Friday, April 18, 2014

That First Easter

I wrote this midrash as an Easter sermon ten years ago. Wanted to share it again:

I’m not surprised the mourners didn’t leap at the news of Jesus’ Resurrection with shouts of joy.  I’d join the Disciples in disbelief, if I hadn’t been there at the tomb.  What a cruel joke, this idle tale they thought we’d invented.  And if we had been men, instead of women, if those Disciples had been willing to disregard their disdain for women’s work, and their fear of becoming unclean, and their utter grief at the very thought of touching the dead body of our master, if they had come to the tomb instead of us, or with us, then would they have believed?  Would the others have believed our fantastic story if men had told it?

Somehow, I don’t think so.  How can you believe without seeing, the stone rolled away, the body gone?  There were those who left the group, searching the city high and low for the missing body of our Lord.  Surely the Romans had no interest in it, and really would our priests come in the middle of the night to roll away the stone and remove his body at the risk being unclean, at the risk of violating God’s laws?  How could our teacher’s dead body be of any threat or concern to them?  They had silenced Jesus, had accomplished what they set out to do.  How could they possibly think he would continue to shake up the world from the grave?

How can anyone believe or imagine something what has never before happened in the realm of human history?  Yet, I stood with the other women, more out of obligation and curiosity, than with any true faith as a real follower.  A skeptic, a questioner in the crowd; that’s what I ‘d been, and Jesus had welcomed and accepted me, had nodded and explained himself and this kingdom he said was coming, patient with our inability to see things his way.

He had predicted his death and this rising, but I hadn’t known what he meant, not when he was alive, and not in the tomb when these glowing strangers appeared.  But their authority and assurance was overwhelming in that space, so much so that I believed something amazing had happened.

That was the essence of the news we reported that morning: Something unbelievable had happened, something incomprehensible.  This was the news that leapt from our tongues like wildfire, even as we searched for the body, just in case.

He had risen.  But what did that mean?  All we knew was that he had vanished.  We didn’t yet know that we would encounter his risen persona again and again, entering upper rooms, walking the road to Emmaus, blinding Paul, empowering others.  It was an end to his physical existence, not even a body to embalm, yet the beginning of a new life and a ministry that has no end.