The Resurrection of JesusLuke 24:1-12 (NRSV)
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Friends, we made it! It’s Easter Sunday! Our journey through Lent is complete. Our closer walk through Holy Week is over, and the prophecies of old have come true. The tomb where Jesus was laid is empty. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Let us all shout ALLELUIA!!
My friends, Easter is such a joy-filled celebration. It’s a story that fills us with hope, a story that reminds us of the new life that is all around us, a story that assures us of possibilities that lie just around each corner, and a story that reminds us that our faith is all about a love that has no end.
Easter is one of those days when it feels as though the sun always shines, isn’t it? We surround ourselves with tulips and daffodils and Easter lilies. We wear our Sunday best. And in Oldtown, we wave our fabric strips and shout ALLELUIA!
We celebrate because we believe what the women at the tomb have told us. We believe the good news. We believe that the tomb is empty. And because of that, year after year, we proclaim that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Let’s us all shout, ALLELUIA!
Now I say, “We believe it.” I mean, most of us believe it, right? After all, it is a key story in our faith. But you know what? If we’re going to be honest here today, every year I hear more and more questions being asked. Sometimes I wonder myself. And the truth is, not everyone does believe it. But back on that first Easter morning, the disciples didn’t believe it either. Scripture tells us that the disciples thought the story that the women told them was merely, and I quote, “an idle tale.”
Just a story. Sure, a story that sounds nice. A story that makes us feel good. A story that helps us to look to the future with hope and a story that opens our hearts and minds to an unconditional love that never ends. But it’s just a story. Now I don’t know about you, my friends, but that sounds like more than just a story to me.
Now in each one of the gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–the story is told a little bit differently. The women that went to the tomb are different. The angels, or the gardener, or the young man in dazzling raiment are different. Sometimes, the stone is already rolled away, and other times an earthquake opens the tomb. Sometimes the women run to tell the disciples, and other times they tell no one what they have heard. The details aren’t quite the same, but the message itself is.
In all four of the gospels, we hear the good news that the tomb is empty and that death did not have the final word. As followers of Jesus, because of the resurrection, we are called to share the good news, which is a message of hope and joy for all people, and a love that is not only unconditional but a love that has no end. Sound too good to be true? Sometimes it does.
You see, as human beings, we are used to living in a Maundy Thursday and a Good Friday world. We are used to being betrayed and denied and abandoned. We are used to being surrounded by selfishness and hate and violence and injustice. That is just the world that we live in. But through the resurrection on Easter–whether you believe all of the details or just the core message–Jesus shows us that there is another way. That, sure, we can be overwhelmed by the world, or we can choose joy in our lives. That we can be filled with frustration and worry and fear, or we can know that hope and possibilities lie just around the corner. And that we can be overcome by sadness and injustice and grief, or we can be assured that love always conquers death.
My friends, people question their faith more and more every day. And many of them give up on the faith stories that they were told as children. Because the world feels too hard. The struggle consumes us and the extra effort that it takes to remember just doesn’t seem to matter. That, my friends, is why the resurrection is so important. That is why we need to hear this story each and every year over and over again. Because it gives us permission to begin again, even when we question and doubt and really mess things up. It gives us permission to look for the light in the world around us. And if and when we can’t find it, it encourages us to be the light for others.
When the women got to the tomb that day, the angels said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Friends, I wonder, how many places in your life do you look for the living among the dead? How many places in your life do you look for hope when all there is, is conflict and despair? How many places in your life do you look for possibility and new life when all there is, is rigidity and the way we’ve always done it before? How many places in your life do you look for love, when all there is, is judgment and hate?
My friends, if we are going to truly believe in the resurrection, then we need to move from being a Maundy Thursday and a Good Friday people to truly be an Easter people, not simply sharing the stories or worrying about the details, or going through the motions, but actively living the message of resurrection as we fiercely share the love of God with the world. Because that would be truly sharing an ALLELUIA, and not just an idle tale.