The furry, white rabbit froze in his spot just a few hops away from the olive tree. It was much too late for him to be outside in the garden, but the presence of the Man had awakened him.
The Man was kneeling and speaking in a low, quiet voice. At that moment, the moon peeked out from behind a cloud and the rabbit could see the Man’s face very clearly. His eyes were closed, and his face wore the saddest expression the rabbit had ever seen. The Man opened his eyes. He looked straight into the rabbit’s eyes and whispered two words: “It’s time.”
The rabbit froze in fear, but he knew he couldn’t leave a Man who was so sad.
The Man stood up suddenly. The night awakened with the sounds of soldiers on horseback and the light of many torches. The rabbit hopped quickly into the underbrush.
From there, he watched as the soldiers bound the Man’s hands and dragged him from the garden. The rabbit followed the sounds silently until he saw a group of people crowding into a courtyard. He pressed into the small crack of a stone wall a short distance away. He hoped not to be noticed. The rabbit quaked with fear, but he knew he could not leave a Man who was in so much trouble.
Dawn came. Loud shouts rang out and the rabbit watched as soldiers came out into the courtyard, pushing the Man roughly in front of them. They were headed right toward the rabbit’s hiding spot. The Man staggered under the weight of a wooden beam. Surrounded by shouting soldiers on all sides, he fell to the ground.
The rabbit looked deep into the Man’s eyes. The Man struggled to get up. Pounding feet all around sent a cloud of dust into the air. The sun climbed higher in the sky. From his hiding spot in the wall, the rabbit could see the Man as he walked on through the streets of the city. The rabbit’s hear pounded with fear, but he knew he couldn’t leave a Man who was in so much pain.
Overhead, the sun blazed down. The rabbit hopped boldly up the hill where they had taken the Man. The Man looked down with a loving gaze. Women were weeping. A young man and an older woman stood together nearby. Suddenly, everything became completely still. For a moment, there was no sound and no movement. Then, rain poured down from the sky and the earth shook. Dripping wet and trembling with fear, the rabbit felt as if the whole world were angry.
As suddenly as it began, everything became quiet once more. The Man had died. The rabbit shivered and trembled, but he knew he couldn’t leave a Man who had shown such love.
A group of women gathered, crying quietly. Men carefully took the body off the cross. They laid the body in one woman’s lap, then carried it to a nearby tomb. Everyone lingered for a moment and then walked quietly out. Almost at once, the men rolled a large rock in front of the entrance to the tomb.
There was a small cozy spot just under the curve of the rock in front of the tomb. The rabbit hid there and closed his eyes. When the rabbit awoke, it smelled of dawn. He remained by the tomb all through that long day. He ate a little. He slept. All was quiet. When night came, the soldiers brought torches for more light. The rabbit watched the shadows of the torches on the flickering rock. The rabbit was hungry and tired, but the whole world felt empty without that Man, so he knew he couldn’t leave.
The sky was just turning pink around the edges when the rabbit woke again. He opened his eyes, stretched his long ears, and listened. He heard the sound of snoring. He hopped silently in the direction of the sound and found two guards asleep on the ground. When the rabbit turned back to the tomb, he noticed the large stone had been rolled away. He hopped silently to the edge of the tomb and peered inside.
“You are still here,” said a voice in a whisper, causing the rabbit to freeze with fright. The rabbit did not dare breathe, but he turned his tall ear, just a little.
“Thank you,” said the voice, which the rabbit now recognized as belonging to the Man.
“You have given me a great gift,” the Man told the furry, white rabbit. “You have stayed with me. You have kept watch and you have waited.”
The rabbit relaxed. He was no longer afraid.
Because the rabbit remained and did not run away, he got a very special gift in return. Each Easter Sunday, the rabbit is used to share the beautiful message of that first Easter morning with the children of the world.
Easter morning is a day for rejoicing with Easter baskets and brightly decorated eggs. The egg is a symbol. Just as a chick bursts out of an egg’s shell, Jesus came out of that cold tomb. Jesus has risen, forever. And he will never leave us—not when we’re sad, not when we’re in trouble, and not when we’re in pain.
He loves us too much.
—Heather Vacca Voccola writes from Connecticut. She blogs at I Know the Plans I Have for You and works at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Some of her favorite places to spend her time, talent, and energy are Navis Pictures and MWTS: Mission Haiti.