“Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” I always found it strange that Charles Dickens would begin his beloved Yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol, with these words. I guess I hoped that the beginning of the story would be a little softer, a little warmer, a little happier. I wanted the beginning of the story to have more of the hope, the joy and the redemption that we find in the story’s ending. Dickens was clearly convinced, however, that this deathly detail was the only place his story could begin. “There is no doubt that Marley was dead,” he wrote. “This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”
When we think of Easter, it is easy for us to associate the budding trees, the quickly greening grass, and opening flowers as symbols of the new life we find in Christ. There is no question that these are joyful signs of the season. The annual return of new flowers symbolizes the resiliency of life in the face of winter’s assault, the steadfast constancy of God’s loving care, and the hope of beauty and joy to come. I would propose to you, however, that Spring flowers may not be the best symbols for what Easter really means. I don’t say this because I don’t love flowers, because I do. I say this because the plants from which those blossoms are growing were never really dead. They were dormant … they were laying low … they were preserving their energy … but they were never really dead.
What I am trying to say is that I think Charles Dickens may have been on to something. Perhaps our Easter story should begin the same way Dickens began his Christmas story: Jesus was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. If you need a refresher on this, just look to the clear statement of The Apostles’ Creed. We recite it almost every week: “he was crucified, dead, and buried.” Period. In other words, Jesus was not just laying low for three days. He was not sleeping. Jesus, the Son of the living God, was dead. That should have been the end of the story. The protagonist, or hero, was dead. When we begin with that fact, we see the full scope of what Easter really means. Easter is not a story of reawakening. It is a story of resurrection.
I hope you will enjoy the Spring flowers, and I hope you will celebrate their arrival as much as I will. However, in this Easter season, I also hope you will recognize the amazing hope and truth of a story that only God could write … “There is no doubt that Jesus was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.”