Easter 2014 Lectionary Readings: Acts 10:34-43 or Jeremiah 31:1-6, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, Col.3:1-4, John 20:1-18 or Matt. 28:1-10
The Easter event is the high point of the Christian story. Our faith hinges here, our belief that Jesus is Lord over death gives us hope in new life, new possibilities, new humanity.
The symbols of new life surround us. Bunnies, eggs, fresh green grass, and pussy-willows speak of new birth after the long sleep of winter. These symbols, however, are limited. We expect them. We know that the seasons circle and as miraculous as plant growth and baby animals are, they are by no means surprising!
The Easter story is different. It was unexpected and shocking. Jesus was DEAD. Completely and totally stuck through with a sword for insurance kind of stone cold gone. When we preach these same scriptures each year, it's easy to slip into platitudes and traditional messages. After all, we know this story and we have our certain ways that we've "always done Easter." Tradition is good, but we shouldn't think of the resurrection as a circular, expected event. IT IS SHOCKING!
The resurrection brings earthshaking hope to otherwise hopeless people. Because Jesus has power over death, there is hope that dead and rotten parts of our lives and world are actually salvageable through him. The unimaginable to us is possible for God. Hallelujah!
I tried to read these scriptures with fresh eyes, and I did notice some "new to me" things. I am more familiar with the John account than Matthew and had sort of conflated the two in my mind. It's good to take each account on its own again, to catch what that particular writer was trying to say.
John has the disciples confused, not understanding. Peter and the other disciple see the empty tomb, and verse 8 says; "he saw and believed." What he believed, at first, was Mary's initial thought that Jesus' body had been taken. The walk home must have been tortuous for the two men. They had not only lost their leader, the stolen body would have destroyed any shred of hope that Jesus would rise like Lazarus. They needed a body for it to be raised! Mary, because she stayed at the tomb and was greeted by Jesus, was able to make that same journey home with much lighter feet!
Matthew is dramatic! An earthquake, stunned guards, and angels who speak directly to the two Marys. While the women are running home with the angels' message, they get stopped along the way by Jesus himself who repeats the instructions to go tell the other disciples. Then there is the interesting bit where some of the guard who had seen the events are bought off by the priests and elders so they would not witness. But the women are not stopped, and neither is their witness! (I love that while the world dismissed the importance of the women, Jesus did not! And I guess that because he had always valued them, so the disciples were also able to hear and value their words even in a culture where women's testimony was often discounted.)
This shocking and hopeful news of life where there was death is meant to change us. "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above...." Colossians 3:1 A shocking, hopeful change is there for us!
He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed.