Two of the fingers on his right hand
had been broken
so when he poured back into that hand it surprised
him—it hurt him at first.
And the whole body was too small. Imagine
the sky trying to fit into a tunnel carved into a hill.
He came into it two ways:
From the outside, as we step into a pair of pants.
And from the center—suddenly all at once.
Then he felt himself awake in the dark alone.
Easter, by Marie Howe
So says the poet, Marie Howe, in her poem, Easter, as she imagines what it must have been like inside that tomb on Easter morning. How it must have felt for Jesus as he reentered the world of the living. How he “poured back into” his body, as she puts it.
How his body was “too small”—to which, when I read this poem with a group from our church some years back, someone said, That’s true for all of us.
Aren’t we more than our bodies can contain? And doesn’t that become clearer with each passing year?
And what of this re-entering “two ways,” first from the outside “as we step into a pair of pants”—an image I love—and then “from the center—suddenly all at once?” Like how we wake up from a deep sleep. Like how we fall in love. Was that how it was as Jesus returned to himself inside the tomb that first Easter morning?
Who can say? Scripture is painfully silent on these things. The gospels don’t provide any first-hand accounts of what happened in the tomb that morning. No monologues from Jesus on how the moment of resurrection felt, what he knew and didn’t know, what he saw and didn’t see. In fact, the gospels have very little to say about the risen Christ at all in those first resurrection moments. He’s nowhere to be found.
Even as the stories of resurrection continue—and they do continue; only the earliest manuscripts of Mark end at the tomb—we’re told much more about how the disciples respond to the risen Christ in their midst than what the risen Christ himself is up to.
Their fears and doubts. Their questions and bewilderment.
This is what Easter looked and felt like to the people who were there.
And if we trace their lives from those first Easter moments into the story of the early church, we see that they, like the poet imagines Jesus, stepped into their new, resurrected lives two ways. From the outside in, as they were forced to make sense of the miraculous in their midst, and then from the center out, as they shared their stories of encounter with each other and felt the Holy Spirit’s presence among them.
But they, and we, differ from the risen Christ in one important way as we feel the truth of Easter within us. We awake not “in the dark alone,” but always, and blessedly, in the company of others.