April 17th, 2022 Easter Sunday homily on Luke 24:1-12 by Pastor Galen
Have you ever felt like your world was coming to an end? Like all of your hopes and dreams were crashing down around you? Like everything you had worked for, hoped for and longed for might suddenly be gone forever?
Perhaps it was the sudden passing of a loved one, the loss of your home, or a serious car accident. You were disoriented, dazed, or confused. It felt like the world was spinning around you, or like you were walking around in a fog or a haze.
When our oldest daughter was about 10 months old, our family was in a serious car accident. We were driving in rural Ohio, visiting my aunt and uncle and cousins, and on the way to Wisconsin to see my brother and his family. We were driving on a rural road, and come to a stop sign, where an Amish buggy was waiting at the stop sign ahead of us. The people in the buggy waved for us to go around them, which I did, not realizing that the traffic coming from the other direction didn’t have a stop sign. Suddenly our minivan was blindsided by a large white work van barreling down the road. Our minivan spun around several times, my arm apparently swung out of control, hitting the face of my aunt, who was seated next to me. The impact was mostly in the middle of our van, right where our baby was strapped into her carseat. She emerged without a scratch, but my wife, who was seated in the middle seat next to her, was knocked unconscious, and suffered a broken pelvis.
My wife was taken by helicopter to a hospital a few hours away, while our daughter and my aunt and I were taken by ambulance to a local hospital, where we were checked out and then soon released.
I don’t even remember how I drove to the other hospital where my wife had been taken by helicopter – I think my cousins let me borrow their van, although I’m shocked that I was able to drive another vehicle so soon after the accident. On the drive there I remember thinking about a friend of mine who became paralyzed in an accident shortly after she had gotten married. I worried my wife might suffer a similar fate. All in all, it felt like my world was spinning in circles, or like I was driving through a hazy fog.
Like Walking through a Fog
I imagine this is just a small glimpse into what it must have been like for the women who came to the tomb early that first Easter Sunday morning. The events of that week had been a whirlwind, from Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey on Palm Sunday, and then overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the temple on Monday, celebrating Passover with his disciples on Thursday, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane late into the evening on Thursday night, and then arrest. Beaten and mocked, unjustly tried, and sentenced to death, and then crucified on Friday – hung on a cross for all to see, publicly shamed and humiliated.
For the women, it must have felt as though the ground had been taken out from underneath their feet. How could this have happened to Jesus? Jesus, who always had a kind word, who welcomed children, ate with the marginalized and outcasts. Jesus who healed people, who always took the time to listen, who sought out those who were lonely. Jesus, the one who had personally transformed each and every one of their lives. Jesus, the one they had built all of their hopes and dreams around. Their Jesus, the one they loved, was gone.
What would they do? How could they possibly go one? How would life ever be the same again? How could they possibly live without Jesus? They wished it was all a bad dream, but they knew it was real. They had seen Jesus die with their own eyes, watched as he was buried in the tomb.
It’s a good thing that the women weren’t allowed to do any work on Saturday because they wouldn’t have been able to get anything done anyway. Saturday was a Sabbath – a day set aside for prayer and worship and rest, but I’m sure their hearts weren’t in it. How could they rest and worship, when it felt like their world was coming apart?
They went through the motions, prayed the prayers and read the Scriptures, but their minds were mulling over everything that had happened. They must have wondered, where had everything gone wrong? Why did all of this have to happen? And like most of us, when we experience tragedy or loss, they must have wondered, where is God in all of this?
What the women didn’t know, and what they couldn’t fully grasp until much later, is that it had been God – in the flesh – hanging on that cross. Through Christ, God was experiencing the suffering of humanity. Through Christ, God had taken on all of the sins of the world. Christ hanging on the cross, breathing his last breath was not God abandoning humanity, but rather God was experiencing suffering and grief and sorrow as we experience it, in order to defeat sin and death and hell and the grave once and for all.
He Is Not Here. He Is Risen.
You see, the story doesn’t end with Jesus buried in the tomb. On that first Easter morning everything changed. When the women went to anoint Jesus’s body early that Sunday morning, they found that the stone had been rolled away, and Jesus’s body was gone. Two angels appeared to them, and told them that Jesus had risen, just as he said he would. That’s when the women remembered Jesus’s promise that he would suffer and die but would rise again. They were overjoyed, ecstatic! The cloud was lifted, the sorrow and heaviness were gone. Jesus wasn’t dead. He was alive!
