“‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid Him.’”(John 20:2)In the name …
Back in February my daughter Amanda went on an Eighth Grade school trip to our nation’s Capital.The day before the class left they had to go through a luggage check at the school.Amanda’s suitcase barely fit in the trunk of my car.She was going to have her hands full getting that baby on and off the bus, and up into her hotel room, and I think she realized this. With this concern already playing on her mind, I decided as a good father to tell her of a little favour she and I were going to do for her uncle who lives in Maryland.When Kristin had taken this Eighth Grade trip three years earlier, my brother-in-law met the school-group when they stopped at a restaurant in Baltimore as they began their trip back home.The same stop was planned for this outing too.So I told Amanda, again good father that I am, that I was going to give her a carpet washing machine to throw on the bus with the rest of the luggage.[Get box from sacristy]I told her she would only have to leave this box on the bus during their stay in Washington, and then just give it to her Uncle Kevin when they met at the Baltimore restaurant.
Amanda could easily imagine how this could have been planned-out over the phone by the two of us.She must have been thinking about how embarrassing this was going to be to take a poorly boxed, cumbersome carpet washer with her all the way down to Washington, and in front of every other kid in her Eighth Grade class.She had that look on her face in our kitchen like “You’ve got to be kidding me!” but combined with that nervousness that maybe my dad and my uncle are crazy enough to really expect me to do this.What a relief it was for her to realize that we really weren’t going to ask her to lug this big, clumsy box some 500 miles, that we were only kidding her.
Today is Easter Sunday, which means that we get to read the wonderful story of the discovery of the empty tomb.What a weight is lifted when we believe in the resurrection.What liberty we discover when those cares and concerns we thought we had to bear all by ourselves can be shared with the resurrected Christ.Just like my daughter was relieved when she realized that we were only kidding her about carrying that carpet washer half way down the East Coast, so Easter releases us from our limitations and lets us become more than we are. No matter what the world throws at us, imagine it in that box, concerns about jobs, health, family, bullying, all those problems that are bigger than us alone, and leave it behind.Realize that because of Easter we have the assurance that Jesus is with us, because if the tomb is empty, if Jesus is not there, then He’s here with us and for us. That’s a message of hope that nothing in this world can squelch.
This hope isn’t make-believe.It isn’t meant to cover-up the harshness of our world.We’re not supposed to hide behind it when we get tired of all the bad news that confronts us daily. Then or now. Somehow through the timelessness of Easter we enter into the story ourselves.And there we discover that we have surprisingly much in common with the practical-minded Peter and the Beloved Disciple.They have to consider that the tomb may be empty because as Mary Magdalene has already said, “‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid [Hisbody].’”They have to be thinking desecration not resurrection as they run through the streets of Jerusalem.These are practical minded men who know firsthand of the certainty of Jesus’ death.But sneaking past all of the practical objections set-up to block Easter’s possibility, as these two men run into the empty tomb, there’s also that soft whisper of the resurrection that is heard in their memory of Jesus’ words.As they run into the tomb, there may have been the fear of desecration, but there was also that seed of hope that maybe, just maybe, Jesus had resurrected. We, likewise, are a practical-minded people who face constant obstacles that would challenge our Easter faith.Mystery and miracle just are not as common as the real world tragedies and disappoints that try to erode our ability to believe in something grander and more beautiful than this world would allow, and yet the whisper of Easter continues to speak to us.
The disciples’ resurrection faith that is about to spring to life in that empty tomb wasn’t born protected from all the tests of this world, but in spite of them, just as ours continues to give us hope in spite of all the world’s objections.Easter took bewildered and beaten people, and changed them.Why walk around carrying that box every day of our lives if we don’t have to?Easter is our grandest celebration because while it’s true that Jesus resurrected from the dead, it’s also true that Jesus came back to us.And that hope was first realized not by the evidence of seeing Jesus again, but by faith.It was inside the empty tomb that the very first resurrection-faith was born. And if it was faith that first announced the resurrection, then we stand no farther away from it then did those disciples.Their transformation is proof that Easter frees us from our limitations and empowers us so that we can be more than we are.By coming back for us, Jesus’ Easter triumph is meant to impact the way we live now.Easter is about Jesus walking beside us here so that we don’t have to face life’s problems alone.But for this transformation to take place, for us to put down the box and leave it behind, we have to believe in the empty tomb just like those first disciples.It’s not enough to think of Easter as history, to remember what Jesus once did and taught.Easter is about believing that Jesus is with us now.
We face the same practical limitations as the disciples running toward the tomb.We realize that there are all kinds of reasons not to believe in Easter.But if we’re so much like them going into the empty tomb, let us pray to become like them as they leave the empty tomb.Let Easter fill us with the presence and power of Christ so that we can live in this world of ours not as if we had to lug that heavy box of our limitations around with us everywhere, but as people freed from our limits so that we can be more than we are.For this we pray in the name of the resurrected Christ.Amen.(+)