Posted on Tue, Mar 29, 2016
Luke 24: 1-12
March 27, 2016
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.
We have an untold number of women -- three who are named -- experiencing an event beyond normal human comprehension and their testimony being dismissed by men, who seem to fall into the same old pattern that attended ancient, and not so ancient, male-dominated societies. Did you notice that fact?
The two verses that stand in conflict are Luke 24:8-9, “Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest,” and 24:11, “But these words seemed to them (the men) an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” What’s with the guys not believing to the women?
Human history is rife with such overt discrimination. Less than a century ago, women and people of color were not considered credible witnesses in American courts. The history of civil rights in the United States is replete with examples of women and men whose truthfulness was discounted or disregarded because an accident of birth which made them something other than the power group at the time and place. In short, certain people throughout history, simply because of gender or ethnicity, have been branded deceitful and lacking in credibility for no other reason than prevailing social prejudices or a different chromosome arrangement. As St. Augustine says in one of his sermons, “Truth became like an idle tale.” St. Augustine seems to be talking about an election year, 2016.
In the old days, and some circles today, it was taught that the fall of humankind was the result of Eve giving into the cleverness and cunning of the devil snake… and they forget to include the part that Adam was just as guilty of falling for a clever line… it was always, ‘the woman’s fault.’ So now the restoration of fallen humankind, through the resurrection of Jesus, is first proclaimed by women, and now them men still don’t believe them.
Maybe it is because the news of Jesus’ resurrection seems like nonsense in light of the horror of his death by crucifixion … but the women have reported what they have seen with their own eyes, and the men know that these are women of faith and truth, yet the men choose not to believe. The sad thing is that Jesus prophesied very clearly about what would happen after they arrived in Jerusalem, to both the women and the men…
Although we must look beyond Augustine’s own underlying prejudices, we can see how the absence of social credibility can blind us, to the ones who hear this eyewitness testimony, to the truthfulness of another’s declarations. When people lack social capital, their voices mean little or nothing to the rest of society.
The truth of the resurrection and our ability to proclaim its relevance to our world rests upon our social capital as agents of God. That is, at the core of the Christian claim is that our God does things that are grand, large, and even revolutionary; and God’s actions can be seen in the transformed lives and relationships of human beings and even in all Creation.
We may be “perplexed” as the women were at the sight of an empty tomb, or even “amazed” like Peter when he entered the tomb, but we need to be honest with ourselves that our proclamation of a Risen Lord, especially after being crucified on a cross, puts us in a precarious position in the eyes of a cynical world.
We need to be like the woman at the well, who after her amazing conversation with a Truth-Telling and All-Gracious Jesus, let the people of her world know about the freedom she was given through the honest gift of Truth and forgiveness. Little do we realize the cultural dangers she ignored to tell her amazing story about her encounter with Jesus.
In a world of full cynicism, greed and total disregard for honesty or integrity, the work of the church is much more difficult. Our job is to proclaim a Risen Christ so that, the world can be engaged and freed to also become transformed, resurrected and freed from the dark values of the world, to be open to the message of this same Truth-Telling and All-Gracious Christ. Only in our faithfulness to this amazing message, do we become like the women of the story, who are the first who will be called the “Body of Christ.”
Again, like the women at the tomb, when we proclaim the powerful experience of the resurrection, we put ourselves in a precarious situation. Our claim may be questioned, but the deeds that flow from our claim provide the support -- even the infrastructure -- for the truthfulness of what has happened in our lives. The resurrection of Jesus is as perplexing and mysterious to us as it was to those women on that Sunday morning. Nevertheless, they did not let uncertainty rule their lives. They shared the brilliance of their experience with others, even those who did not believe them. And their testimony, even though it did not convince the entire group, did influence one of Jesus’ followers to examine the claim for himself. The lesson in this case may be that revelation, even an outrageous one, cannot erase entirely the unhealthy social patterns that predominate human existence.
Leo the Great, in reading this text, even found something redemptive in the doubt expressed by the eleven. He said, “The Spirit of truth would by no means have permitted this hesitation, wavering in human weakness, to enter the hearts of his preachers, if their trembling anxiety and questioning delay were not to have established the foundation of our faith … Let us give thanks for the divine plan and the necessary ‘slowness’ of the holy fathers. They ‘doubted’ so that we need not doubt.”
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