This is an Easter story. What? Easter? Okay, I’m perfectly aware that Easter has already come and gone this year, but I only just remembered this story today. The way I see it, if God wanted me to post this at Easter time, He would have reminded me at Easter time. For His own mysterious reasons, He waited until the end of May, and who am I to argue?
Several years ago, the pastor of the church Joni an I were attending told this story in his Easter sunrise service. Pastor Wells was not an impassioned speaker, but I have to hand it to him, in this one moment he shone, and it has remained with me ever since. Here is the story of the empty egg.
Little Philip Ross had been born with Downs Syndrome, and a whole host of medical issues. The doctors concurred that he would probably not survive his infancy. Philip surprised them all by living into his eighth year.
In that final, memorable year of his life, Philip was a member of the kindergarten Sunday school class at his church. Being older, bigger, and just plain different, he always had a hard time connecting with the other children in his class, but all those differences were wiped away on Easter Sunday.
The week before Easter, the teacher of Philip’s class gave the children a homework assignment. She handed each boy and girl a plastic Easter egg, the kind that usually hold chocolates and other sweets. She told the class to put something in their egg that represented new life, and bring it back to show the class on Easter Sunday. At the end of class that day the children murmured excitedly to each other about what they might put in their eggs.
Easter Sunday arrived, bright and clear and beautiful. The children filed into their classroom that morning, each one holding their plastic egg. The teacher asked her students to bring their eggs to the front of the room and lay them on her desk so she could open each one and show the class, instead of having the children open the eggs themselves. She did this because of Philip. She was afraid that Philip would not understand the assignment and would put something silly in his egg. She didn’t want him to be embarrassed in front of the other children.
Class began and Miss Miller quieted her students. Then she picked up an egg at random and opened it. Inside was a small flower. She held up the flower to the class and said, "Flowers that bloom in the spring represent new life. Good job!"
She picked up another egg and opened it. Inside was a blade of grass. “Yes, grass turns green and begins to grow again after being dormant all winter. Well done!”
Opening the next egg, Miss Miller, along with the entire class, gasped in surprise as a live butterfly flew out of it. After calming her racing heart, she said "My goodness! Yes, caterpillars go into their cocoons for a while, and come out as butterflies. That certainly represents new life.”
She opened a fourth egg, only to find it was empty. She knew in an instant that this had to be Philip's egg and, just as she had feared, he hadn't understood the assignment. Her heart went out to the boy and she was embarrassed for him. After a moment of speechlessness, she calmly put the egg aside and took up another one.
Much to her chagrin, Miss Miller saw Philip's hand go up. For a split-second she froze, not knowing what to do. She didn’t want Philip to look like a fool in front of the class. She had decided to pretend not to notice him, for his own good, and go on with the lesson when Philip spoke up.
“Miss Miller?” he said in his slow, thick-tongued voice.
She hesitated for a moment, but could see no way around it now. "Yes Philip?" she said, dreading what he might say next.
“Miss Miller,” he said, “you didn’t explain about my egg.”
“But Philip,” she said as gently as she could, “your egg is empty.” She sent up a quick prayer that the other children would not laugh at the poor boy.
“Yeah.” Philip said with a beautific smile on his face. “It’s empty just like Jesus’s tomb.”
Time seemed to stop for Miss Miller as the tears welled in her eyes. The other children did not laugh at Philip.
Later that year, Philip’s condition finally caught up with him and he died. At his funeral, the mourners puzzled over the brightly colored, plastic Easter eggs carefully laid upon his coffin, all empty.
I have no idea if this is a true story or not, but does it really matter? Pastor Wells read those last two words with fiery voice and glistening eye, and it was the only time I ever heard him speak with such passion. Thank you for that Pastor Wells.
Luke 24:1-5 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?