Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:14-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, John 20:1-18
Here we are, gathered on this Easter Sunday to celebrate an unbelievable story. Jesus of Nazareth, who was executed and placed in a tomb, is no longer in the tomb – he is raised from the dead! The story of his life, death, and resurrection has now been told for 2,000 years.
In today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard Peter telling this story to the gentiles. Peter is at the home of Cornelius and says “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus being shared beyond that of the Jewish faith.
Peter continues telling the Gentiles about the message of peace Jesus brought to the people of Israel. He speaks of Jesus being anointed by God with the Holy Spirit at his baptism by John, and “how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”
Peter then says, “We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.” Finally, Peter says, “[Jesus] commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
The story of Jesus continues to be shared with his promise of peace and forgiveness. It is a story of love and compassion, and a story of a man who turned the world upside down by teaching us that life is not found in power or riches. True life, is found in our relationships with God and each other.
In John’s gospel, after finding the tomb empty, Mary Magdalene rushes back to the disciples and tells them someone has taken his body. After Peter and one of the other disciples go and see this for themselves, they return home. Mary alone, stands weeping at the tomb when two angels appear in the tomb and ask, “why are you weeping?” Next, Jesus appears to her and asks the same thing. Mary does not recognize him; she assumes he is the gardener and asks him where they have taken the body of Jesus. Jesus calls her by name and it opens her eyes to see who is it is that is speaking to her.
I can understand Mary’s confusion upon seeing Jesus. We are physical beings, and although we are also spiritual beings, we have difficulty seeing the world through spiritual eyes. Death is death and there is no coming back from it. Certainly no one who has died in my lifetime has been resurrected. Yet, one of the lessons of the resurrection is that death is not the end of life. We carry those we have loved and lost with us. We think of them – and may even continue to talk to them, just not in view of others. In today’s bulletin there are a number of people remembered with memorial gifts – why? Because they remain a part of our lives.
There was a time when I could not believe what science could not explain, so I certainly could not believe in the physical resurrection. But as I studied the story of Jesus, I began to understand I was seeing the world incompletely. We must open our hearts and minds to the spiritual if we are to see the resurrected Christ.
Once I stopped viewing the world as either physical or spiritual and starting seeing it as both – I began to see the risen Christ who is the perfect union of the two. We need not sacrifice science for religion or vice versa. We simply need to acknowledge that our understanding of God’s creation is insufficient. So much so, that we, like Mary at the tomb, often don’t see who is right in front of us.
Jesus is indeed here among us, he has risen, and he is calling upon us to join with the prophets and preach the good news of peace and love and forgiveness to others.
Let us pray.
Lord Christ, fill us with your live-giving spirit that we might know the healing power of love. Send us out, then, to do the work you have given us to do, sharing your love with those who feel alone and of little accord to anyone. We offer our prayers this day in your most Holy Name. Amen.