Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
They had just endured the most horrendous and heart wrenching event that you can imagine. Their friend, their companion, their teacher had been arrested for a crime that he did not commit and was condemned to death. Death in the most horribly excruciating method that was known to man at the time. He was condemned to death via crucifixion on a wooden cross.
He received thirty-nine lashes from the whip, tearing open the skin on his back.
A crown made of thorns was shoved on his head as he was mocked as the “king of the Jews.”
A small group of his women followers, and John, his disciple, stood with him on Golgotha as the agony played out. At least, that’s the way that John’s Gospel reminds us that none of his other friends were present, they were too busy hiding from the religious authorities who had arrested him and persuaded Pilate to execute their Rabbi.
The execution was on Friday, during the day prior to the celebration of Passover. Jesus died fairly quickly, relatively so, since crucifixion was designed to be painful and excruciating slow to the one who was condemned.
His body was removed to the tomb of Joseph of Arimethea, where it was hastily prepared for burial in advance of the Sabbath.
The third day, following the Sabbath observance, the women… once again, the women, not the male disciples, go to the tomb to properly prepare the body of Jesus for burial.
They carry the spices that they had gathered in order to prepare the body of their teacher, their friend. The time is noted in the Gospel of Luke as “early dawn,” Probably that time at first light when the sun begins to become visible.
They enter the garden where the tomb is located. But something isn’t right. The heavy stone that had been rolled against the entrance of the tomb has been rolled to the side. They begin to move cautiously, not knowing what they can expect to find.. They enter the tomb and find that the body of Jesus is missing. Something is dreadfully wrong. A sense of shock and confusion comes upon them as they begin to ask each other questions:
“Where is he?”
“What have they done with his body?”
“Is it not enough that they murdered him like a common criminal, and now they have stolen his body?”
“Can they not let us bury our dead with dignity?”
Suddenly, there were two men standing among them wearing clothes of dazzling white. One of the women screamed, another dropped the jar of spices that she was carrying.
One of the men spoke up, saying, “Why do yo look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
The women looked at the man, their mouths hanging open as his words were confusing to them.
The other man began to speak, “ 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? Remember how he told you that on the third day, he would rise again?”
As the strange men said these things, the women began to remember what Jesus had said. Then just as quickly as they had appeared, the strange men with their strange message disappeared.
They began to wonder among themselves, “Is it true? Is it possible” And they began to get excited, “He is alive! We must go and tell the others!”
They went back to the place where the disciples and the others were hiding and they shared this strange news that they had received while they were at the tomb. As they shared the news, the others scoffed at them. They thought that the women were confused and that they must have misunderstood. Maybe they even went to the wrong tomb.
Peter decided to go and see for himself. He may have abandoned Jesus and denied him, just as Jesus had said that he would. But he stayed near enough to witness the entire thing. He even followed Joseph and his servants to the tomb where Jesus had been laid.
Peter ran back to the tomb. He paused for a moment as he took in the scene. The stone was rolled away. He ran to the entrance and ducked inside. He saw the burial clothes lying empty. His emotions were conflicted. He didn’t understand what this meant. And with no answers to his questions, he returned home to the others.
The tomb was empty. Of that there was no doubt. But what had happened?
Continuing with the story as related by Luke, later that day, Cleopas and another of the followers who had been gathered with the disciples were walking to the town of Emmaus, some seven miles from Jerusalem when another traveller joined with them. They related the story of all that had happened that week with the stranger and he pointed out some things that they had forgotten about Jesus telling them. When it came time for them to split up, they invited this stranger to join them for supper. And in the breaking of the bread, they realized that they were in the presence of the risen Christ… and he disappeared from them.
The disciples and followers of Christ didn’t know what to make of this news. The scriptural evidence is clear that they continued to live in confusion and uncertainty for at least a week following that Easter resurrection morning. I contend that we continue to live in the confusion and uncertainty of what to do with the resurrected Christ to this day.
Each time we share in Holy Communion, we join in confidently proclaiming that Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again… Right before we ask God to pour out his Holy Spirit upon us and upon the gifts of bread and wine that we will share together. But what does this mean for us?
It means that the promises that God has made are true. It means that there is hope for us and for all who believe. It means that there is more to life than the drudgery of everyday living.
It means that through Resurrection, life has been given victory over death. The walls that separate us from God have come tumbling down and our life is given purpose.
As Gloria Gaither wrote in the chorus to her Gospel Song:
Because he lives, we can face tomorrow,
Because he lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know that he holds the future
Our life is worth the living just because he lives.
Friends, this is Good News. Not because of anything that we have done, but because of everything that God has done through Christ.
We were there when they crucified our Lord, when they thought that it was finished and that this rebel with the wild ideas was destroyed. And we are here in the celebration of Resurrection as new life springs forth from a cross of shame.
This new life that springs forth in all of us is a life that urges us to participate in the new thing that God is doing. We can’t sit idly by as people are hungry, and hurting, and dying around us. In this new life, God through Christ calls us to participate in the planting and the nurturing and the harvest of lives that are changed with the peace, hope and joy that comes with the resurrected Christ and the new creation that comes with it.
Through the resurrection of Jesus, God, the creator, is continuing to renew his creation. God is continuing to beckon and call us into a new and right relationship with him.
Through Resurrection, we have joy and we have purpose.
Through Resurrection, we can join with the declaration throughout the ages that
Christ is Risen!
Christ is risen, indeed!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! Amen.