2024 03 31: Easter 2024

Posted on 31 Mar 2024

Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

American humorist Evan Esar once penned the line, “Easter is the only time when it’s perfectly safe to put all of your eggs in one basket.”  I like that thought, after all, Easter is a day that celebrates so many of God’s gifts of life.  It honors the gifts of springtime as the reformer Martin Luther once noted, “Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection not in books alone but in every leaf of springtime.”  Easter proclaims Christ’ victory over death and the promise of everlasting life, as Kate McGahan captured in her work, Only Gone from Your Sight, “The very first Easter taught us this: that life never ends and love never dies.” And it boldly spites the face of the devil with God getting the lasting laugh.  So why shouldn’t we smile a bit with a little Easter humor.  Such as, what happens if you get married on Easter?  Why, you live hoppily ever after.”  Or What do you call the funniest guest at Easter dinner? The Easter ham.  I don’t even mind jokes about bunnies.  For example, how does the Easter Bunny stay in shape? He eggs-ercises.  Or, why was the Easter Bunny so sad?  He was having a bad hare day. And remember the true purpose of your annual Easter Egg Hunt:  It provides proof that your child can find things when they really want to.  Yes, Easter is the only time when it’s perfectly safe to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Unfortunately, that is not how the women who went to the tomb felt that first Easter morning nearly 2000 years ago.  They were not ready to place all their hopes and dreams in one basket ever again. On that fateful Good Friday afternoon, they watched as their teacher suffered and died.  The hour was late and the Sabbath was near, so there was no time to anoint Jesus’ body for his burial. But they saw as the revered council member Joseph of Arimathea removed their master’s body from the cross and wrapped it in a linen cloth.  They followed the somber procession out of the city to a tomb that had been hewn out of rock where Jesus’ body was lain. Workers then rolled a great stone across the entrance of the tomb. On the first Easter morning, the women set out to the tomb to perform their solemn act of anointing the day.

No one was prepared, however, for God’s final surprise. Not the women, nor Jesus’ disciple, not even Peter. True, God sent his son Jesus on a journey, to walk the face of the earth, and this journey included death, but that was not the end.  On the third day, God raised him from the dead.  God burst open the grave and sent Jesus out again to invade and capture the hearts and wills of his followers. You see, Jesus did not suffer and die merely to teach a lesson on how to be brave, or how to be loyal to your convictions.  Jesus suffered and died and rose again to defeat all the forces that separate you from God- even doubt.

Strikingly, St. Mark wrote that the women, having heard the word of the messenger and seeing these wonders, “said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid,”  But I can hardly believe that was true. And least not for very long.  Terror may have seized them on that painful Good Friday afternoon, but as they arrived at the tomb gazing upon the great stone that had been rolled away, and peering into the empty tomb and seeing the messenger dressed in white sitting on the stone where Jesus was lain, something was being reborn and renewed deep with them. They were once afraid, but the words of the messenger comforted and challenged them.  They were suddenly being invited to place all their hope and dreams into one man again- Jesus.  At that moment, as incredible as the good news was, the women knew that there was nothing that could separate them any longer from the love of God- not even death  Jesus had destroyed the power of death forever. He had been raised.  And they believed in him, placing all their hope on the truth of the resurrection.  More importantly, they also knew they had to do what the messenger had commanded them to do, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” That my friends, is the power of the resurrection. It changes lives and allows men and women to place all their hopes and dreams in Jesus as the resurrection and the life.

For many people today, the resurrection seems to offer little wonder and excitement.  For them. Jesus’ rising from the dead is nothing more than the commemoration of a victory long ago.  Easter is remembered in the same way that historians recall the ancient battles of war- except with better music.  They’re rather like the pitiful pastor who sighed. “We certainly believe in the resurrection at our church.  If you doubt it, just visit us at the close of our worship service and watch our congregation spring back to life.”

Perhaps that is how you have felt this year. In theory, you understand the resurrection, but the loss of a loved one; a parent battling dementia; a spouse struggling with alcoholism; a child without friends; a job without a future, has made you lose hope.  You cry. You mourn. You feel your loss and you are devastated.  You wonder how you will move on.  Surely, we have all had days when the burdens we carry, if not for ourselves then for others, chafe our shoulders and weigh us down. Days when the road seems dreary and endless, when the skies are grey and threatening; when our lives have no music in them and our hearts are lonely and our souls have lost courage.

It is on such days that we need the promise of Christ’s resurrection and life shared with us anew. And so God sends reluctant messengers like you and me to share that good news with those who need it. That was task God set upon the women who went to the tomb.  They hadn’t seen the risen Jesus.  They had only seen the empty tomb and they had heard the word spoken by the messenger, but they believed in Christ’s resurrection  and they went to share the news with the disciples. “Go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to the Galilee.  There you will see him, just as he told you.” How that message must have cheered poor Peter’s broken heart. He must have been tortured living with the memory of his disloyalty and denial to Jesus on Good Friday, and suddenly there came a special message just for him.  That, my friends, is the nature and mystery of the love of our Lord Jesus for each one of us.  He speaks to us and comforts us with the words of reluctant messengers we could have never imagined. The good news that Christ is risen suddenly makes all the difference in our days and our tomorrows. It is the promise for those huddle on the dark side of the tomb and to those who have fallen far away from Christ.  A new day has dawned.

Trusting in Jesus as the resurrection and life may be like putting all your eggs into one basket, but what a difference it makes. It is the ultimate word of hope and forgiveness– wherever you may be on your faith journey.  Our Lord will never abandon you.  Where ever you may be, Jesus wants you to know that he will meet you.  Our resurrected Lord is far less concerned with the wrong that you have done, than the remorse that you are undergoing.  He is far less concerned with your sins, than with your forgiveness.  He is far less concerned about your doubts, than your desire. He is far less concerned with his own death, than the promise of an abundant life for you.

My friends, this is the simple message of Easter, but it makes all the difference.  Amen.