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Does It Still Make You Wonder?
Resurrection Sunday, 03/27/2016
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Three blondes died and are at the pearly gates of Heaven. St. Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question.
St. Peter asks the first blonde, “What is Easter?”
The blonde replies, “Oh, that’s easy! It’s the holiday in November when everyone gets together, eats turkey, and is thankful.”
“Wrong!” replies St. Peter, and proceeds to ask the second blonde the same question, “What is Easter?”
The second blonde replies, “Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus.”
St. Peter looks at the second blonde, shakes his head in disgust, tells her she’s wrong, and then peers over his glasses at the third blonde. He asks, “What is Easter?”
The third blonde smiles confidently and looks St. Peter in the eyes, “I know what Easter is.”
“Oh?” says St. Peter, incredulously.
“Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples were eating at the last supper and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to the Romans by one of his disciples. The Romans took him to be crucified and he was stabbed in the side, made to wear a crown of thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through his hands. He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large boulder.”
St. Peter smiles broadly with delight.
The third blonde continues, “Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out… and, if he sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter.”
Most of us gathered here today could quickly and correctly answer St. Peter’s question. LPC used to have a very active member whose husband came to church every Christmas and every Easter. Finally, one year the pastor asked him why he doesn’t attend a worship service at any other time, and his answer was classic: “Why would I come more than just the twice a year – the preacher always preaches the same sermon and the we always sing the same songs! Twice-a-year is enough of that for me!”
Let’s hear this same old Easter story, once again, for the first time – and remember the truth it tells and the hope it offers and the fears that it calms. Does this story still make you wonder? I am reading from Luke 24:1-12, from the NIV.
Listen to the Word of God …. —-
“ 1 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” 8 Then they remembered his words.
9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”
A group of women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some others known to the main group of 12 Apostles, went to the tomb as early on the day after the Passover as possible – this was their first opportunity – to finish the EMBALMING process. So they brought their spices and they mustered their gusto, and they made the trip from their homes and hotel rooms, through the Path of Sorrows that Jesus had walked on Friday, all the way outside the city walls to the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea had reserved/given for Jesus’ burial.
They had a job to do, and they fully planned to get their job done, even if it meant forcing the guards to push the stone away from the entrance to the tomb so they could do it!
But they were utterly shocked, surprised beyond words, because the tomb was already opened! So they went in, and there was no body there! Their friend, leader, and teacher and Lord was gone! In John’s Gospel Mary asks one whom she thought was the gardener where he might have moved the body….
Instead they find some dudes dressed in lightning white clothes which, of course, scared them to their knees.
But listen again to how they address these women: “Why,” they asked, “do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He has risen!”
Then these men challenge the women, “Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” And that’s when they did remember!
Their first reaction was to WONDER about all this. But their wondering was stilled when they remembered what He had told them.
However, the women were not alone in their wondering. It looks like they wasted no time in gathering themselves together and hurrying back to the Apostles to tell them the Good News! But the Apostles did not believe the women, Luke tells us, because it all sounded like so much NONSENSE!
Does any of that describe you? Do you ever wonder if any of this could possibly be true? Do you think, as St Paul tells us will happen, that this is just all foolish nonsense. Is it as make-believe as “Vernal Rodents concealing unfertilized aviary embryos for young offspring to recover every Paschal holiday season” (I hope you saw what I did there….)?
These women told the terrifying, awe-inspiring, inexplicable truth that Jesus lives – and that makes all the difference in the world for these women, and for the Apostles, and for us. Skeptics are out there, maybe they’re also in here this morning. Is it possible that our witness, our testimony, our proclamation will help motivate them to be like Peter, and go and look for themselves? They may well be amazed even if they do not yet believe.
That’s what happened to some of the greatest defenders of the Christian faith in the previous century: GK Chesterton, CS Lewis, Lee Strobel – all of them were out to reveal the fallacy of the resurrection of Jesus and all of them were convinced of its truth as they went and looked for themselves.
It took time, but finally, the women and the Apostles and many other disciples REMEMBERED what they had been told – they remembered what they once knew – and their lives were renewed, their hopes were revived, their fears were removed!
Are you in a place this morning where you wonder if any if this really matters? Are you sitting here this morning feeling hopeless? Are your bills so much more than your income that you are buried in debt? Did your last doctor appointment discourage you beyond the end of whatever hope you used to have? Are you alone or lost or afraid of what tomorrow might bring?
Let me ask the rhetorical question asked of Mary and Mary and Joanna: Do you remember? Can you remember what Jesus told you last year? Or 40 years ago? Do you remember the stories your Sunday School teachers told you? Or the ones you learned in Confirmation or VBS? Do you remember the Scripture read at your wedding or maybe the ones your Mom asked to have read at her memorial service? Do you remember the Lord’s Prayer, or the song “Jesus Loves Me”, or the 23rd Psalm? Do you remember the promises made when your child was baptized? Do you remember?
Let me ask the very real question we must ask every day: Why do you look for the living among the dead? Why do we refuse to leave the graveyard when God is calling us to places of new life? Why are we anticipating endings when God is offering radical, new beginnings? Why are we looking for the dead among the living, writing off, throwing away so much of what God is working on? Why do we think reconciliation is absolutely impossible? Forgiveness improbable? Scarcity, hostility, and war inevitable?
What might Jesus’ resurrection have to say about these things? With God nothing is impossible! Victory over death! Eternity over death. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?
So often we are not only hanging out in the cemetery looking for the living among the dead, we are going through life looking for the dead among the living. Easter should turn both those expectations upside down and inside out.
Remember? Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus is living water, the bread of heaven. Jesus came to save sinners, heal the sick, put people in their right minds and clothe them. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.
Even if you think these things are part of a fairy tale, I invite you to follow Peter’s lead to be intrigued enough to go and see for yourselves and be amazed at what you discover.
This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday, today, celebrate this Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. This Christian holiday when Jesus and his disciples were eating at the last supper and Jesus was later deceived and turned over to the Romans by one of his disciples. This Christian holiday when the Romans took him to be crucified and he was stabbed in the side, made to wear a crown of thorns, and was hung on a cross with nails through his hands. This Christian holiday when He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large boulder.
This Easter, this Resurrection Sunday, today, celebrate this Christian holiday when Jesus was victorious over death – His death and ours; this Christian holiday when Jesus offers us all the truth it tells and all the hope to overcome any desperation and all the calm over every fear.
What do you remember? Does is still make you wonder? Happy Easter! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!
Duffield, Jill; The Preaching Pressure of Easter Is Real; The Fellowship Community; March 2016.