Colossians 3: 1-4; Luke 24: 1-14
If we were asked to select our favorite holiday, most of us would probably choose Christmas. After all, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the charm of a baby lying in a manger and the wonder of a star-filled sky. But with Easter it’s so different.
Instead of a bunch of shepherds joyfully racing across the fields to see a newborn child, here at Easter we only have some women who timidly head off to care for a dead body. Instead of a sky full of singing angels, at Easter we only have two men with shining clothes—without wings or trumpets. And while the Christmas story takes place in the warm glow of the stable scene, Easter’s story is told from a cold, damp tomb.
But we come anyway; we come at Easter. We come to a graveyard and listen for that God’s Word that is speaking to us. But we come with some hesitation. Easter is when we hear all about tombs and death and for most of us that makes us feel uncomfortable. We never know what to say when it comes to death.
Consider the words that visitors to funeral homes say as they stumble around trying to be caring. The words that come out are often not very helpful and can even be hurtful, although that wasn’t the intent. Someone might say to a widow: “God must have needed him more than you;” or offer consolation to a widower the words, “You’ll get over it.” Others will say words like “We all have to go sometime” These are words of sympathy that provide no comfort.
The reason that they provide no comfort is because their message is this:
Just take it. No matter what comes, no matter how painful it might be, just take it and endure it.
But the truth of the matter is that we really can’t just take it, unless there is some hope out there for us.
Medical studies have proven that one of the major forces that make a hospital patient get better is the patient’s desire to get better. As long as doctors offer hope to the person, that they will regain their health, the patient has something to hold on to—something good to anticipate. That hope gives the person the strength to get through their pain and suffering.
It’s the same thing when a child falls and skins a knee. A first the pain is too much to bare. But then a simple kiss of the mother, along with the assurance that everything is going to be alright, and suddenly every thing has changed. The child has received hope and learns that the pain. . . will . . .end.
At first glance, it seems that much of Jesus Christ’s teaching boils down to the message: “Just take it.” Jesus tells is to love our enemies. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, if someone hits us physically or another way. Jesus tells us to forgive those who do us wrong. Instead of getting even, Jesus tells us to just take it and that can be an extremely difficult passage to accept. Can’t it?
Truthfully, any part of that message from Jesus would be impossible for us to accept, if it were not for the resurrection. For the apostle Paul even said that if Jesus was not raised from the dead, and if we will not also be raised from the dead, then the Christian faith is ridiculous. Although suffering and pain and eventually death may enter our lives, they will not be the final word against us.
When those three women went to the tomb early that Sunday morning, they were going there to finish the burial procedures.
They went, expecting to find a dead man. That is how many of us come here today. Just like those women we come with little or no expectations. We come on Easter to pay our respects and to toss a few flowers on to Jesus’ grave. We come ho honor a man who lived us to his teaching, to honor a man who did indeed “take it,” and went so far as to die on the cross. But as we huddle around the grave, two men in shining clothes come to us and say:” He is not here; He has been raised.”
The rest of the world tells us to keep a still upper lip. Pull ourselves by our bootstraps. The rest of the world tells us to take what comes our way. But without hope, few can live these words for very long. In the end, as we face death, these words are hollow. They are inadequate. When we face death there is only one who is able to life us up. There is only one who can give us the strength and courage to understand (with the head) and believe with one’s faith) that death is not the end.
So we have come together here on this Easter morning. We each bring our own set of cares and burdens. Some come filled with grief and sorrow. Others come with concerns about an illness. Some come with minds tormented about the chaos and trouble that fill their homes. Some come overwhelmed by what faces them each day.
What do we expect from this trip to worship today?
Do we expect to hear that familiar message that we have to “just take it” and muddle along as best we can? Or can we expect something more?
Because we find far more that as we journey to the tomb.
There we find hope.
There we find life.
There we find that no matter what comes our way,
God will not allow it to destroy us.
That is the good news of Easter. That is the good news of Jesus Christ.