It must have felt like they were walking or running on air as they ran back to tell the apostles that Jesus’s body wasn’t in the tomb, and that he was in fact alive. But they were met with strange looks – perhaps even sneers. Jesus, alive? Did you see him? How do you know he’s alive? Two men in dazzling clothes told you that? Surely they must have thought this was simply wishful thinking on the part of the women. To the apostles, it seemed absurd to think that Jesus was alive.
But Peter, one of the apostles did go to see the empty tomb, and John’s Gospel tells us that one of the other disciples went with him. They saw the empty tomb, and the linen cloths that had been wrapped around Jesus’s body. And while some translations say that Peter wondered what had happened, others say that he marveled, or was amazed at what had taken place. Later that day, Jesus appeared to two of his disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. And then to the apostles, and over the course of the next 40 days he appeared to more and more of his disciples. With each resurrection appearance more and more people believed.
God is Making All Things New
But they also began to grasp the reality that Jesus had not simply come back to life – but rather his resurrection was the start of something altogether new. You see, Jesus’s resurrection was unlike any other resurrection accounts that we see in Scripture. Unlike the widow of Zarephath’s son in 1 Kings 17, Lazarus in John 11, or Tabitha in Acts 9, Jesus did not simply just return to his prior state of living.
Jairus’s daughter, and Lazarus, and Tabitha, and any of the other people who experienced resurrection in the Bible eventually died again. But when Jesus rose from the grave, he was raised to an eternal body, one that would never die again. Never again would he experience physical pain or suffering or death, never again would he be vulnerable to the sickness or diseases that we experience in this life.
And that’s the type of resurrection that we who have put our faith and hope and trust in Jesus have to look forward to when our time on this earth is done. This is why the Apostle Paul says that Christ is the “firstfruits of those who have died” (1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus was the first to be raised to eternal life, never to experience physical pain or suffering again. Jesus’s resurrection was the proof that God is indeed making all things new, as the prophet Isaiah foretold.
Christ’s resurrection points to the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that God is creating a new heaven and a new earth. A new heaven and a new earth, where no more will there be an infant who lives but a few days, or anyone who does not live out a lifetime. No more will there be weeping, or cries of distress. In the new Heaven and the new earth we will enjoy the fruits of our labor, there will be no more death or pain or destruction. No more car accidents, no more hospital visits, no more funerals to plan. And God will be fully and completely present with us, as in Christ.
This is what Christ’s resurrection means for us. This is why it is indeed Good news that Christ was and is still alive! Christ’s resurrection is proof that God was and is making all things new. That when this life is over, we who have died in Christ will be raised to eternal life, that will be so new and different, that “the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind,” as we read in Isaiah 65:17.
Never the Same Again
After our family’s car accident 15 years ago, our lives were never the same. Fortunately, Eboni eventually regained her mobility, and didn’t suffer any sort of traumatic brain injury or anything of that sort. But it took time for her to heal. It took time for us to recover.
Going through an experience together like that so early on in our marriage shaped us and transformed our lives in a lot of ways. One small example of that is that those months after the car accident, while Eboni had to use a wheelchair or walker to get around made us much more sensitive to issues of accessibility. It’s one reason why we’re so passionate about trying to make sure that we can do everything we can to make our building more handicapped accessible. It also taught us to treasure the moments that we have together, not to take life and health for granted. It helped us to see how temporary our lives are – how everything can change in an instant. And it helped us become more sensitive to the pains and struggles that others go through. Finally it helped us grasp the reality that our hope ultimately rests not in this life, but in eternal life that Christ offers – and in the new life that is to come.
New Life in Christ
Many of you know firsthand the reality that experiences of death and tragedy and loss change our lives forever. When a friend or loved one passes away, we are never the same again. Even after the shock is gone, and the reality of their loss sets in, even after the more intense time of mourning and grieving are over, we never go back to the way things were before.
But the hope of the resurrection, and what we see in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is that God is in the process of making all things new. Christ’s resurrection proves that God can take the tragedies and losses that we experience in this life, and mold and shape something new in us. Something eternal, something that will last. Something that will never be taken away.
Christ’s resurrection is a foretaste of what is to come. So may we live into the hope of the resurrection. May Christ reveal his presence with us even in the midst of our suffering and tragedy and loss. And may we cling to and proclaim the promise that God is in fact making all things new.