Normal People, Amazing Lord!
What a glorious day and not because it is sunny and headed towards seventy degrees. It is glorious because we celebrate the resurrection on our Lord. It may even be more glorious this year because we couldn’t gather in person last year. It surely wasn’t the same for me doing a streamed service with five people in our little chapel but nothing stopped the resurrection. If you don’t have a birthday party it doesn’t mean you didn’t get a year older. Likewise, when some people said there would be no Easter last year they were wrong because not being able to have a celebration in a large group didn’t prevent the Lord from rising from the dead nearly two-thousand years ago, nor did it keep us from rejoicing in the good news, we just didn’t join in the usual way.
But here we are today rejoicing in Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil. No longer does sin hold the threat over our heads that it once did. Hell loomed over mankind for “the wages of sin is death” and if left to those words despair reigns. But the gift of God to us is eternal life made possible by Jesus taking the punishment for our sins. By faith in what Jesus did to save us we rejoice for hell no longer threatens as it did.
Now to be sure absolute confidence in the promise of everlasting life is not immediate and unwavering in everyone’s lives. Not understanding or immediately believing is a common problem; it may not even be such a bad thing to have to search for the truth. Evidence can be gathered and presented to convince some while a second look may be what some need. We see these examples in our Gospel today.
Followers of Jesus such as Mary Magdalene jumped to conclusions such “someone has taken (or stolen) his body and we don’t know where they put it.” John didn’t go in because he may have been afraid to see no body there though he could have been afraid that he was going to see the body there. When John went in, after Peter did, he saw the cloths that Jesus had been wrapped in and no body and then believed that Jesus was raised; or did he? You see their minds had not been cleared to understand what Jesus was talking about prior to his crucifixion so some time was needed for this moment to really sink in. If Peter and John had fully grasped the significance of the empty tomb do you think they would have just gone back to their homes or the home where they were staying? Now they may have talked about the events with the other disciples but they weren’t sure enough about what happened to immediately start shouting it in the streets.
Mary Magdalene was a woman overcome with grief and despair. She couldn’t even process the message from the angels who were there to give testimony as to what had happened. Many a person has grieved and become irrational or angry or despaired over a death and found little comfort in what is said until finally a moment happens as it did with Mary. She mistakes Jesus for a gardener but when he says “Mary” the voice is one that has comforted her before and now she finds the joy that the Savior lives.
So what brings us joy and confidence in Jesus as our Savior, risen from the dead? It is the reliability of the eye witnesses and the working of the Holy Spirit. Just as the blockage or hardness of hearts was overcome in the days after the resurrection by the testimony of witnesses so this same testimony leads people to faith today. Jesus was risen from the dead as he said would happen and the testimonies from that Easter were multiplied by the testimonies to come in the following days.
Jesus is risen, of this there should be no doubt. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.