He Is Risen!
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
In the early church little else was preached except the news of Jesus’ resurrection. For the first Christians it was the one central theme heard over and over again. The resurrection wasn’t just a part of the faith, it was the central content of the faith. It is important to realize the early followers of Jesus didn’t believe in the resurrection because they believed in Jesus. Rather, as Martin Marty said, they believed in Jesus because they believed in the resurrection. And yet, 2000 years later I think there are many modern Christians who almost feel embarrassed to talk about the resurrection.
It is too supernatural, too out of the ordinary, too far out. But the message – Jesus Defeated Death, Jesus rose from the grave, Jesus lives, and we too will live with him – is central to our faith. There is no Christianity without it. There is only the interesting story of an interesting man who lived once upon a time long ago. Quite honestly, every bit of hope I have is wrapped up in this day. Today is the reason I can stomach reading the newspaper or watching the news on television. Today is the reason I can still have hope when precious, innocent children are shot and killed at school, when tens of thousands die in earthquakes, when thousands suffer because of war. The good news of Easter day declares that suffering and death, disease and injustice, are not the way things are supposed to be, nor are they the way things will be forever. As Jurgen Moltmann once said, our Easter faith recognizes that the raising of Jesus from the dead provides the great alternative to this world of death.
Our faith understands the risen Christ as God’s protest against death, and against all the people who work for death. For those of us who claim the message of the empty tomb as our own, who find good news in the promise of Easter, our job is to live in such a way that the miracle of this day can be seen in our lives. Remember, when you forgive your enemy, when you feed the hungry, when you defend the weak – you proclaim the resurrection. When you work to repair broken relationships, when you sacrifice for the sake of others, when you take time to support a friend – you proclaim the resurrection. When you stand up for the truth, when you refuse to compromise your integrity, when you love the unlovable – you proclaim the resurrection. This is our job as Christians – to declare with our lips and live with our lives the hope of Easter in a world, where for many, hope can be difficult to find. He is risen!
Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.