Laurie Beth Jones in her book, Jesus C.E.O., quotes a child as saying that Jesus' first words upon stepping out of the tomb that first Easter morning, were, "Ta-Da!" It may seem a little frivolous to us, but not to a child's way of thinking. Easter is the grand "Ta-Da!" It is the great surprise. It is the miracle whose magnitude legitimizes the Christian faith. It is the perfect answer to Ponce de Leon's wandering through the alligator-ridden swamps of (what later became) Florida looking for the fountain of youth. It is the cry of hope for Job's great question, "If a man die shall he live again?"
In the thirty-odd years I was a pastor, I preached many funerals. I never preached a single one without quoting the Grand Ta-Da! I liked helping the sorrowing remember that Jesus put an end to all endings. Life has no right to die. Jesus fixed grief once and for all. God in eternity will wipe away all tears, but He first got His handkerchief out to begin the process on that long-ago morning when Mary Magdalene stumbled her weeping way up to the door of the tomb.
She heard the Grand Ta-Da!
By midmorning Simon and John heard the Grand Ta-Da, too.
Then a couple of sullen foot travelers walking on the way to Emmaus heard it.
There's no use rehearsing the story of the Grand Ta-Da! We all know it so well, and I wouldn't bring it up at all, except that I kind of like thinking about it.
I remember a post-midnight over twenty years ago when my sister called me to tell me my mother had just died. I remember how non-baroque and simple the two words fell out of the earpiece of the telephone receiver: "Mom's dead!" There are some words that can't be ornamented or gilded with propriety. There they were — for a single moment I was on the edge of despair. Then I heard a distant fanfare and the faint timbre of trumpets. Into my temptation to grieve as those who have no hope I heard the Grand Ta-Da, unmistakable and clear.
My Grandpa died only a few years ago. Nobody ever thought Grandpa would die. He was 102 years old. Just to see Grandpa was like looking at an example of eternal life. He had been carried into the Oklahoma Territory as a four-year-old in 1893, the very year that our great grandparents staked their claim on the family farm. He was converted on the way home from a barn dance seven years before Oklahoma statehood. In later years he looked like Moses, or at least like Moses is supposed to have looked. His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated, as Deuteronomy 34:7 described Moses. Right up till the time he died he preached judgment on anyone who liked Bella Abzug or the liberal media. Fortunately there were no mountains in Oklahoma or he would surely have ascended one of them and brought back a second set of the Big Ten.
Then he died!
Just like that he was gone!
I wasn't ready for that. The world needed Grandpa! Who would keep northern Oklahoma safe from Methodist Liberalism and godless philosophy professors? I was somewhat in the notion of asking God "Why?!" when in the distance came a familiar sound. I was about to break down and weep when God showed up with the big handkerchief and wiped the tears from my eyes. Then I heard those trumpets, the Grand Ta-Da. I can tell you I am so looking forward to seeing Grandpa again, if I can pry him away from talking to Jesus. It was always his favorite activity before he left for heaven.
I guess apart from all those Scriptures which talk about "the dead in Christ rising first," and such things, I really like Revelation 1:10. John, who was right there that first Easter, is in the Spirit on the Lord's day. He hears the trumpet behind him, turns around, and — "Ta-Da!" there's Jesus. I know it's going to happen to me, and you can be sure it's going to happen to you. We're not through with trumpets yet! Everyday brings us closer to the trumpets. I'm glad. I'd hate to think of what it would be like to die without the brass section.
Calvin Miller is a professor at Southwestern Seminary.