Easter 2016, Bunker Hill, I Cor. 15:19-26
Pastor Buls was telling the school children of Bethel Lutheran the story of the resurrection, describing how Peter and John went running to the tomb to check the story which the women had told. And when they got there after that long run, they found that the grave was empty.
Then Pastor Buls asked, “How do you suppose Peter and John felt.”
One of the younger boys said, “They was mad.” “Why? Why would they be mad?” “They run all that way; and – nothin’!”
Easter is about going to Jesus’ tomb and finding nothin.’ Finding nothin’ left the women who had gone to the cemetery at early dawn utterly at a loss. They had spent Friday evening in their own Tenebrae service, the service of darkness; getting spices ready to put around Jesus’ body to reduce the odor which would soon be emanating from the tomb. Saturday for many of us was filled with activity getting ready for Easter. However, for the women, because it was the Sabbath, they simply had to bide their time. And so they got up early Sunday morning and by the dawns early light they made their way to the tomb. Their only question was, “Who would roll away the stone?” A stone had been placed across the entrance and sealed.
Why would they expect anything different? They had seen Jesus arrested, put on trial, sentenced to death. They had seen him stumble under the weight of his cross. They had seen him crucified. They stood at a distance watching the ghastly scene being played out. They had followed all the way south from Galilee to Jerusalem only to see Jesus die. Yet, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the ruling council who was looking for the kingdom of God had also seen and believed that Jesus was that kingdom. With Pontius Pilates permission he buried Jesus in his tomb. The women followed, saw the tomb and how the body was laid.
But what do they see that early Sunday morning? The stone was rolled away. The seal broken. When they entered the tomb, “They did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” They found “nothin’.” Well, that’s not quite true. Two men in dazzling clothes were there. They asked the women, “Why do you look among the dead for the living? He is not here. He has risen!”
Easter equals resurrection. That’s what this day is about. Years later Peter will preach, “We are witnesses…though they put him to death…God raised him on the third day.” Peter was not mad after running to the tomb and finding nothin.’ He went away amazed at what had happened.
Easter is about the unexpected happening. Easter is about marveling at what God can do. Easter is the day which the Lord has made and we have every reason to rejoice and be glad in it. Easter is about the power of God to overcome death. That is what Easter is for us, resurrection. Just as the stone was rolled away, the seal broken and the tomb rendered useless, so will it be for you and me. When Jesus returns, grave stones with the date of our birth and death will be out of date, containing outdated information. Who cares when you were born and died, you’ll be alive beyond all time and dates. Sealed caskets and vaults will prove to be no more a restraint to our resurrection than such paltry human efforts were in keeping Jesus in the grave. Our resurrection will be part of the new heavens and the new earth that God is in the process of creating even now. You know all those sentiments about someone who has died looking down from heaven on us, such sentiments will finally be proven foolish. This morning the prophet Isaiah tells us, “The former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” Nor is the resurrection an inner realization of our true self. Resurrection is God recreating our whole self, changing us from children of Adam to his newly created children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, the second Adam. Through Christ our hope extends beyond this life to eternity.
All of that is ours because Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection, the first in the harvest of the dead. You see, the spring of the year, the time of Passover and Pentecost, was the time of the barley harvest. On their way to Jerusalem, Jesus and his entourage would have seen the barley crop beginning to ripen. Jesus resurrection is the firstfruits of an abundant crop of resurrections when the Father sends him back again to reap the rest of the harvest, and we are that harvest. Someone likened it to the first ripe berries, or tomatoes or apples. But heaven hope us when all of the zucchini squash ripen at once. We may not appreciate being compared to a squash, but that is what the resurrection will be like. Everyone milling around with new bodies. Not just one grave empty, but all of them. Old bodies gone; new bodies in their place. Dust to dust; Ashes to ashes reversed; reconstituted with bodies patterned after Jesus risen body.
Jesus resurrection is the pillar of our faith. That is Christianity at heart: a single miracle – like an island surrounded by the sea.
All this, is complete reversal of the way of humanity since Adam ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. For death came by a man, Adam. In Adam all die. Marie, a character in Yann Martel’s novel, “The High Mountains of Portugal” looks at death in terms of a mystery novel. She says, “The sad fact is that there are no natural deaths, despite what doctors say. Every death is fleet by someone as a murder, as the unjust taking of a loved person. And even the luckiest of us will encounter at least one murder in our lives: our own. It is our fate. We all live in a murder mystery of which we are the victim.” And who is guilty of our murder? It is death, the grim reaper, who was loosed upon creation through the disobedience of Adam. There has never been such an efficient and thorough reaper as death. Not one stalk of humanity is left standing at the end of death’s never ending harvest season.
But, writes Paul, “In Christ shall all be made alive.” It turns out that when we are planted in the ground, in our graves or wherever that may be, in God sees us as seeds leading to an enormous harvest of life. When I look out at the wheat fields growing green in the spring sun and rain, I see a parable, a parable of the harvest of those who believe and trust in Christ. In the end, when Christ returns, death our last enemy, will be put to death, annihilated, destroyed.
And so being alive in Christ, let us rejoice. Let us enjoy our Easter breakfasts and egg hunts. Let us hear his word and eat of his body and blood. Let us sing to the Lord for he has triumphed gloriously. God will bring life out of death. It’s like nothin’ for God, but it’s everything to you and me.