- Chapel of St John the Divine
- April 1, 2018
- 8AM, 9:30AM
EASTER DAY, 2018
What can we say about Easter? What can we say about this glorious day when we celebrate our salvation?
The church is all dressed up for the day—we may get dressed up and we make it special with our friends and families-with special food and traditions.
Up above the equator, the earth seems eager to dress up– even here in New England we can see signs of spring and new life from the ground. There are crocuses everywhere!
What can we say about Easter?
The name doesn’t help us much. The word Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon name of the goddess of spring. So the word “Easter” tells us about the time of year, but not about why we are celebrating.
What can we say about Easter? There are some differences of opinion about what happened on that first Easter.
One theory is that the disciples stole Jesus’ body, and that’s why the tomb was empty. This is what Jesus’ enemies claimed was going to happen. They made sure that there were extra guards at the tomb so that no one could get in.
Then, when the tomb was empty, they said that someone had drugged the guards and broken into the tomb and taken Jesus’ body away. Even Mary seems to believe this. When she sees the risen Jesus on Easter morning, she does not recognize him and says, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where he is!”
Would we be here today, would the church be here today, if that is what happened?
History doesn’t help us at all. There are no contemporary accounts of Jesus’ death or of his resurrection. As far as historical records are concerned, it never happened.
Jesus was condemned to die as a common criminal, one of many such crucifixions. A person like that is of little interest to record keepers. So we cannot find a scroll somewhere that tells us what happened.
Even Holy Scripture doesn’t tell us what we really want to know about Easter. We have accounts of Jesus’ arrest, his trial (if you can really call it a trial; it was a sham, a mockery of justice), and we have stories of his crucifixion.
The gospels tell us slightly differing stories about all this, but they do agree that it happened, and three of them agree on when it happened.
The accounts of Jesus’ death, in the gospels and in Paul’s letters, are very clear about one thing. Jesus’ death is the source of forgiveness, redemption and salvation for all Creation. About that there is no doubt.
The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are not so clear. One moment they tell us that Jesus is dead and in a tomb with a huge rock sealing the entrance– the next thing we hear is that the tomb is empty.
The tomb is empty—Jesus is gone.
We know that when Jesus appeared after his death, even his closest friends did not recognize him. Mary, at the tomb, thinks he is an angel, or the gardener.
Clopas and his wife, walking home from the Passover festival, travel with a stranger and invite him into their home. Only when he breaks bread do they realize that this is the risen Jesus.
What, then, are we to say about Easter? Something certainly happened. All 4 gospels, the Book of The Acts of the Apostles, and St. Paul tell us that there was a resurrection.
In many of the accounts the first people to encounter the risen Lord are women, and they are instructed to go and tell the men.
Women were not generally listened to in those days, so if this had not really happened, the evangelists would not have made up that fact.
Their stories would have lacked credulity, having women play such an important role, so that part must be true.
We know that whatever happened was powerful and transforming—the disciples who had run away in fear became true followers of Christ.
The tomb was not the end for Jesus and it is not the end for us, either.
That is the glory and joy of Easter.
For the other facts we want, we will have to wait. What happened that makes this day so wonderful is a mystery. Hidden from us until we, too, leave this life and go to be with the Father.
The disciples were transformed because of Easter. What they experienced was not just because of the resurrection, but because of the whole of Jesus’ life and ministry that touched them and showed them God’s plan for us.
After Easter, they took Jesus’ life and ministry to the world—and transformed the world. And that is how Easter transforms us, too.
So we can say that Easter is about hope, and about new life, new possibilities. I pray that we can know that for our lives, our world.
But for today, for this Easter, what we can say is the good news that we sing about and read about and rejoice about.
The tomb is not the end of the story.