Sermon for Easter Sunday 2018
Jesus is dead. That is what the three women headed to the tomb knew when they woke up this morning. Jesus their friend, Jesus their teacher, Jesus their Lord. He is dead. They may not be sure of many things, but that they are sure of. They don’t know what is going to happen to his followers now, most of them had already scattered or were in hiding. They don’t know what is going to happen to themselves: they had followed Jesus here from Galilee and had tried to support him in his ministry. Now what? Jesus is dead. They don’t even know how they are going to move the stone so they can anoint his body properly, but they know where is body is and they know it is dead. They were there when it happened. They witnessed it.
Those women didn’t miss Good Friday. When all of the other disciples had run away, afraid to see the man they loved die, afraid, perhaps of their own deaths, these women remained faithful. They were there until the very end.
We are blessed here this morning because we woke up this morning knowing something that these women didn’t know when they woke up. You and I know something that these women don’t know yet. We know how this story ends. We already know that when they get to that tomb it is going to be empty. The stone is going to be rolled away and the body that knew was dead is going to be missing.
Of course they were terrified! Of course they were afraid to say anything! Of course they fled! Who wouldn’t? The one thing they thought they knew for sure when they woke up was the Jesus was dead and now his body is missing and some guy in a white robe is saying something crazy. Risen? What on earth could that mean? That is crazy talk! Dead bodies don’t come back to life! These women knew that. Something terrible must have happened. Maybe someone stole his body. Maybe someone moved it. Risen? What is that crazy man in white talking about? Who could believe such a thing?
We are blessed here this morning, because we know that this story doesn’t end with a missing body. We know that the man in white that met them in the tomb isn’t a lunatic, but an angel. We are blessed because we know that what he said was true. Jesus is risen. In a little while Mary Magdalene will see him herself. Later on he will appear to Peter and the other disciples. They will touch him, they will eat with him again and they will even see him in Galilee, just as the crazy man, no the angel, in white had predicted. Pretty soon the women will overcome their fear and they will tell the story of what they saw. They will tell the other disciples and they will share with the world the word that the man in white said to them in the tomb: risen. He is risen! They knew that he was dead, but pretty soon they will also know that he is alive. They will eventually share that knowledge with anyone that will listen. We are blessed because we already know the good news, but we only know it because a few women had the courage to overcome their fears and share what they knew: Jesus was dead, but now he is alive.
These were courageous women. Don’t be distracted by their moment of fear when their world is turned upside down, because in their hearts these are brave women. They had the courage to watch Jesus die. They hadn’t run away like most of the other disciples; they were there for him. And even after the Sabbath was over, they would continue to be there. They would be faithful to taking care of his body; they didn’t know how they would move the stone, but they would find a way. These were brave women, make no mistake about that.
I find it interesting that Jesus revealed his risen body first to his disciples that could most reliably testify to his death. The women who stood by him on Good Friday were the first to see him on Easter Sunday. It was only those that knew that he was truly dead, that could fully appreciate the power of knowing that he is truly risen.
The good news of Easter is not that Jesus of Nazareth cheated death; it’s not that his memory lives on in those that loved him; it’s not that he is resurrected in the form of a movement or an idea. And the good news of Easter has nothing to do with spring, which lovely though it is, happens every year. Those women knew that; they also knew that dead bodies don’t rise again…and then they saw something that turned everything they thought they knew upside down. The man who they knew to be dead, they now know to be alive again.
Knowing that one thing changes everything. It changes how we look at life and death. It changes how we approach everything else in life that we think is final. It changes how sure we are of everything we think we know about the world around us. It changes how we look at everything that Jesus ever said or did. Knowing that Jesus died and rose again: that changes everything. That proclamation is at the very center of Christianity. Easter Sunday is not the happy ending that is tacked on to the end of Jesus’s story. It is the story. Witnessing that resurrection is what gave all of the disciples the courage to finally face death, because now, they knew, they knew that there was more for them waiting on the other side of it. Jesus had shown them that.
I am often amused and frustrated at people (usually preachers) that think they need to make Jesus relevant. Jesus is and always will be relevant. As long as people die, the man who conquered death through his resurrection is relevant. As long as people truly die, they need to hear about the man who is truly risen. As long as he is risen he is relevant.
We are blessed because when we woke up this morning, we already knew that he was risen. That’s why we got dressed to come here, but just remember when you go back out those doors, remember those three women headed to the tomb. Remember how they must have felt before they saw that stoned rolled away. Remember their sorrow, their sense of hopelessness and being lost, remember how they must have felt on Good Friday, not knowing the end of the story, not knowing what we are blessed to know. Now remember that there is still a world of people out there that woke up this morning believing that Jesus is dead. See if you can find the courage to share with them how the story really ends.