Easter 1: Luke 24:1-12
Who is missing in the gospel reading?
Where is he?
How do you know?
Where are the disciples? Not at the tomb.
(Despite Jesus having told them.)
The women go to the tomb and there are two men there, messengers, who tell them that Jesus is risen. That he is living- no longer entombed, but alive and out and about…
They go back to tell the disciples what happened and the disciples shout, “Hallelujah” and build a church. The disciples immediately fall to their knees and thank God. The disciples immediately get out a scroll and begin to put together the Apostles’ Creed.
Or… instead… the disciples… the people who knew Jesus best, who knew best what he’d said, who’d loved him and had been praying for the events of the last three days to NOT be true. They said the women were full of … baloney. The English translators protect us from the weight of the Greek. It’s not that the disciples thought it was an idle tale… It is that they thought the women were crazy, delirious, insane and were feeding them a line of sugar.
How is it that the disciples did not believe them? And, lest you hurry to defend Peter, some of the early translations of Luke don’t have verse 12. Many just end with “to them, it was b… an idle tale.”
If the disciples were not able to believe right away, why do we expect that of ourselves? Faith in the resurrection… of Jesus and of ourselves in Christ… faith in the resurrection is not magic. It’s a miracle.
We who still feel the sting of death… who see pain the world… who wrestle with injustice… that we would believe in the resurrection is truly a miracle. That the church would last is a miracle. That people who sometimes are so aggravated with each other can embrace and say, “Peace be with you.” It’s a miracle.
That someone who watched their spouse struggle and die after a long illness can find love again… Miracle.
That someone can get out of bed again after the death of a child… Miracle.
That a child can be born one month, two months, three months, four months early and live and be well… Miracle.
That people in this room right now have survived cancer, divorce, miscarriages, broken hearts, heart attacks, major surgeries, deployments, discrimination, betrayal, unemployment, loss… and yet you are here… believing that forgiveness is possible, that hope is strong, that resurrection is true… Miracle.
We are here now because eventually what seemed like an idle tale… became clearer, more obvious, more trustworthy, more inspiring, more believable. What is true is true… whether or not we believe it- however, sometimes we have to grow into that belief. We have to experience the miracle for ourselves. And it is a slow process.
Easter is a season- not a day. We have to wrestle with the idle tale… test it… and keep our eyes open for where God is encountering us. Jesus was not in the tomb that first Easter. We do not know where he was until later that evening. But he was somewhere. He was then as he is now… encountering people in acts of kindness, acts of grace, acts of mercy… things are small miracles in themselves.
You see, for God… a God that is all-powerful, all-loving, a God that is forgiving and merciful… raising Jesus from the dead was nothing. That is not hard. Helping us to believe in it… that’s work. That is the work that only God can do. Faith is a gift that only God can give. And that we would act on that faith… that we would show kindness… mercy… forgiveness… that work in us could only happen through the Holy Spirit.
It is because of God’s work in helping us to believe in resurrection… of the body, of relationships, of creation… that we are able to work for justice, for healing, for equality, for release of captives, and for peace among people. It is because of God’s work in helping us believe that we are here today… doing things that look crazy… but are meaningful because of what we have been helped to understand is true. True today and forever. Miraculous today and forever.
What if you don’t believe or you struggle with believing or even you sometimes wonder just a little? Does it mean God isn’t at work in you- that God hasn’t given you faith? Do you think God is done with you? The disciples… pillars in the faith… had to wrestle with what seemed like an idle tale. And Jesus met them, each in different ways, with forgiveness and healing. And, Jesus does no less with each of us as we live out our life’s Easter season in learning the truth of God’s work in the world.
Faith in the work of God isn’t magic and it isn’t easy. It is a miracle and it is work. To make a body disappear- any magician can do that. To bring a body to life again- we know some ways that happens. To bring a body to life as a sign of hope and forgiveness, of renewal and future expectation, and to help people trust in that resurrection… that’s a miracle. The miracle of grace. The miracle of Easter.
Christ is risen.
He is risen, indeed.