Easter Sunday

April 16, 2017

Summary

Alleluia!  Jesus is Risen!  He is risen indeed, alleluia!

The other night my wife Emily and I watched a movie called, “Risen.”

It is the fictional story of the Roman centurion who was at the cross at Jesus’ crucifixion.   The movie is about this centurion investigating the disappearance of Jesus’ body from the tomb.  Of course, he starts his investigation assuming that Jesus’ disciples have stolen away the body so as to make it seem that Jesus rose from the dead.

The only problem is that the evidence starts to show that perhaps something else happened.  As he interviews person after person, their individual stories start to point to a different reality.  Some have only heard the talk that Jesus has been seen or heard, but as the centurion Clavius gets closer to Jesus, by first talking with Mary Magdalene and then later, Bartholomew the disciple, he is now hearing eye-witness accounts.

Each of them testify of Jesus’ resurrection from death.  Theirs are testimonies that Clavius is not ready to believe, but they are stories that affect him, because each of the tellers is speaking in such a way that he knows they genuinely believe what they are saying.

Clavius does not believe until he encounters the risen, living, eating Jesus, and recognizes him as the same dead man that he saw hanging upon the cross.

Later, when he meets Jesus again and has the chance to speak with him, he stammers out, “I cannot reconcile all this with the world I know.

Jesus responds, “With your own eyes you’ve seen, yet still you doubt. Imagine the doubt of those who have never seen.”

Then Jesus adds, “That’s what they face.”  Speaking of the disciples and their future mission of proclaiming the gospel to those who never had the chance to meet Jesus, face-to-face.

In today’s Easter morning scripture, we read of three of Jesus’ disciples who, though having seen him, and followed him, do not understand the reason for the empty tomb.  It seems as if none of them, be it the two apostles, nor Mary Magdalene have understood that when Jesus taught that the Son of Man must die and rise to new life, that he meant it literally.

And so, they all believe that the authorities have moved his body somewhere else, that’s what it means when it says, “Then the other disciple…also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture.”

They all believed their eyes, their eyes which told them that Jesus body was gone because of the Romans or High Priests, not because he had left the tomb…alive!

And so Peter and the other man, having seen the empty wrappings in the empty tomb, simply go home, but Mary, she is too distraught, and stays to grieve.  In fact she is so upset that she does not even seem to realize that it is two angels speaking to her from the tomb, nor when she turns around that it is Jesus who asks, “Woman, why are you weeping?”

With all three of these disciples, it seems that even seeing is not believing, it finally takes Jesus speaking her name to bring Mary to awareness.  In hearing him speak her name, as he must have many times before, Mary finally understands that it is Jesus, her rabbi and lord, standing before her.

It was then Mary that went and shared the good news with the apostles of Jesus’ new life, and resurrection from the dead, and so, the empty tomb.

Is seeing always believing?

Not in this age, no.

Think of all the things you see on the internet, or even in magazines, books or…wherever.  Photoshop, and the rise of special effects, has made such phrases as, “photographic evidence” seem naive, and even obsolete.  For we cannot believe what we see anymore, unless, perhaps it is with our own two eyes, and even then…

And we surely have to be careful and judicious about what we read, right?

So, how is it that we can believe anything?

Well, perhaps it is in the same way that the apostles and other disciples spread the word about Jesus two thousand years ago.  In today’s first reading from the book of Acts, chapter 10 we heard Peter’s words, “We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem…who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify.”

Those who knew Jesus, who had shared life with Jesus, well, they told others of their experiences, of their friendship with him.  They testified to what they knew of Jesus. They shared of their lives, of their friendship with everyone and anyone who cared to hear.

In the movie the other night, the disciples were shown as men who, after Jesus’ resurrection to new life, were filled with joy. They were ecstatic over the return of their friend.  They couldn’t keep their joy and their happiness to themselves, they were sharing it with whomever would listen, even the Roman Centurion.  They wanted to testify to what they had seen Jesus do, what they had heard him teach, and the friend with whom they had shared life. They wanted to tell whoever would listen, that the empty tomb meant something.

This post-Easter joy is not something that I have thought about before, but I think the filmmakers were correct. Jesus’ disciples, all of them, must have been filled with joy!

Can you imagine what it would have been like to have met Mary Magdalene after her encounter with her risen Lord in the garden?

Mary must have been bubbling over with excitement, joy, and happiness. Perhaps she was telling anyone who would listen every story she had to share about this man Jesus, whom she had come to believe was also God’s Son.  Can you imagine what it was to hear Mary talk about how it felt to be forgiven of her sins by Jesus? Can you imagine the earnestness in her voice as she told of what Jesus’ love meant in her life?  Mary did not simply tell, rather she testified to what she knew.

She had come to believe through what she had seen, but even more heard, touched, and most of all experienced.  Jesus and his Godly power and presence was what brought Mary to belief, and it was the same with Peter and every other apostle and disciple whom followed and believed.

For those of us who believe, and live in faith, it can and must be the same.

We have experiences in our lives, of how Jesus, the Risen Lord has moved, spoken and related to us in our hearts, minds, and souls. No, we haven’t seen the empty tomb, nor Jesus heal a leper.  We have not heard Jesus teach of the Samaritan’s love, nor read from Isaiah’s prophecy in the scroll.  Yet, yet, we too have experiences to testify about concerning Jesus and his love. We too can share of the freedom that we feel in our faith because our Savior has forgiven us of our sins. We too can testify of Jesus love, and the power of his grace in our lives.

What have you experienced as a disciple of Christ? How has Jesus impacted your life? What does it mean for you to a follower of the risen Lord? Share these answers. Testify of who Jesus is for you. Tell of the importance of your Christian faith. Testify in love.

And if you haven’t experienced Jesus love in your heart, nor his salvation in your soul, it doesn’t mean you can’t, you simply need to open yourself to the Savior’s presence in your life.  Jesus has come for you, because he loves you, and wants to give you life, life now, and beyond the grave.  He wants you to live within his love, forever!  Open yourself to him, and live. For Jesus rose to new life, so that you might receive it too! Believe, and live!

Amen.

Bible References

  • Acts 10:34 - 43
  • John 20:1 - 18

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