Posted on Apr 21, 2019 by Pastor Dave Whetter
"Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5). Now we do not know who all the women were that went to the tomb that first Easter morning, but according to Luke we do know three of them by name and that there were at least five: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles.(24:10). Don’t you wonder how long it took them to believe what the angels had told them? Think about it, it was Sunday morning, and just late Friday afternoon they witnessed Jesus die on the cross. According to Luke, the writer of this Gospel story, these “women from Galilee” (23:49) saw the whole thing. They had been with Jesus when he was doing his ministry, they watched as he was crucified. They heard him shout, “Father, into your hands I comment my spirit” and then die on the cross. They went with Joseph of Arimathea and watched as he buried Jesus’ body in the tomb (23:50-56). Jesus was dead! And now, these guys in “dazzling clothes stood beside them” (24:4) and insisted Jesus was alive. They most certainly must have been confused and perplexed by these words. It must have taken them awhile to believe them, don’t you think?
According to Luke, before they could remember they needed to be reminded what Jesus had told them before his death, “that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again” (24:7). It was only after remembering that they decided Jesus really was no longer dead, and so they ran to tell the men that he was alive, who we know were locked in a room somewhere afraid to come out. Now when the women finally tell the guys this great news, their “words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (24:11).
Easter is perplexing, and to believe in the Resurrection is not easy. The women who went to the tomb on that first day of the week were perplexed. Jesus’ own disciples when told of his resurrection consider it an “idle tale.” And for all of these men, it is much later that they come to believe. This notion of a “living God” who has overcome death and made it not an end to life but a beginning to a new life is hard for us to buy into, isn’t it?
Easter is the oldest celebrated Christian holiday. More people attend worship on Easter morning than on any other Sunday or Christian holiday in the year. Yes, more people will attend worship today than on Christmas. And we all come for various reasons. Some of us are here today because we’re visiting family. Others of us are here today just because it is a special occasion. And still others of us are here today because we always come to church on Sunday mornings. But regardless of why we are here, my guess is many of us in this sanctuary still think about this Resurrection as an “idle tale.” Many of us still have doubt and we question how such a thing could be true. In fact we are going to talk about this next Sunday, so I hope you come back, because doubt is a part of our faith, and if you struggle with this, know this, you are in good company, for even the disciples had their doubts.
But today I’d like to talk about what this Resurrection means for us, and as one scholar notes about Easter, “To believe in the resurrection of Jesus takes a lot of faith and courage.” Believing in the resurrection is more than saying yes to the claim, “He is Risen!” Believing is about saying no to the evil that surrounds us. Believing is about saying, our God is not a God of the dead, but instead, our God is a God that walks with the living. Believing in the resurrection is about realizing that in the midst of all the bad news that surrounds us every day, God is alive and working through the church, as broken as we are at times, to bring about new life and assure that evil will never win and that Love will always win!
This Resurrected God is different than any other god because this Resurrected God is a God who sustains us in times of trouble and seeks to reconcile all of us to himself, a God that proclaims the way to peace, the way to eliminating evil is through Love. Today we are reminded that Love wins, even over death.
Even with our doubts, when we commit ourselves to believing the Easter story, then we are opening ourselves to a new life of love and reconciliation in the world. Proclaiming the Resurrection, even with some doubt, says to the world, evil does not win; violence does not win; greed does not win; no, today, as we proclaim “Christ is Risen,” we are proclaiming, Love wins!
In a world that continues to proclaim that to overcome evil we must meet might with might, we must deal with evil by being evil back, that to overcome evil we must be stronger and tougher, the Resurrection says to us, no, to overcome the evil in this world, love it. For those of you that have been here though the season of Lent, you know we have focused on the fact that this story of God that we call the Bible is a love story. It is a story of a God that out of love created the world, and that means she created you and me, and in that creation God said this is very good. And even though we turned on this God, when he came in the form of Jesus, as we hung him on that cross, out of love for us, he proclaimed, "forgive them." His Resurrection is the final pronouncement that Love Wins!
Brothers and sisters, the story of Easter is hard to believe, but I encourage you, whether you can believe the whole story yet or not, don’t walk away, because out of love, God will never walk away from you. My prayer today is that you come back next and the week after, to hear the rest of this love story. For in a world filled with evil, violence, and hatred, God says today, give love a chance. Love wins! Amen.