They Will Discover that Easter Does Not Mean Jesus is No More,
but that He is More Than They First Realized.
They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Whether you’ve heard it a hundred times, or a handful, Easter is one of the greatest story ever told. I cannot think of any other one where love is so powerful that it redefines human history.
This day has been talked about and written about billions of times. So you can imagine how difficult it is for me to find something new to say. But as a friend told me, “Just tell the Easter story.” Seems like a good place to start.
But before we walk back to that dark graveyard, I want us to go to a soundstage in London, sometime in the 1970’s.
Picture a small, poorly stocked pet store. The clerk is behind the counter when a customer walks in holding a bird cage. This man is visibly upset; demanding a refund for the parrot he just purchased.
If you’ve seen this famous sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, you’d know you know why the man is returning the bird. And you’re already giggling as a result. As John Cleese so cleverly stated, “He is no more.” (WATCH VIDEO HERE)
While this garners great laughs, it is also a very defining statement for Easter.
So let us go to tomb, where Mary’s Easter morning is nothing more than a painful extension of Good Friday. With every step she takes her broken heart weeps, “He is no more.” Out of great love for her Lord, Mary risks her life on many levels to go and properly prepare his body for burial. It’s “early in the morning, while it was still dark” when Mary sees or senses something isn’t right. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty. And she runs to alert the others. Right away Peter and John race one another to see for themselves.
While John wins the race, Peter is first one to go in to the tomb. Jesus’s body is indeed gone. Yet a familiar spirit lingers in the darkness. John instantly recognizes it and knows God’s hand at work. And “He believed without understanding.”
John is our “faithful witness.” The one who believes God’s words are true. He doesn’t need all the pieces of the puzzle to get the big picture. He remembers what Jesus said and the miracles that Jesus did; and he puts two and two together. Jesus is alive. Everything he foretold is true.
This is John’s defining moment. When all hope seemed lost, he recognized God’s presence – reordering and redefining everything. By seeing and believing this, his life is forever changed. For the faithful witness, Easter is easily understood and embraced. Even if it causes others to doubt and run away.
Peter has spent the last couple of days running away from Jesus. But now he runs to him. And when he gets there, he finds a reality that he can no longer run from. This is his defining moment.
Peter is our ‘fearful witness,’ the one who is unsure of what he believes or is too afraid to face what he is called to do. How many of us can identify with him? We have a good sense of God’s presence and power...but we’re too afraid to fully or faithfully commit.
We’ll go to church every now and then, and maybe do something nice when we don’t have to. But that’s about as far as we are able to go. Our life is complicated enough, without the added stress of religion. It’s okay to have doubts, uncertainties about your faith. In fact I always invite you to ask questions. Because that’s how you find the answers you seek. But when your faith isn’t engaged, it isn’t nurtured or cared for. And it does not bear much good fruit, if any at all. Jesus is alive. And because he is…so are you.
Easter reminds us that once we see God’s power and glory in the resurrected Christ, there is no turning back. In our darkest nights, in our heartbreak and suffering, in our fear and anxieties, throughout life and beyond death, God is with us, ever faithful and steadfast in love. But are we with God?
Through Jesus Christ, God came for you, to redeem and redefine you, so that you can be your greatest, truest, fruit bearing self. God wants you. And is calling you by name. How will you respond?
When the other two leave, Mary stays and weeps. In her pain and grief, Jesus meets her – calling her by name. “Mary!” This startles her… but it doesn’t surprise her. Having witnessed her own brother Lazarus come back to life, she knows what God is capable of.
Mary is our ‘first witness;’ the first to see, the first to understand, the first to embrace, and the first to go out and proclaim. Jesus is alive. And so are we. It’s time for us to awaken the world with this good news.
Easter does not mean Jesus’s life is no more… but that Jesus is more than life itself! And through our faith in him we too become more. And so we are called by name to make more of our life. With Christ as our guide, we can love our neighbors more, and be more forgiving and more understanding of other people’s circumstances. We can feed more, clothe more, and care more for those who are sick and dying. We can share more mercy and grace. We can promote more peace, more justice and more fairness in our daily lives.
Why is this important? Look around your neighborhood and you will see there is so much more that needs to be done before heaven and earth become one again. To borrow a wonderful thought from our friend Rev. Dawn, “It important we know the Easter story, but it’s more important for us to go out and live it.”
Whether we’re fearful or faithful, Jesus died so that we might live. And to live our lives in such a way that those around us can’t help but see God’s love and grace being offered for them. We are made for more. Mary, Peter and John finally get it. This is what it means to be alive, to live life in abundance –without the fear of death, or rejection or whatever. Jesus calls us by name, and shows us what it means to truly live.
This year our church has taken on the challenge to see and do what Jesus does, so we can learn and teach the will of God for others to follow. I am challenging you today to do this as well. Because this is how we are defined. And how the world will be redefined for all eternity.
In Christ, God redeemed the world so we can become our truest self – brothers and sisters with Jesus Christ…God’s beloved children. As St. Paul wrote, “It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Easter is a time to invite Christ to live in you. And to embrace your resurrection life with abundance.
And so I challenge you to live it out in the world in such a way that when people see you, all they are able to see is Jesus. And then they too can believe.
Jesus is more. And so are you. Amen.
Bartlett, David L., Barbara Brown Taylor, ed. Feasting on the Word: Year C, Vol. 2. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.
Evens, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday. Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church. Nashville: Nelson Publishing, 2015.
Miles, Sara. Jesus Freak: Feeding, Healing, Raising the Dead. San Francisco: Jossy Bass, 2010.
Stewart, Benjamin. christiancentry.org. March 31, 2013. http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2013-02/sunday-march-31-2013 (accessed March 25, 2016).
Taylor, Barbra Brown. Learning To Walk in the Dark. New York: Harper One, 2014.