He is risen! Our hope has come to fruition. But what lies beyond hope for us is the reality that Jesus is alive–that we are alive in Him.
We need Easter to remind us of this sure and certain hope each year. And our Easter readings remind us that the disciples were not all that much different from us. They too did not believe. They too, failed to have faith. They too were indeed hopeless when the world did not seem to give them what they thought they were looking for.
So on Easter morning when the women–oh God bless those women–went and found that the tomb had been opened, the disciples knew better. Women were far from reliable witnesses in this culture. What could these women possibly know?
Well… it turns out they knew everything. Everything that they would ever need to know. They knew that one truth that death has no power over God. They trusted in their experience and they believed.
But even these women struggled. Mary Magdelene was so blinded by her grief and so unaware of the possibllity of resurrection that she mistakes Jesus for the gardener! The women at the tomb were going to the tomb hopeless, to simply anoint Jesus’ body and when they didn’t find a body there they were distraught because Jewish ritual called for these things to be done and they couldn’t fulfill their ceremony, couldn’t squash their grief by a very intimate ritual of bathing and purifying the dead.
What these women didn’t know is that everything had changed. The death was no longer possible. That Jesus had indeed become different in going beyond death and yet was still that human Jesus who they had come to know so intimately.
Resurrection is not some kind of magic trick. There is a huge difference in what Jesus does and what happened to Lazarus who came out of the tomb. In both cases, we need Jesus. Jesus to go through death and rise to new life and Jesus who revives Lazarus from the dead. This Jesus looks different from the resuscitated Lazarus. He is bathed anew in the power of the resurrection. He is glorious. Perhaps this is why Peter is almost always the first to recognize Jesus as he was the witness to the transfigured Jesus who was dazzling white and who now is the one who is visible as the resurrected one. The one who would deny him three times can all the more easily recognize him now in hindsight.
It all makes sense to Peter and Jesus allows him to make amends by asking him three times if he loves him. It reminds me of those Verizon “Can you hear me now?” commercials. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me NOW?” And Peter unequivocally answers yes, you know well I love you as if there is still a quiver of a doubt in Jesus’ voice because Peter failed to have faith even with the foretaste of the resurrection that he saw on that mountain when Jesus was transfigured.
While Peter had the hindsight in his favor, so do we. And while Peter denied Jesus three times, I’m afraid I’ve probably denied him closer to three thousand times. Jesus today, still allows each and every one of us to return to him and to answer the question “Do you love me?” Often we don’t know what to say. What with the forces of the world telling us that Jesus is absurd, that sex is really all we need, or drugs, or booze, or a great job and most especially precious to us in this downtrodden economy money–what will we do without money?
Our restless hearts, Augustine tells us are restless until they rest in you, O God.
This is Easter. This is that empty tomb. This is the risen jesus who gives us that blessed opportunity to return to him three thousand times and we often shun that opportunity because like those disciples we don’t believe that it could be possible.
Jesus couldn’t love us this much.
But the women, they knew. They had faith…so much faith that they could shout it from the rafters that he is alive. We see this still today when women reach out to the poor in India wearing nothing but a cheap sari and the little woman they call Mother Teresa that they followed who taught them that the poor need our care is the mightiest one of all. Death has no power over her. Death didn’t stop her from serving the dying in welcoming them to new life in having faith that in dying we rise again and it is all because of Jesus.
Do I believe? I do believe, Lord–help my unbelief. Because truth be told, I don’t often act much like a believer.
I’m scared to die and scared to see others die. I have 81 year old parents and they can die at any day. And so can any of us for that matter in this precarious world were schools get shot up and madmen fly planes into buildings. If I believe then I should be angry at the fact that bad things happen but should also have faith that God has the final word. Forgiveness comes easy for those with faith and I’m afraid my resentments betray my unbelief.
I believe Lord, Help my Unbelief.
When I get greedy or selfish or when I learn nothing at all from my Lenten practices what other reason could there be for my lack of faith than simply unbelief.
Because I have the gift of hindsight. Of hearing all that they have written and said about Jesus and still I fail to live any differently at all at times.
Do you believe? Do I believe?
We do today–but we need one another to remind us of our sure and certain hope of our future. That death can not hold us.
And if death can not hold us than we should live with boundless energy in the one who gives us life.
He is risen. We have seen His face and heard his voice alive in our hearts.
Let us live in the light of the resurrection–for death has no power over God.
He is Risen. He is Risen indeed.