, you know you are about to hear a story about life and death, and true love.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…”
This is how the Gospel of John begins to share the events of Easter morning. And with these words we know we are about to hear a story that not only tells us about life and death but also about the truest kind of love there is - a love that lays down its life for a friend.
Maybe except for the Gospel of Mark which very abruptly ends, the Gospels are not quick to reveal the resurrected Jesus. In John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene is the first on the scene and when she discovers the stone removed and the tomb empty, she ran to Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple who are the next to witness the empty tomb. After they see the empty tomb, they both go home. But Mary remains weeping for the missing Jesus. It is only after a conversation with some angels that Mary sees the resurrected Jesus, whom she confuses with the gardener.
In the Gospel of Luke, the women who go to prepare Jesus’ body are told by angels that he is not there, but it is not until two followers of Jesus were walking home that the resurrected Jesus reveals himself. And again, these men do not know that it is Jesus with whom they are speaking until later.
The Gospel of Matthew doesn’t keep us waiting quite as long for the resurrected Jesus. As Mary Magdalene and the other Mary are leaving to tell the disciples what they have seen, Jesus meets them on the way and gives them instruction.
This kind of slow revelation is what makes a great story. Tension builds, the darkness deepens just before the moment of glorious resolution and a happy ending. This is the kind of story authors dream to tell.
However, this is more than just good storytelling; this kind of slow revelation is also the reality of life and we learn a lot when we don’t skip to the happy ending. We may sit and read scripture and think God works quickly, and certainly sometimes God does. But we often forget that what we read in scripture is God working over thousands of years. And when we read the book of Revelation, we realize that scripture isn’t done being revealed either; God is still working toward a final resolution and happy ending. We are still in the stage when tensions are building, when darkness sometimes deepens, where we are in the midst of a dark and stormy night.
But along the way each of our stories have glimpses and glimmers of this resurrected Christ who meets us along the way, even early on the first day of the week… when it is still dark.