Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
We began our Holy Week journey on Palm Sunday and walked waving palms singing “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” On Maundy Thursday, we ate that last Passover meal with Jesus. Then, on Good Friday, we trailed behind the women and wept. Jesus was crucified on the cross. And here we are on Easter Morning.
Did we really have to go through Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to get to Easter? Why can’t we simply jump over all that hard stuff and get right to the good part. Jesus is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Except… jumping to the good part means Easter has nothing what-so-ever to say about life, as most of us have experienced it. Bombs dropping in the Ukraine, tough doctor reports, financial set-backs, addiction, broken or strained relationships, annoying acquaintances, death of someone we love… The list can be long.
The very real hard truth is… that at the end of the day on Good Friday… everyone knew it was over. Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross and put into a new tomb with a large stone rolled in front of it. The soldiers went to the barracks after a hard day’s work. The crowd went home to dinner. The disciples cowered, hiding in fear. It was over!
Everyone knew it was over. Everyone didn’t count on God. The next morning, when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb to grieve, instead she found the tomb empty! She ran and got Peter and the other disciple to come back with her, and they too see just an empty tomb. The disciples went back to hide in the upper room, not knowing what to think.
Mary stayed at the tomb, mourning the loss of her Lord. Suddenly, she heard a voice, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then Jesus called her name. And she turned to see Jesus, standing in front of her. Jesus is alive!
Everyone knew it was over. Jesus was dead. They had seen Jesus taken down from the cross and placed in the tomb. Everyone knew that the dead stay dead. But God does a totally unexpected new thing. Out of ashes and defeat… Resurrection! That’s the mystery we celebrate on Easter. Jesus was raised from the dead! Not only that, but we’re promised that same Resurrection, because God loves us.
People over the ages have tried to explain the story. It’s just not possible. Just like Mary, all we can do is trust the God who keeps promises. And trust, finally, is the crux of the matter. Trusting that, as God did a totally new thing raising Jesus from the dead, God will do a totally new thing in us, and for us as well.
We now have the evidence of Good Friday that God is in complete solidarity with us in everything, including the tough stuff—like betrayal, physical pain and death. The amazing promise is that the promise of Resurrection isn’t just for Jesus, but meant for us too. While Jesus’s Resurrection gives us hope that there is life after death,
Jesus seems mostly to be concerned about how we live this life. God’s love changes us. Our attitudes become more loving. We grow to see with God’s eyes, hear with God’s ears and love with God’s heart.
Noticing God active in our lives, in the world, changes our perspective. Where there is powerlessness and despair, we find hope. Where there is brokenness, violence, and suffering, we discover evidence of people working for peace. In the face of poverty, grief, and loss, we notice people supporting one another… with a listening ear, or donations to feed, house, and clothe the needy. All in the name of Christ, who commands us to love others as He loves us.
God is active and alive in our world… through our hands, voices, and compassionate hearts. God does an unexpected new thing on Easter. Resurrection from the pain and agony of defeat and death. May you experience God doing a new thing in your life. May God’s presence in your life profoundly transform your words, attitudes, and behavior through love. Have a blessed Easter! Amen.