According to the gospel reading, the disciples were in an upper room following Christ’s crucifixion. They were saddened by Christ’s death and afraid that they, too, would be arrested and crucified like their master. When suddenly, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women burst into the room, telling a strange tale.
According to the women, they had visited Jesus’ grave and found it empty. But more than this, they had been met by two men in dazzling clothes, angels they supposed, who said, “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” Luke 24:5-7. “He is risen!” they told the apostles. “But these words,” says the gospel of Luke 24:11, “seemed to them an idle tale. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.”
Jesus Christ is Alive. What? How?
The resurrection seemed like nonsense or an idle tale to those who first heard of it. And who is to blame them? After all, people just don’t rise from the dead. I’ve presided over many funerals, and guess what. None have risen from the dead – not a single one! And I can tell by your expression that you’re not surprised by that – not at all.
In fact, if I told you that the man I buried last week was seen walking about just yesterday then you would probably question my sanity. And with good reason. Dead is dead! And the dead don’t rise! Dead people stay down. And that would have been true of Jesus had He been nothing but a man. But we believe Jesus was more than a man. He was God incarnate – fully God and fully man. Like a man, He tasted death. As our God, He rose again. It’s a remarkable truth! So remarkable, in fact, that many don’t believe it at all. They treat Christ’s resurrection as nonsense or idle tale and try to argue it away.
Some still say Jesus didn’t live at all. They deny His very existence. For them, the whole story is nonsense and an idle tale. He never lived, they argue. Doubtless you’ve heard some of the arguments against the resurrection. Some say Jesus didn’t die; He simply fainted on the cross and was mistaken for dead but, revived in the tomb and His appearances were mistaken for a real resurrection. But really, are we to believe that a man who was badly beaten, then crucified, then stabbed in the side with a spear, and then sealed in a tomb guarded by soldiers, was able to roll the stone away, push His way through the guard, and convince everyone who saw Him that He was alive and well and risen from the dead? It takes more faith to believe that than it does to believe the resurrection.
Others argue that Jesus’ body was stolen by the disciples who invented the story of the resurrection to keep His movement alive. But we’ve got to remember that most of the disciples were persecuted, even martyred for their faith. Who would die for a lie? Still others argue that the resurrection appearances of Jesus were nothing more than hallucinations induced by grief or hysteria. Well there certainly were a lot of appearances and they don’t seem to be hallucinations. According to the New Testament, Jesus appeared numerous times in different settings. He appeared to individuals, to small groups, to large groups, to one group numbering as many as five hundred! That doesn’t seem to fit the pattern of hallucinations. Again, it takes more faith to believe this theory than it does to believe in the resurrection.
Falling Into the Same Trap
Yet, believers can fall into the same trap. Yes, there is a way that believers can treat the resurrection as if it’s nothing more than nonsense or an idle tale. It happens when the story of the resurrection, and the presence of the risen Savior, hits the head but not the heart and doesn’t change the life at all. When we fail to live in hope, we treat the resurrection story as nonsense or an idle tale. When we fail to see God working in mysterious ways, we treat the resurrection story as nonsense or an idle tale.
I hope and pray that you and I are not among those who treat the risen Christ and the story of His resurrection as nothing more than nonsense or an idle tale. Rather, I hope we treat the resurrection and the risen Christ as Peter did. The gospel lesson says, “These words (the words about the resurrection) seemed to (the apostles) an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran! 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” See Luke 24:11-12.
You see, Peter got up and ran to the empty tomb. And somewhere between the empty tomb and the upper room, he met the risen Savior! See Luke 24:34. And it wasn’t long before he ran from the empty tomb and the upper room into the world carrying the message of resurrection and testifying to the fact that he had seen the risen Lord!
Peter got up and ran to the empty tomb then ran from the tomb into the world telling everyone about the risen Savior! You see the whole course of his life was shaped thereafter by the risen Christ. The resurrection was no longer nonsense; rather, it actually helped Peter to make sense of everything. Meantime, the risen Lord became the driving presence behind all Peter’s living.
I believe God is calling us today to see our lives, our ups and downs, our successes and failures, our gains and losses, our joys and sorrows through the resurrection eyes. The risen Christ wants to become the driving presence that shapes all of your living. Let the resurrection of Jesus Christ become the defining event of your life – the event that makes sense and lends purpose to all our days. Friends, which is it for you? Nonsense or the greatest sense imaginable? An idle tale or the greatest story ever told? Look at how you live and you will have the answer. Happy Easter everyone! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Meditation Notes (Easter Sunday 8:00 a.m. ~ 04.21.2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor