Gospel Reading Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Resurrection Message “Suddenly” Rev. Renfrew
Maybe you’ve heard this story before? Jesus has died, tortured and then murdered on a Cross by people in power who feared him. Does this sound familiar, like a story you’ve heard before? Some women who had known Jesus on Sunday morning go to the garden where he was buried to spread aromatic spices to honor him in death. But when they enter the tomb, Jesus’ body is gone! Gone! Suddenly, it becomes very clear that what they thought they knew, what they thought they understood, what they thought their lives were about, is completely wrong. Suddenly, the women, then the disciples, then dozens, hundreds, thousands, millions of others realized that something beyond all understanding had happened, and a movement centered on the risen Christ began to grow, growing so far and so wide that eventually it included you!
Does this story sound familiar? Have you heard it before? It is the most basic story for Christians, it goes right to the heart of life and death, and it has been long-remembered. Even people who care nothing about Christian faith, and even openly reject it, are familiar with the details of the story. Have you heard it before? Anyone? Everyone!
My job on an Easter Sunday morning is to remind us of what happened on that morning long ago, to make sure we know the details, so that we can remind ourselves and tell others.
But knowing WHAT happened falls far short of our main purpose this morning. What matters is not WHAT happened, but WHY it happened.
Even if I could magically show you a modern video recording from two thousand years ago of the scene at the empty tomb, it would only answer the WHAT question about Easter. What we need to attend to is the WHY question. Why did this happen? WHY did Easter happen, and WHY should you care?
This is the difficult question for this morning. I can tell you all about WHAT, but WHY is an even more important question. If we can explain WHY, this is how the story from long ago intersects with your life today.
My friend Hope Harle-Mould has recently published a book, “22 Sketches for Recognizing the Present-Tense Christ”. His purpose in writing is to help us find hints and clues about where Jesus is in the present. But the book is still limited; he tell WHY the resurrection matters to him, but he can’t tell you WHY the resurrection matters to you. That’s for you to discover.
I can tell you WHY Easter matters to me, but I doubt you will find my story convincing, because it’s your story of WHY that is the most important one.
WHY the resurrection happened is really the story of my entire life, a series of times and places, moments and situations, that continue to lead me from despair to hope, from injustice to justice, from violence to peace, from death to life. And, yes, there have been points along the way when I have met the risen Jesus! These are deeply personal moments that I would have difficulty explaining in ways that make sense to you, but they make sense to me, and that’s what matters. Most of the time I didn’t even realize that it was Jesus I had met until later. But now I know the WHY, the empty tomb gives me hope for the impossible.
The signs and evidences of resurrection are everywhere, but they don’t usually announce themselves with flashing lights and fireworks. It comes down to this, that you have to find the risen Jesus for yourself!
Where to find Jesus? I am reminded of my mother’s best advice when looking for something lost, “you have to look under things, you have to look around things, and you have to look behind what’s right in front of you, and then you’ll find it.” The disciples on the road to Emmaus discovered this for themselves, as they were looking for the tiniest shred of hope, Jesus was right there with them; they found him, but he found them, too!
Of course, we usually get this all in the wrong order. Because it is not really us having to find the risen Christ, it’s much more that he’s looking to find us. Sometimes he’s been right there with you all the long, and you didn’t notice, but looking back you see him. So the road to discovering WHY may be as simple or as difficult as opening our eyes to Easter, and looking for the hints and clues and signs that Jesus has been showing us to get your attention. When I shift from asking WHAT happened to asking WHY it happened, suddenly my eyes are opening.
I love the final phrase in my friend’s book: “you are the evidence of Easter”. Because resurrection is meaningless, unless it includes you!