By trusting in the Risen Jesus, anyone can become a friend of God, one of God’s “peeps.”
If you want to win a Peeps contest, a word of advice: Don’t create an empty tomb.
But what’s a “Peeps contest”? If you open The Washington Post on Easter morning, you’ll find the answer.
Peeps are fluffy chicks and bunnies, made of marshmallow. They appear in the candy section of the grocery store each spring before Easter. Every year, The Post has a Peeps contest, inviting readers to create a diorama of a famous scene from history, pop culture or current events, using Peeps chicks and bunnies as characters. The winners are announced on Easter Sunday, and almost all the titles include a play on the word “Peeps.”
Most year there’s at least 700 gooey submissions. Some of these have included:
There was “Peepnado,” recreating the Syfy movie Sharknado.
“Olympeeps” showed a number of aspects of the Sochi Olympics.
The diorama “Game of Peeps” was inspired by the HBO series and George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones novels.
A tribute to the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz was titled “I’ll Get You, My Peep, and Your Little Dog, Too!”
And the winner of the 2014 Peeps Diorama Contest was “I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King Jr. Addresses the Peeple,” based on the famous 1963 March on Washington.1
There were a lot of Peeps on display in this contest, showing a wide variety of scenes involving a diverse group of “Peeple.” So why would the story of the empty tomb not be a good Peeps contest entry?
Because there’s nothing there. The Easter diorama is an empty box.
The Gospel of Mark tells the story of the Resurrection in a way that leaves Jesus completely out of the picture. When the Sabbath day is over, three women come to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared to anoint the body of Jesus for final burial.
The door to the diorama is wide open, with the stone rolled away from the tomb, and when they go inside, they discover that the body is missing. They see a young man, dressed in a white robe, and they are alarmed. But he says to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.”2
He is not here. There’s nothing to see. That’s a surprising message, isn’t it? It’s not very satisfying, in and of itself. Think of making an appointment with a doctor or a lawyer, and after rushing to be at the office on time, you are told by the receptionist, “He is not here.” Imagine going to the White House, expecting to see the President, and when you get there, the Secret Service says, “He is not here.”
How much more satisfying it would be for us if Jesus were standing inside the empty tomb, in all his resurrected glory, announcing, “Here I am! I have been raised!”
But Easter reminds us that the Resurrection is a message, not a diorama. It is a message of resurrection that can change the lives of people everywhere.
The word Peeps refers to marshmallow chicks and bunnies, but it is also used, especially as of the last few years, to refer to friends or close pals, as in the expression “my peeps.”
Someone might say, “I saw you and your peeps walking the streets.” Or “I’ve got a box of Peeps for my peeps to eat.”
Along these lines, the young man in the empty tomb says to the women, “But go, tell his disciples and Peter” — tell his “peeps” — “that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”3 They flee from the tomb and say nothing, at least initially, because they are afraid.
Fortunately, the message does get out, and in the book of Acts, we learn that Peter is speaking boldly about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. He delivers this message to a Roman centurion and his close friends and relatives, a group of Gentiles who are not a part of the people of Israel. The word Gentiles means “nations” or “peoples” — they are all the non-Jewish peeps of the world.
“I truly understand that God shows no partiality,” says Peter, “but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter has come to see that God does not favor one group over another, but instead accepts anyone who respects him and walks in his way.
“You know the message he sent to the people of Israel,” Peter says to the centurion and his family and friends, “preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all.” This message of peace is not limited to the people of Israel but is available to everyone. By trusting in Jesus Christ, anyone and everyone can become a friend of God, one of God’s peeps.
Peter realizes that God has a plan that is far bigger than anyone could have predicted whether they were Jews or Gentiles. He quickly recounts the story of Jesus, from his baptism in the Jordan to his death and resurrection. Then Peter concludes by saying that “all the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” By referring to “all the prophets,” Peter is saying that the overall message of scripture supports the work that God has done through Jesus, to bring peace and forgiveness to all who believe.
This is a divine agenda, not a human agenda. It becomes clear only when we focus more on God and Jesus than on ourselves. Within Christian circles, there is a trend called “the New Calvinism,” with roots in the theology of John Calvin, the father of the Presbyterian Church. This trend emphasizes the rule of God and the salvation and new life offered by Jesus.
“I’ve come to believe and understand that God is not fundamentally about me,” says Dan Wenger, a government employee in Washington, D.C. God is “much bigger than that.” The teaching at his Calvinist church has helped him to see this in the context of the whole story of the Bible, not just the parts that make him feel good.4
But that message goes well beyond Calvinism. God is much bigger than any of us, and it is important to see this in the context of the whole Bible — not just the parts that make us feel good.
It’s all about God and his surprising plan. Not about us.
Although Jesus cannot be seen in a diorama of an empty tomb, he can be found in our study of scripture. Therefore, Christian education is so important for children and youths, and why small group Bible studies are essential for adults as they seek a deeper understanding of the scriptures. We come to believe that Christ is with us when we read, discuss, digest and find nourishment in the Word of God.
Peter tells us that God is “preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all.” God sent Jesus to reconcile the world to himself, making peace with us through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Everyone “who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name,” promises Peter. Everyone who believes in Jesus can become one of God’s friends, one of God’s peeps.
The peace of Christ comes to us when we believe in Jesus and trust him to be present in our lives. Although the Easter tomb is empty, we know that Jesus is alive and well in several other places:
In the breaking of the bread, in worship and in small-group gatherings.
In a family meal, or a gathering of close friends around a kitchen table.
In a hot meal served to a homeless family at a local shelter.
In a passage from the Bible read in a hospital room when a patient is on life support.
In a conversation in a coffee shop, when a youth advisor is consoling a heartbroken young person.
In a pot of tea being shared by a church deacon and a grieving widow.
In a verse from the psalms, sung with joy and conviction by a church choir.
In a sermon that provides insight and inspiration when life is hard and it’s difficult to find hope for the future.
In all these ways, Jesus is alive and present with us today. Through the power of the resurrection, he is moving ahead of us, always ahead of us, showing us the way to walk as his disciples in the world today. Our job is to be his peeps, and to testify that he is “Lord of all” through both our words and our actions.
So, let’s leave the diorama of the empty tomb. There is no point in looking for the living among the dead. Christ is alive and well, with a message of peace and forgiveness for all who put their trust in him.
1 Nicole Arthur and Jennifer Abella, “Peeps Show 2014 Winners and Finalists,” The Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/peeps/.
2 Mark 16:6.
3 Mark 16:7.
4 Josh Burek, “Christian Faith: Calvinism Is Back,” The Christian Science Monitor, March 27, 2010, http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Society/2010/0327/Christi