The words spoken on Holy Thursday evening, the horrible events of that Friday, and the wonder and joy of the first Easter morning all have meaning for us. They define who we are–the children of the Resurrection. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed, alleluia!
At first light the women approached the tomb to perform a sad but necessary task. Of course, it fell to the women to make the final burial preparations. With them they brought the spices and ointments that they had prepared. As they entered the tomb the first thing that they noticed was that it was empty. The body was no longer where it had been placed. Then suddenly there were two young men beside them. They were startled. Even frightened and totally confused about what was happening. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen! Remember what he told you.”
Remember. But there was so very much to remember. They remembered the stories that he told and the message that he proclaimed first in Galilee and then throughout the land of Israel. They remembered the many that he had healed of disease, even loathsome diseases like leprosy, and those that he had freed from evil spirits. They remembered the people that had crowded around him and followed him wherever he went. They remembered his openness to those that most would consider on the fringe of society. They remembered his acceptance of children, infants Luke tells us. They remembered the growing conviction among the disciples and the people that this was indeed the Messiah promised of old. Some even went so far as to say that this was the Son of the Holy One himself.
They remembered also what he had said about the mission of the Messiah. The Christ would be handed over to sinful men who would despite-fully use him and ultimately crucify him. He even had proclaimed that on the third day he would rise, but all of this was totally incomprehensible to them. It didn’t fit what they understood the Messiah to be. Where was the victory over the Romans who occupied their land? Where was the reestablishment of the kingdom of Israel? Where was the expected Messianic age? His words were so far outside of the concept that they had of the Messiah that they made no sense at all.
They remembered the terrible events of Friday. They saw the one that they believed to be the holy Messiah hanging on a cross between two common criminals. They remembered the agony in his face and his words: “Father forgive them,” and then that horrible cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” Finally, they heard the whispered words, “It is finished,” and watched him slump in death.
They remembered too their journey that morning. As always, the women concerned themselves with practical matters. They discussed the problem of the stone that sealed the entrance. They certainly did not have the strength to move it on their own. Possibly the soldiers detailed to guard the tomb would give them a hand. They anticipated the smell of a body already three days in the grave. They remembered too how stunned they were when they found the stone already moved and the grave empty. They remembered their sense of confusion and loss.
There would be another memory formed later that day as one of the women, Mary Magdalene, returned to the tomb. Convinced that someone had removed the body to prevent his followers from coming periodically to honor his life and death, she could only kneel at the entrance to the grave and let her tears flow. From behind her she heard a voice, “why are you weeping?” She could hardly be bothered to answer. Her grief was too deep for casual conversation. “Tell me where they have taken him,” was her only thought. Then her name, “Mary.” Could it possibly be? She spun around and discovered that it was indeed her Lord. It is not surprising that she flung herself on him and refused to let go. He was alive. He had risen indeed! The resurrection took on a reality as Jesus appeared to Mary, and later to the twelve, and to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The resurrection is more than an historical reality. It was then, and remains now, a personal reality.
As the women were called upon to remember, we too are called to remember the events of that first Easter. The words spoken on Holy Thursday, the anguish of Good Friday, the surprise and joy of Easter morning all have meaning for us. As Isaiah wrote so long ago, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. The events, the wonder of that first Easter define who we are. We are children of the resurrection. Christ is risen is our cry, and he did all of this that we might be a forgiven and free people.
Some time ago an organist at a church I served gave me a little devotional booklet. There were several stories which have caught and held me. One was of a group of young businessmen in New York city at the end of the day running through Grand Central station to catch the evening train home. As they were hurrying, one inadvertently brushed against the tray of a young blind girl selling apples, sending the apples scattering into the rushing crowd. All but one continued on their way. One stopped. He shouted to a friend, “Tell my wife that I’ll be on the next train.” Then he turned and started to gather up the apples. Some were so badly bruised that they were worthless, fit only to be tossed into the rubbish bin. Some had been kicked away by the feet of those unaware. He gathered up what he could find and replaced them in the tray. Finally, he fished a twenty dollar bill out of his picket and handed it to the girl. “This should pay for those that are lost.” As he turned to catch his train home, he heard the soft voice of the girl behind him, “Mister, are you Jesus?” No, he wasn’t Jesus, but his simple act of kindness pointed to the One who had suffered and died that we might live in freedom for others.
Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!
He is risen that you and I might live in the freedom of the Gospel.