The swiftness with which the year marches towards the holiday may take us by surprise but the long weekend certainly doesn't.
We know well in advance that Easter is on the way by all the Easter eggs and hot cross buns that the shops start selling around Valentine's Day. The swiftness with which the year marches towards the holiday may take us by surprise but the long weekend certainly doesn't.
However, nearly two thousand years ago that first Easter morning came as a complete surprise to those who had watched Jesus arrested, tried and crucified.
Jesus had explicitly told the disciples that He would die and rise again, and He had symbolically indicated to the religious rulers that if they "destroyed this temple" he would "raise it again in three days". His death was even prophesied in Isaiah 53 of the Torah that they all read.
Yet when faced with the reality of Jesus' broken body hanging on the cross, bloodied and suffocating, nobody really imagined that He would literally return in a few days, recognisable and yet eternally changed.
Those three days (or part days) that Jesus was in the grave surely seemed hopeless and bleak.
There would have been lots of tears, lots of "why God?" questions, lots of disillusionment and despair. Peter, Jesus' main guy, decided to chuck the whole thing and go back to being a fisherman.
But on Easter morning Jesus did exactly and literally what He had said He would – He physically rose from the grave and walked among them. He ate and drank with them, He let them touch His scars to prove He was no figment of their imagination. And He appeared not just to His twelve closest friends, but to hundreds of others.
Maybe you are in the space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in your life. The disaster has happened – the divorce, or illness, or retrenchment. The accident, or death, or addiction or rejection. And you cannot see how your circumstances could possibly be redeemed.
Can I encourage you to turn to the God of Easter mornings? He is a God of surprises. A God of the unexpected. A God who takes on lost causes and dead ends and turns them into triumphs of His grace. He is well-known for rescuing people out of the most dire of circumstances and turning ashes into bouquets of roses (Isaiah 61, The Message Bible).
And Easter is not the only proof of this in the Bible, it is just the most dramatic.
Nearly 100-year-old Abraham with one illegitimate son must have wondered how God could possibly make good on His promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars.
Joseph in his Egyptian prison cell, falsely accused, would never have guessed that in a single day he would go from wretch to ruler.
Moses, a murderer, herding sheep in the desert, could never have foretold how he, now 80 years old, would lead all His fellow Israelites to freedom from Pharaoh after a dramatic set of never-before-seen plagues. (But God had told Abraham generations before that the exodus would happen. Genesis 15.)
Joshua, marching for the sixth time with the silent crowd around Jericho, must have wondered how the seventh time with trumpets and shouts was going to win them a war.
Daniel, thrown to the lions for remaining faithful to God, would never have predicted He would be eating breakfast the next morning, completely unscathed.
Widowed, childless Ruth never imagined she would be the great grandmother of a king; the sisters of Lazarus, who had been rotting in the tomb for three days, never expected to hug him again; and Paul never expected to become the biggest advocate of the sect he hated most.
All these people and millions more, including myself, have been bowled over by the bigness and beauty of the plans God has for us. And He can do the same for you, if you just invite Him to take over your story too.
Let the unpredictable, untameable, all-powerful Christian God surprise you afresh this Easter.•