Isaiah 25:6-9, Luke 23:50-24:12
Easter, March 31, 2013
The angel asked the women at the tomb on Easter morning, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” “Don’t you remember how he said, while he was still in Galilee, that this would happen?” Luke is the only one of the Gospel writers that records that part of the conversation!
If you think about it, isn’t there just a hint of “I told you so” in there or at least “He told you so!” But more than that, theres also a sense of “You were so caught up in your own expectations of all this, that you missed this great event he told you was going to happen!” I like it better that way! “You were so caught up in your own expectations!”
There were a lot of expectations of Jesus. We’ve seen that all along our Lenten journey. But one of the biggest expectations was that Jesus would live on and he would continue to be their leader. I believe they really thought that! In fact, there was an expectation in the Old Testament that the Messiah would never die! I was reading about that that last week. There were little hints in their prophecies and their traditions that the Messiah would live forever. And that’s true, if you think about it, but not the way they thought. So when Jesus was talking about his suffering and death, and Peter rebuked him, saying, “Surely this will never happen to you!” According to their traditions, he was right! That’s what they believed!
But, die he did! Against all their expectations and their fears, Good Friday happened. And then, what they expected most of all about that – and this is clear in all the Easter accounts – is that Jesus would stay dead!! It’s clear that none of the disciples anticipated what happened on Easter morning. They didn’t say, “Now wait a minute, guys. When he was alive he said he would be arrested and put to death and three days later arise. So all we have to do is wait a few days, and everything will be fine!”
Nobody said that! In fact, who in the Gospel accounts, were the only ones who seemed to remember what he said? The Pharisees! That’s why they put the guard on the tomb!! They went to Pilate and said, “We remember how this man – this impostor – said he would rise again after three days. Therefore order that the tomb be guarded, lest his disciples come and steal the body and say he had risen.” They knew!!
There is no hint here that these men had any intention of doing that. In fact there is no indication that they expected anything other than that death was permanent! These men were crushed, all of their dreams shattered. They were grieving this terrible loss, not to mention living in fear that they were next! All of their expectations, which weve been talking about for weeks now, all of them along with all their hopes for the future, died with Jesus that day on that cross!
None of them expected this event! In fact, what was the main reaction of the disciples to the news of Easter morning? Disbelief!! They didn’t believe the women who came back from the tomb. In fact, don’t you get the feeling that the women’s story seemed to them a cruel mockery of the grief they were going through! They didn’t believe them. They didn’t believe the traveler on the road to Emmaus, until Jesus revealed himself to them! One of them still refused to believe, even after all the others did! And you know how I feel about that story! The only reason Thomas didn’t believe was that he wasn’t there when Jesus appeared that first time! But I don’t think any of them would have believed! If it had been one of the others not there, we’d be calling skeptical people throughout history “Doubting Andrews” or “Doubting Peters.”
Disbelief was the order of the day. And the thing is, they knew what he said, but still, they were so crushed with despair they couldnt possibly process it. They were with him for three years! They knew his presence! They saw his power! They heard him say what was going to happen, and yet their present circumstances were too overwhelming to remember any of that! The harsh reality had driven all of that from their thoughts. All they could see was their grief, their anguish, and their fear!
Does that sound familiar? Have you ever been there? I know I have. We too know the story of Jesus. We too know of his promises. We know the stories of his power. We know of the peace he can give. But sometimes life gets so tough, or some tragedy in our life is so overwhelming, that we forget all that and we fall into despair. At times like that, we let go of all that we ever knew about our faith, and sink into hopelessness. And if we were feeling that way, and someone were to tell us of Jesus, and the power and peace of God like these disciples, we would think their words were an idle tale – a fairy tale – and we would not believe them!
Do you ever get that way? Do you ever get to a point in your life where God’s presence or the touch of his spirit seem out of the picture, and if they happened it would be completely unexpected? Then this story is for you! Do you ever get to a point where you feel your faith is weak, and you doubt God has the power to do anything in your life? Then think about these disciples on Easter morning.
Sometimes it doesn’t take a tragedy to get that way. Sometimes it can happen through a simple, gradual complacency. Sometimes it’s simply a matter of letting the power of our faith, and our belief in God’s power, dwindle, like the dying embers of a fire, until there’s nothing left to sustain us. I think we’d all agree that we like it when that fire is within us! But it dies if we neglect to feed it!
Whatever the case, if these disciples could speak to us, they would tell us, “Hey, weve been there! We were so crushed on Good Friday that none of what Jesus had ever told us made any difference! We couldn’t remember it! And we couldn’t begin to believe it! But then Sunday dawned, and eventually so did our understanding.”
I believe that’s what they would tell us. And I hope that, no matter where we are in our lives and in our faith, we would hear them. So, like them, may this story and the glory of this day dawn on all of us, no matter what the circumstances of our lives, no matter what we may be going through today or any day. No matter what, may the power of this most unexpected event be apparent to us, and present in us!
And to God be all glory and praise, now and forever, world without end, Amen.
Eternal God, by whose power was Jesus raised from the dead, fill us with your spirit and your power, that we may hear the good news of Easter, that we may know it’s true just as Jesus said, and by it know that you are with us always. Let your joy be in our hearts this day as we share the good news. These things we pray in the name of our risen Lord, Amen.