Dim Easter Light

April 17, 2022/Easter Sunday – Luke 24:1-12

We arrive in this place on Easter morning with only a dim recollection of the events of the preceding week lingering in our minds.  We’ve moved on, gotten past that bittersweet last supper, tried to block the betrayals from our memories, closed our eyes to the brutal torture and hanging on the cross.  We’ve moved through the empty hours – the night and day following Jesus’ death and his entombment – and now we’re ready to move ahead.  But what, exactly, does the future hold?  What, exactly, will the world look like now, with Jesus dead and buried?

Well, we can fancy it up a bit, with our shiny new shoes and freshly pressed Sunday best, with lilies and hydrangeas, with soaring hallelujah choruses and roasted lamb.  But what does it mean?  Or does it mean anything at all?

In the early dawn hours, a bunch of the women who had followed Jesus – probably many of those who had funded his ministry and supported him along the way – gathered their oils and spices and made their way to the tomb.  It is what women did – cared for the dead, prepared them for their proper burial.  Funny, isn’t it, that the open tomb seemed not to really bother them.  It wasn’t until they entered the tomb, the empty tomb, that they were “perplexed.”  Not until two dazzling men stood before them that they were afraid.

It wasn’t so much the men’s explanation of things that eased their fears.  It was more, so it seems, the reminder of the things Jesus already had told them.  The reminder of his words about the suffering and trial and abuse he would face, the horrible way he would die, and the emphasis on his rising on the third day – that jarred them loose from their terrified, frozen state and sent them running back to tell the others what they had learned.  It was true!  Jesus was risen from the dead.

If you were one of these women, telling your story to the disciples and the others that day, you probably would have been dismayed by their reaction.  Luke says, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”  A better translation of the Greek would be, “the women were delirious.”

Kind of a kick in the gut, really.  These women were not unknown to the apostles.  “Luke has told the reader early on that these women were part of the group from the beginning, and that their ministry and their providing of their means kept things going.  Why, then, do the guys ignore them?  … They are not thinking straight when they dismiss the testimony of their wives, mothers, sisters, and companions in the faith as ‘foolish chatter.’”[1]

Except for Peter.  His curiosity gets the better of him, and he races off to the tomb to see for himself.  He doesn’t quite believe what the women have told them, but he can’t fully discount their story, either.  But the dazzling men are gone, and without them to remind him of all that Jesus had told his followers, Peter is left somewhere between disbelief and faith.

This isn’t the end of the story, according to Luke.  The gospel writer will tell other instances in which Jesus’ followers come face to face with their risen Lord.  But not today.  Not yet.  Today, this Easter morning, we’re left with our doubts and our questions.  We’re left with the women, shocked by an angelic presence and reassured by the memory of Jesus’ words.  We’re left with Peter, staring at an empty tomb and not quite sure what that means.  In the weak light of early dawn, we bring all of our practical, 21st-century doubts with us to the tomb.  “Easter began with fear and bewilderment.  As the shocking possibility of resurrection collided with the grim lies of injustice and empire, the first disciples had to reach out with their imaginations and grab hold of hope in mere slivers.  They had to hope in the midst of their struggles.  In the heart of the shadows.”[2]

We come to the empty tomb just as they did.  We come, and we wait for our own intimate encounter with the risen Lord.  “Even when our doubts, questions, betrayals, and failures send us sprinting for the exit doors, the good news of Easter will find and claim us, anyway.”[3]

So let us spring from our seats this Easter morning, shouting our hallelujahs, our he-is-risens with question and confidence, with doubt and faith.  With scant hope or deep-rooted faith, let us hold to the joy the Apostle Paul proclaimed – “In fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.”

Amen and amen.


[1] Richard B. Vinson, Luke, 743

[2] Debie Thomas, “Rising,” journeywithjesus.net, 10 April 2022

[3] Ibid.

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