Resurrection of Our Lord 3/27/216 The text is Luke 24:1-12.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! We can proclaim these words with great joy as we share the greatest miracle and the greatest mystery of all times. We believe these words. We know them in the depths of our soul to be true. Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia and Amen!
Those are wonderful words of faith that we proclaim each year on this day. But Easter doesn’t begin this way. Easter begins with fear. It’s not that Easter begins with wild panic–no, not that. Easter begins with the kind of fear that feels a lot like heart-break. It begins with the twist in your stomach that comes when the phone rings and you hear the voice of your sister. “Are you sitting down?” she asks–that kind of fear. Early in the morning, the women approach the tomb bearing precious herbs and oils to wash the body of their Lord. They have come to comb out Jesus’ hair, to sponge away the dried blood, to massage precious myrrh into his skin. They hope to engage in the ritual act (the act of care) that is traditionally done before sealing a body in the tomb. They have come to anoint the crucified one. Yet, even as they discuss how they will gain access to the cave (after all, it is closed by a massive boulder), they find that the stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty–vacant, except for the sudden appearance of two men in dazzling clothes who are definitely not Jesus.
What would you do if all of a sudden you find these guys standing next to you in an otherwise empty tomb? I doubt that you would proclaim – Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! You might faint in terror. You might have a heart attack. You might scream at the top of your lungs. But you would not shout out with joy the words which we share this Easter morn. You would be as terrified as the women, who in their fear do not run away in panic, but bow their faces to the ground.
In their fear and silence, the men remind the women of what Jesus had told them…that he must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. And on hearing these words, the women believe, they believe. They have not seen, and yet they believe, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
But, how do you share this kind of incredible news, let alone convince 11 men who are in hiding for fear of the Jews? How do you stop your heart from beating out of your chest and calm down enough to share the fact that Jesus, the one you saw crucified and laid in the tomb, is alive? How do you jog the memory of the skeptic so that he too can believe that Jesus is not among the dead, but among the living! He is risen!
In the old Star Trek series, Mr. Spock uses his Vulcan powers to draw out the memory of the person he touches. But we don’t have such powers. So, you know what the women faced. You have received the same kind of reaction from avowed non-believers, who see the resurrection as nothing more than a fairy tale – a story made up by people in order to control lives. To them death has the final word. Not even those who believe in reincarnation accept the notion of a soul returning to a dead body.
And yet, the cave is empty. Jesus lives! Through Jesus Christ, death no longer has the final word. The final word belongs to God and that word is a word of life! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
This story of a risen Jesus and what it means for the world is incredible. The disciples take it as nothing more than an idle tale of some crazy, mournful women. And yet, Peter, impetuous Peter, wants to see for himself. So he gets up and runs to the tomb and finds the linen cloths by themselves. The cloths, not the women, not the empty tomb, not the rolled away stone, not a remembrance of Jesus’ words, convince him that something amazing happened. For no one unwraps a dead body and leaves the linens behind.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
And yet, it will take more than the witness of a few women, the jogging of memory, and some linen cloths in an empty tomb to fully convince the disciples of the reality of the resurrection. For them, Easter morning is just the beginning.
May we remember and believe – Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.