Posted on Sun, Mar 31, 2013
March 31, 2013
Gospel Text: Luke 24:1-12
The Resurrection of Jesus
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 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. 6 Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 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.
How does the word “Easter” make you feel? Excited? Glad? Joyful? Relieved or terrified if you are a church worker?
According to this story, the first answer is given to us by the women who found the stone rolled away, they were, “perplexed.” Meaning they were puzzled, terrified maybe even ‘unbelieving.’
The tomb was supposed to be guarded by Roman soldiers and it was sealed with the kings’ seal… but they are gone, and that huge stone that nobody could possibly simply lift out of place, HAS been rolled away!
I think it is good news actually. So many people in and around the church know they are ‘supposed’ to feel happy and joyful at Easter time, but in their heart of hearts, there is this little persistent feeling of annoyance, discomfort or even anxiety saying to us, “are you really sure?” He rose from the dead? Really? Well, this is good news, but how on earth will this good news help pay the mortgage, save the marriage, feed the hungry, house the homeless, save the whales? Or, better yet, HOW WILL IT MAKE ME A BETTER CHRISTIAN?
If you have some of these feelings, you are in good company! You can put yourself right along with the women in the story. You can even set yourself next to the very perplexed Peter.
It all makes the point: what happened on the first Easter was something nobody expected. The challenge to ‘pray through’ the Easter story is the challenge of holding your mind and your whole life, open to the God who does unexpected things. We sometimes call them, “God Moments.” Or “It was a God-thing.” These are Life-transforming things, things you would never have imagined in your wildest dreams. Paul talks of God being able to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20). The power by which God can do that is precisely the power that raised Jesus from the dead! (Ephesians 1:19-20).
So this story isn’t yet primarily about Jesus. It is about people like us, like the women and Peter in the Gospel text; People who are muddled and afraid, but showing up to the tomb, going to take a look into the empty tomb, still not understanding, but unable to let go… unable to let go of that promise that appears to have been fulfilled through the death, and apparent resurrection of Jesus Christ!
It is about people like us finding a stone rolled away when we thought it was impossible, but not understanding why it’s happened or what is going to happen next! Praying at Easter isn’t about celebrating with a kind of easy certainty. It is about praying in front of a new world of strange and new possibilities and most important, being open to God’s future!
And yet, of course, it is about Jesus as well. Before you can understand the resurrection, you have to understand what Jesus had been trying to tell his disciples all along, that is was necessary for him to go and do what he did, to take the sin, shame and death of the world unto himself. Easter, you see, isn’t just an ordinary miracle or a moment when God says, “Look at what amazing things I can do!” Easter is much more specific than that. Easter is about the new creation beginning at last! Your New Creation, beginning at last! Once death was the worst we thought there could be, but through the Cross of Christ, the sting of death has been destroyed! Hope, joy, Faith, Love and the Promise of God’s eternal promise and presence now reign supreme!
No wonder we are easily puzzled or perplexed by Easter. No wonder the women and Peter were also perplexed. It doesn’t fit into our easy and simple world-views. It explodes them all and creates a new one, God’s new world view, most of all God’s new way of looking at you, forgiven, restored and from now to eternity a Child of God!
Gracious Lord, as we come with the women to the tomb, give us faith to stay with the story each and every day, hold us in your gentle yet mighty hands, hold open our hearts, minds and lives to whatever you have planned for us. To you alone be the glory. Amen
Much credit goes to N.T. Wright
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