Journey to the Cross


The preacher John Claypool once said, “When you come in contact with the God depicted in the Bible, you might as well get ready for surprises… Across the centuries, God has proved to be a strange combination of faithfulness and unpredictability, and God has been that way from the very beginning. Again and again, surprise has proved to be God’s other name.”

Do we expect God to surprise us this Easter Sunday? Or do we think we already know how the story ends?


Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).

Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.

John 20:11-18


Psychologists say that when we don’t have all the facts, we tend to make up stories about what actually happened. It’s how our brains are wired. And so, when Mary Magdalene sees that the tomb is empty, the story she tells herself is that someone has taken Jesus’ body. She can’t imagine another way for the story to make sense.

But when Jesus calls her name, the story Mary is telling herself changes. The resurrection changes all of our stories, doesn’t it?

We can tell ourselves the story that we are unworthy of love. The resurrection tells us about a Love that will never let us go.

We can tell ourselves that we have too many doubts to believe. The resurrection tells us that if Jesus could handle Mary’s doubts, he can surely handle ours.

We can tell ourselves that the pain is just too overwhelming. The resurrection reminds us that even though scars remain, new life abounds.

We can tell ourselves that death is the end of the story. But the overwhelming surprise of Easter is that death never gets the final word.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell


God, help me to live each day – each moment – in expectation that you are the God who always surprises, and whose stories are so much greater than any story I could ever write for myself. Amen.


“For I am convinced,” as someone once told us,
“that nothing will separate us from the God who’s victorious.

That neither death nor life, neither things present nor past,
Will keep away from us the God whose love always lasts.”

God’s love makes us strong, it helps us be brave,
Because after all, God’s love conquered the grave.

So may we live with great courage – Do not be afraid.
Why are you crying? Jesus Christ has been raised!

And may we hear this good news, and with it take heed,
Because friends, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!