A Reflection on Luke 24: 1-12
- The Rev. Grady "Buddy" Crawford
- Apr 21, 2020
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In every account the resurrection we find a common theme of disbelief. Not one character in any of the four gospels hears the news of Jesus’ rising and responds with, “Oh, that’s right, Jesus said he was going to die and rise again in the three days.” A claim he made on multiple occasions. Not one of his followers expected his resurrection – even after witnessing Lazarus come out the grave.
In Luke’s telling of the story the women arrive to anoint Jesus’ body and are caught off guard. They find the stone pushed aside and the tomb empty. The women are perplexed about the disappearance of Jesus’ body. And when two angelic messengers greet them, they are so terrified they fall prostrate on the ground. The angels ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead. He is alive.” It is only after hearing these words that they remember Jesus’ promise of life after death.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and the other women rush to tell the disciples what has happened. They find the disciples hiding in the upper room afraid and despondent. And much to the women’s surprise, unwilling to believe the good news of resurrection. They receive the women’s story as “idle talk” – crazy nonsense; the dead don’t come back to life. They wonder how these women can believe such a fantastic story. The logical response to resurrection is disbelief - death is death, and resurrection breaks all the rules we know about life. And tombs don’t suddenly become empty.
Sometimes we are like the disciples. We hear this familiar story and are left wondering if resurrection is possible. Because the real problem with the women’s tale is that it defies our expectations. Wouldn’t it be nice if angels appeared in front of the altar at Holy Innocents and proclaimed, “He is Risen? Or if the resurrected Jesus would come in person and show us that he is alive – that might help us shake off that nagging suspicion that “He is Alive” is a fantasy.
The empty tomb challenges all of our certainties about the natural course of life and death. Maybe this is exactly why the empty tomb is so powerful. Easter teaches us something radical – that death is real, but not the end. Jesus suffers a violent death, but he gets the final word: Life, not death, is triumphant. The outrageous thing about the empty tomb, is that it is empty because of love. God come to us in Jesus because he loves us. He comes to experience our struggles with life and death. He comes to show us how to live and love each other. The empty tomb proclaims how far God is willing to go to love us back into relationship with him. The empty tomb is not a story about an ending – it is a story about a beginning.
Resurrection does not point to the end of wounded-ness or suffering – they remain very real parts of our struggle. Easter is God’s promise that we will never know the possibility of abandonment, not even in death. Easter is not a fantasy; it is God’s destruction of the power of death to control our lives. And faith is our ability to believe the unbelievable – to move from disbelief to trust that what is not able to be seen is still a possibility. That tombs can be empty.
Each year during Eastertide I read a sermon from the 4th century by St. John Chrysostom. John was the Archbishop of Constantinople and the liturgy he wrote continues to be used in the Orthodox Church. John was considered one of the most eloquent preachers of his time – the appellation “Chrysostom” means golden-mouthed. Below us a portion of his Paschal homily that proclaims the love of God in Jesus and the reality of his resurrection.
Let no one grieve at his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one mourn that has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hell when He descended into it.
He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh.
Isaiah foretold this when he said, "You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below."
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with.
It is in an uproar because it is mocked.
It is in an uproar, for it is destroyed.
It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated.
It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive.
Hell took a body and discovered God.
It took earth and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead;
For Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!
May this Eastertide be a season for us to live into new expectations, new possibilities of experiencing resurrection and the love of God in our lives.