Luke 24;1-12 Sunrise
The Gospels are far from clear as to just what happened. It began in the dark. The stone had been rolled aside. Matthew alone speaks of an earthquake. In the tomb there were two white-clad figures or possibly just one. Mary Magdalene seems to have gotten there before anybody else. There was a man she thought at first was the gardener. Perhaps Mary the mother of James was with her and another woman named Joanna. One account says Peter came too with one of the other disciples. Elsewhere the suggestion is that there were only the women and that the disciples, who were somewhere else, didn’t believe the women’s story when they first heard it. There was the sound of people running, of voices. Matthew speaks of “fear and great joy.” Confusion was everywhere. There is no agreement even as to the role of Jesus himself. Did he appear at the tomb or only later? Where? To whom did he appear? What did he say? What did he do?
It is not a major production at all, and the minor attractions we have created around it—the bunnies and baskets and bonnets, the dyed eggs—have so little to do with what it’s all about that they neither add much nor subtract much. It’s not really even much of a story when you come right down to it, and that is of course the power of it. It doesn’t have the ring of great drama. It has the ring of truth. If the Gospel writers had wanted to tell it in a way to convince the world that Jesus indeed rose from the dead, they would presumably have done it with all the skill and fanfare they could muster. Here there is no skill, no fanfare. They seem to be telling it simply the way it was. The narrative is as fragmented, shadowy, incomplete as life itself. It’s messy. When it comes to just what happened, there can be no certainty. That something unimaginable happened, there can be no doubt.
The symbol of Easter is the empty tomb. You can’t depict or domesticate emptiness. You can’t make it into pageants and string it with lights. It doesn’t move people to give presents to each other or sing old songs. It ebbs and flows all around us, the Eastertide. Even the great choruses of Handel’s Messiah sound a little like a handful of crickets chirping under the moon.
We can say this much with certainty: He rose. A few saw him briefly and talked to him. For believers and unbelievers both, life has never been the same again. For some, neither has death. And I believe that’s really the point. Nothing is ever the same… ever again.
The women who went to the tomb that morning were simply doing what they were supposed to be doing. There is often a comfort in routine. It makes us feel good to have a task to do to take our minds off of the loss that is before us. In their own way, they were trying to regain some sense of “normal” by going about the business of being women in the first century. But “normal” isn’t what they got… by a long shot!
They receive a word that runs counter to what they know to be true. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen”. Now let’s not get too focused on the angels who deliver this message to the women. They are not the point. The focus in this story is on the message, not the messengers. What is most striking is that the women encounter the resurrection through this message. They are told that Jesus has risen, but they do not see the risen Jesus himself. What they have is a word, a message.
This brings the Easter experience uncomfortably close to us, because this is precisely what we have–the word of resurrection. One would think God would work differently. It would seem so much easier to make this into a big Hollywood production and have the women come to the tomb and watch Jesus walk out into the light of a new day with trumpets blaring and special effects. And it would seem much easier for Jesus simply to appear in dazzling glory to us, who gather on an Easter morning generations later. And this is precisely where our situation is like that of the women on the first Easter: we are all given a message of resurrection, which flies in the face of what we know to be true.
The only logical response to such a message is unbelief. Experience teaches us that death wins. The Easter message says that Jesus lives. When such contradictory claims collide, it only makes sense to continue affirming what we already know. This is what Luke reports in the next section. The women bring the message of resurrection to the others, and they respond as thinking people regularly respond: they thought that the message was “an idle tale, and they did not believe them”.
Unbelief does not mean that people believe nothing. Rather, it means that they believe something else. People say “I don’t believe it” because there is something else that they believe more strongly. Yet here is where the Easter message begins its amazing work, by challenging our certainties. Experience teaches that death wins and that even the strongest succumb to it. Experience teaches that life is what you make it, so get what you can while you can because it will be over soon enough. And the Easter message says, “Really? How can you be so sure?” Death is real, but it is not final. In Jesus, life gets the last word. Death isn’t as powerful as we believed.
The challenge for us is to view Easter Sunday in general, and the resurrection in particular as anything but normal. We have to allow this to change us like nothing else ever could. That since God broke us free and reconciled to us, that we should at least ACT as though we’ve been changed by it! Do we live out our faith as though we’ve been changed by this event, or does our faith evaporate into our routine so that it just fits in with everything else?
We should see this as an opportunity. An opportunity to break free of our routine, our condition of status quo. God’s action on this resurrection day is your opportunity. It’s your opportunity to proclaim not only the resurrection of Jesus, but also the resurrection in our own lives and how it has changed us. It’s an opportunity to proclaim what God has demonstrated once and for all to all of humanity: That God’s love triumphs.
It is Easter, and you are loved. The Love of God has overwhelmed all other possibilities, to become the end, the final answer, the destination, the location for our wonderings and wanderings. It is Easter and Love is possible. Love is present. It is Easter and you are loved, in an inconceivable, irrevocable, uncanny, prodigious way by God who created us all for this purpose. God created us so that God could love us. It is Easter and you are free to break free of the dull routine and to love with reckless abandon.
So with Jesus risen from the grave, this is supposed to break us free from status quo, so let’s break free of it – once and for all. Let’s see this as more than just one day that we recognize on our calendar once in the spring. This day is SUPPOSED to change everything, so let it! We need to take that unconditional love and turn it around on the world to declare that He is Risen! (every day). We need to take that amazing gift of God’s redemption and turn it around on the world declaring that He is Risen! (every day). And while we’re doing all of that, we need to allow this free gift of God’s to work within our own hearts and within our own lives to declare that He is Risen! (every day). Break free of the chains that hold you back. Break free of the comfort-zone that holds us back. Jesus Christ is risen from the grave, and nothing will ever be the same again!
To God be the Glory!