Sunday, April 17, 2022
I am a fan of murder-mysteries: TV shows, movies, books, you name it. I like the genre! Have you noticed a standard plot device in murder-mysteries is to have some kind of flashback where the person who is trying to solve the murder remembers one piece of key evidence that helps them solve the mystery? I consider myself a pretty intelligent person, and yet I almost NEVER notice or remember the little details that help close the case. It seems to me that authors of mysteries hide these details knowing that most people will not pay attention, preplanning how the murder will be solved eventually in a way that no one else would easily suspect until the end. The author knows the ending, and works back to have everything, in the end, make sense, but it doesn’t at first, right? That’s what makes a mystery a mystery!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! We know the ending, that Christ is not dead, but lives! And of course, in the years, weeks, and days leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, Christ knew the ending to his story, but let’s remember most people, including his closest followers, did not. The story this Easter morning begins with a mystery. Christ, the Son of God, is dead, crucified on a cross between two common criminals. How could this have happened? Wasn’t this Jesus of Nazareth supposed to be the Messiah, God’s chosen one who would save God’s people? How’s that going to happen now? Jesus’ followers are confused, disappointed, and even in despair. And then, mysteriously, the women come to the tomb, but they cannot find the body. Christ’s body is missing! Where did it go? Two men in dazzling clothes appear beside the women at the empty tomb on that first Easter morning and they say, “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.” “Remember?” Flashback. In fact, in Luke’s gospel Jesus tells his followers four different times that he is going to be crucified and raised, but perhaps it seemed too insignificant or confusing a detail for the women to think of until now. The two heavenly messengers help the women remember what Jesus told them would happen has indeed happened – a flashback to Jesus’ own prophecy! But then when they go tell the apostles, it seems to them “an idle tale,” and the others don’t believe the women. They need more convincing. So Peter gets up and sees the empty tomb for himself, with the linen cloths laying there, without a body. And he joins the women in amazement and wonder that Jesus was dead but now he is not dead. That Jesus said he would rise again and he actually (maybe – it would be nice to see him in the flesh to confirm the hope) has! Some things perhaps remain a mystery for now – the how and the why of Jesus’ death and resurrection, but this is the beginning of the end of the good news of Easter – Jesus is not among the dead, but among the living, and therefore we might also live with him!
It is Easter Sunday, the most important day of the church year. In fact, in medieval times to call yourself a Christian, to be eligible for Christian burial, etc. you were required to at least attend this Easter Sunday worship service if you only went to church once a year. Today’s story is THE story, the heart of the gospel, the mystery is solved, Christ’s prophecy is fulfilled, Jesus’ Passover from death to life has been accomplished, Alleluia! Praise God! Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! If not for Easter Day we would not be Christians. If not for Christ’s resurrection, we would not have the hope of life everlasting. Today, we gather to celebrate that death is not the end of the story for Jesus or for us. We, like Peter, like the other disciples, like the women who first discover the empty tomb, marvel at the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection. We might wonder how it all works – that’s a matter of faith, of course. And so, like Peter, like the women, like followers of Jesus in every time and place, also wonder at the mystery how our great God of the entire universe might become a human being – be born, live among us, teach and heal us, then die and rise for us. The empty tomb also reveals that God in Christ has reversed the verdict of those responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion – Christ dies for sinners like us. Christ dies to redeem the guilty, so that we might live with him and face our own deaths with confidence and hope.
Ponder the great mystery of our faith – that Christ would take on human flesh, die, and be raised for sinners like us. Like the first apostles, run, don’t walk, to share this good news to a hurting world in need. Christ sends us to share that God has a happy ending for us because of his death and resurrection. Jesus is not dead, but alive, and so all will be made alive in Christ! Look for the living among the living! Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.