It is rightly said that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus is not the epilogue, not the end to the story. It is not the epilogue to the life of Christ. It is the goal of His life; it is the purpose of His life. The church has always understood that. In fact, the church understood it right from the day of the resurrection on. For since that time, the church has chosen to meet on Sunday, the first day of the week, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, to commemorate the most important event in His life, and the most important event in human history ~ His resurrection from the dead.
The church did not choose to meet on Friday. The church chose to meet on Sunday, because Sunday is the interpretation of Friday. Easter is the interpretation of Good Friday. Resurrection is the divine interpretation of the death of Christ. Resurrection is the divine vindication of the work that He did on the cross. Without the resurrection, the cross means nothing, for it has no validation, it has no vindication, it has no affirmation. But when God raised Jesus from the dead, He was affirming, and validating, and vindicating the fact that He had indeed borne our sins in His own body on the cross, and had satisfied the justice of God with His sin-bearing. Without the resurrection, the cross is meaningless, just another death.
The Easter Story: The Old and New Truth
While the Easter story may be new to some of us today, most of you have heard it many times. Yet, we have been looking forward all year to hearing it again. Jesus having died back on Friday, and the Sabbath not being an appropriate day for final burial preparations, the women arrive at the tomb early Sunday morning to get to work. Arms full of spices, sleeves rolled up, for the sad task of embalming their dear friend and teacher.
When they get there, instead of a dead body, they find an empty tomb, and men in dazzling clothes offering them these strange, but encouraging words: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Don’t you remember what he told you? He is risen!” The women run back to relay the joyful tidings to “the eleven” (that’s the 12 disciples, minus Judas) and to the rest.
As adults we can get caught up sometimes in analyzing stories, in debating this or that detail, or wondering why it was told in such and such a way. But think about how children respond to a well-told story. Those of you who are parents or grandparents, those of you who are teachers, you know. The minute you finish their favorite book, what’s a child most likely to say? “Again! Again! Tell it again!” No matter that they’ve heard it a hundred times. No matter that they’ve got the whole story memorized by now. The hearing of it – again – brings them such joy. So we flip back to page 1, and we tell their favorite story again. The very best stories are well worth hearing again and again. So back to today’s story.
The Disciples of Jesus and the Resurrection
The eleven disciples had trouble believing the women who had just come from the empty tomb. For any of them, it would have been one thing to hear Jesus talk about His resurrection ahead of time, and quite another to believe it had actually happened. “He is risen!” the women said to the apostles. “But these words,” says Luke 24:11, “seemed to them an idle tale. “But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” The disciples are not as receptive to this news as we might have hoped. In fact, they are less than supportive. The Greek word translated “nonsense” is leiros, which means “nonsense,” “drivel,” “trash,” “garbage.” The Easter story defies logic and explanation. It sounds too good to be true. If it weren’t these things, it wouldn’t be Easter.
I just love that the unlikeliness of their story doesn’t deter the women at the tomb. They could have huddled just outside the walls of the graveyard, weighed the pros and cons of actually blurting out this bizarre thing they had seen, and opted instead to let someone else stumble upon the empty tomb and take it from there. Yet, they couldn’t help but spread the word. They had witnessed something that needed to be told.
There’s also something marvelous that happens in our text between verses 11 and 12. I’m not sure if you caught it? In verse 11 – the women’s words seem to the eleven disciples a load of nonsense. In verse 12 we see Peter, being one of those eleven “got up and ran to the tomb.” Peter gets to the tomb. He finds out the resurrection story is true. His hope is renewed. He becomes the Peter that we know now. Friends, we cannot sit on the fence all the time. When the moment of truth comes, we should take a side. When God reveals the truth to us, we should make up our mind, we should decide for ourselves.
The Resurrection Story and our World Today
It’s quite a story we tell today, and it contains the best news we could possibly hear. God wins. Love wins. Life conquers death. No wonder we look forward to telling it again every year. I don’t need to tell you how badly we need to hear this news today. We need the resurrection story. We need to hear – again – that goodness is stronger than evil, that love is stronger than hate, that light is stronger than darkness, that truth is stronger than lies.
So as we sing, pray, shout, cheer, and wave our Alleluias this Easter Sunday, let’s us remember the resurrection truth. And once we “find our place in the history of God’s grace, once we’ve had those experiences of new life, of despair-turned-into-hope, we too are called to share what we know.
Let us put that “Teller” sign around our necks and get to work: Tell it! And then – again! And again, and again! I beg you to tell it again. Because we desperately need the resurrection story right now. Tell the world that goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, truth is stronger than lies… and what’s more, life can even triumph over death. Even today the God of resurrection is still on the loose in the world, inspiring His children and reminding us not to give up hope. We are Easter people. And we mustn’t be afraid to tell, and tell, and tell again what we believe to be possible, because the God of resurrection is on the loose: Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Meditation Notes (Easter Sunday 11:00 a.m. ~ 04.21.2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor