The Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith
Today’s Gospel: John 20:1-18
Why does so much of Christianity have to hinge around the idea that the tomb was empty, that Jesus rose from the dead Easter morning? Isn’t it enough to think that Jesus was a wonderful man who said great things? Why do we need to proclaim so loudly–He is risen?
If we want to, we can say that nothing very real happened on this day. We can say that the resurrection means only that the teachings of Jesus are immortal like the plays of Shakespeare or the writings of Plato. We can say that the resurrection is metaphorical and means that the spirit of Jesus is undying. And yet, if we do this, then what we proclaim this morning is not the good news of the Christian faith, but something less. If we hedge our bets, because we don’t know what happened between Friday evening and Sunday morning, and say that Jesus did not actually get up and leave that tomb, then we might as well say nothing at all. Because, if there is no resurrection, then there is no reason to celebrate, if there is no resurrection, then there is no reason to believe. As St. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
The truth of the matter is, we can celebrate Easter without paying much attention to the cross. We can celebrate Easter without paying much attention to the resurrection. We can celebrate Easter and see only the brightly colored trappings of the day–the flowers, the eggs, the beautiful Easter dresses. But if we do, we no longer have much of a holiday and we certainly don’t have the holiest of days in the Christian year. Our faith has survived for two thousand years because millions of people have found in the tragedy of the cross and the joy of the empty tomb a truth about life they can find nowhere else. They have discovered the truth that the only way to get through moments like the terrible diagnosis or the late-night phone call is to hold onto the reality of the cross and the power of the resurrection which proclaims that no matter what happens–death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is they victory? He is risen! Thank God, he is Risen!
O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.