I can see the debate; women half walking half running, each carrying a small bag in their arms. None knowing what happened all they know is that there was no one in the tomb when they arrived. One of the women is going on and on about the message the guy at the tomb gave them. One other women saying, “If you believe that, you’re as drunk as he is.” Another can barely keep up with the group because she is a crying emotional wreck; while one silently tries to process what they just witnessed. They burst through the door, some sobbing some shouting and rambling, until finally Peter and the others make out something of what they are talking about. Peter jumps to his feet and races out the door, barely pausing to grab his coat. Several minutes later he is standing in front of the tomb panting. Looking in he is dumbfounded. Slowly and desperately he returns to the rented room, completely confused, hoping that when he returns the others might have dragged some information out of the hysterical women. There they all sit wondering what happened to Jesus. Stuck in the limbo of thoughts and emotions, knowing that Jesus was dead, hearing a cryptic message that he is alive, and having no proof of either.
I get the impression that not much has changed in the 2,000 years since then; Jesus’ disciples sit around in a confused state. Some in one corner saying he is dead, dismissing the message of the angels and proposing theories about what actually happened. He must have fainted, appeared dead, and after resting in the tomb gathered the strength to leave; or perhaps someone stole his body; or maybe we simply forgot which tomb he was in and walked into the wrong tomb by mistake.
Others blindly listening to the angels, say he is alive, often without any consideration for the fact he was dead. The angels were sent from God, so they must be right; Jesus was divine, and you can’t kill God so of course he is alive; death is merely the gateway into heaven and Jesus is in heaven waiting for us. And many of the rest of us sit there lost and confused wondering, “Now what really happened?” once side reminds us that science tell us dead people do not come back and the other does not seem to recognize that Jesus died
Fortunately Luke 24 continues; on the road two disciples have an encounter with a strange man who tells them that human sin had separated people from God and though some desperately wanted to see God they died and now existed in a world of complete station from God. These people had strived to serve God while on Earth, and now because of sin death had imprisoned them can a realm completely separated from God’s love and light. Their cries to God or seemingly unheard muffled by the darkness that surrounded them. Yet, God so loved them that he would come to them in the only way possible way. God would enter into the world of death, the result of sin and wickedness, and bring these people out of that separation into a world of Holiness and Love; a place of union with God. To do this God must enter humanity’s world and die humanity’s death. This is what those disciples heard that glorious Sunday afternoon. Jesus had died to enter into this world of separation from God, God was purposefully breaking down the wall of separation between God and us. God loves humanity so much that no act of forgiveness is too great.
These disciples, overjoyed by the story ran back to Jerusalem to spread it with the rest of the group. Here we may either choose to believe with John Dominic Crossan that, “Emmaus never happened, Emmaus always happens.” Or we can listen to hear that Jesus not only meet these disciples but conversed with Peter, also. That same Peter who we left confused and rattled after walking out of the empty tomb had seen Jesus personally that day. I like to think that when Peter asked Jesus what had happened Jesus responded something like this. “There they were sitting in the Darkness so many that you could not count, the darkness so deep that it entered your very being. The Gloom had gotten to some of them lying on the floor tucked in the fetal position. Summer screaming obscenities, some work quiet, some were crying woe is me, some we’re still trying desperately to cry out to God, and some seem to be taking delight in others misery were laughing. It was at this point that they saw the first hint of light. Probably all were in disbelief, but as the light grew, some felon cowered, others ran away and dread. But from all corners of this desolate land rang shouting and a cry of jubilation as they recognized their prayers answered and their freedom come. As I entered the prison of Humanity’s construction I was greeted by a man, the first one to enter this chamber, and his wife by his side. I grabbed their hands and we walked out and there has never been such a parade. They are there right there just being your sight waiting and expecting you to join them.’
I can see tears welling in Peters eyes a he listens to this story and realizes what this means. Good loves you so much that he would enter into the I’ve cold world of separation from Good to give us one more chance at life. This is Easter, the message of Easter is that Good went to the one place it seemed Good could not go in order to forgive you, in order to be reconciled to you. How do you respond this day? Is this only a story a fairy tale told to please children and the simple-minded? Or is it true? Yes, parts seem hard to believe us explain, but that is because our imaginations are too small to grasp what truly happened. God has revealed those things which we can grasp. And the encounters with Jesus did not stop that day. One saw him on the road, others in a field. One recognized him in a hazelnut held in her hand. One even came to see him because of a glimmer of light in a shed. Many have encountered Jesus since that day, most is they have entered into that prison which we call death only Define the gates smashed open from the outside and their Pathway to his presence.
This day we come to celebrate, not as many in the outside world would celebrate the vague notion that existence continues after we leave this world. Nor do we celebrate with some Scholars that God Vindicated a truly great man and that if we don’t follow his paths God may one day vindicate us. No! This day we celebrate that God is boundless, that God’s love is boundless, that that love will reach us no matter where we are, and that we may spend eternity sharing that love which God provides us.
All of this is summed up in the words of Charles Wesley
Come, let us with our Lord arise,
Our Lord, who made both earth and skies;
Who died to save the world He made,
And rose triumphant triumphant from the dead;
He rose, the Prince of life and peace,
And stamped the day forever His.
This is the day the Lord hath made,
That all may see His love displayed,
May feel His resurrection’s pow’r,
And rise again to fall no more,
In perfect righteousness renewed,
And filled with all the life of God.
Honor and praise to Jesus pay
Thro’out His consecrated day;
Be all in Jesus’ praise employed,
Nor leave a single moment void;
With utmost care the time improve,
And only breathe His praise and love.
Then let us render Him His own,
With solemn prayer approach the throne,
With meekness hear the Gospel Word,
With thanks His dying love record;
Our joyful hearts and voices raise,
And fill His courts with songs of praise.