EASTER DAY – 2019
PSALM 118:1-2, 14-24
Trinity Long Green, MD Apr. 21, 2019
WILL WE BELIEVE?
These words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.
It had been a VERY long week.
- It began with that wondrous procession into Jerusalem, Jesus mounted on a donkey, everyone shouting HOSANNA as they threw palm branches and cloaks on the road in front of Jesus.
- Jesus had stopped to weep over Jerusalem saying If you had only recognized the things that make for peace.
- He had proceeded to the temple grounds and drove out the money changers and those who sold animals for sacrifice declaring, It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers. That had really angered the religious leaders, in fact, that was when they decided Jesus had to be eliminated.
- His disciples wondered if all this meant that Jesus was about to change course from teacher to leader of a rebellion, … but no, Jesus continued to teach, using parables as was his custom.
- Then they had shared a Passover meal with him, and he claimed one of them would betray Jesus – as it turned out, they all had betrayed him. Judas had sold Jesus out for twenty pieces of silver. Peter had denied Jesus three times before the evening was over. The rest had run away to save themselves.
- Jesus was crucified. Only some of their women had been nearby when he died. They followed as Joseph of Arimathea wrapped his body in a linen cloth, laid it in an empty tomb, and rolled a stone across the opening.
It had been an incredible, awful week, and now, once the sabbath was over, some of those same women who had been witness to the crucifixion and Jesus’ burial returned to the tomb with spices.
When they arrived, they discovered the stone rolled away and the body gone, the tomb empty.
- Had someone stolen Jesus’ body, perhaps to put on public display as they sometimes did with the worst criminals?
- Had some of the disciple removed the body? Not likely given how they had all scattered in terror less than three days before.
Then two men appeared, angels most likely as their clothes were dazzling white; and they asked the most curious thing – Why do you look for the living among the dead?
Well, because Jesus was not living, he was dead and they had seen him buried in this very tomb.
But no, the angels proclaimed He is not here, but has risen.
Jesus had risen from the dead.
I don’t know if they fully believed it yet, probably not. But they went and told the others everything that had happened – empty tomb, angels, their message to remember that Jesus had said he must die and on the third day rise again.
Peter and the other eleven did not believe. Peter even went to check things out and found the tomb empty, but there were no men in white, no angels.
They did not believe.
Belief is a strange thing.
We often believe very foolish things
- Lucky numbers
- Astrological forecasts
- That our way is always the right way.
We cling to beliefs long after they have been proven false:
- There are still people who believe the earth is flat
- Or that vaccines cause autism
- Or that the earth can heal itself.
And we all too often refuse to believe the truth when it stares us right in the face, especially if that truth challenges the structures, the foundations, the principles upon which our success or our wealth or our personal happiness depends.
Again and again we choose fear over compassion, hate over love, uniformity over diversity, win-lose over win-win.
Those disciples did not believe because everything they had ever known, everything they had ever believed told them that Dead is Dead. People do not “rise from the dead.” There must be some other explanation for the empty tomb.
They did not believe, not until they encountered the risen Jesus for themselves –as they traveled on the road to Emmaus that afternoon, that evening when he appeared behind locked doors, and as happened multiple times over the next forty days.
Ultimately they did believe and that belief, that Jesus had been raised from the dead, changed everything for each one of them, and ultimately changed the world.
Easter reminds us that death does not have the last word, that Jesus’ resurrection means that we too will be raised from the dead, that there is life beyond the grave.
Life is more powerful than death,
Hope is more powerful than fear,
And love is more powerful than hate.
Live the resurrection life.