Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Rest of the Story - Easter Sunday

Reflections on the Readings
Easter Sunday - The Resurrection of the Lord
The Mass of Easter Sunday
By Dennis Hankins

Acts 10:34a, 37-43
Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23
Colossians 3:1-4
John 20:1-9

Theme: The Rest of the Story

A celebration of the indestructible life of Jesus.

During the past three and half years there had been some exciting times.  Multitudes gathered to hear him preach. Crowds were fed with a few loaves and fishes and the lame walked.  At a wedding he even turned water into wine.  Not too long ago, Jesus had raised his dear friend Lazarus from the dead. He said, "I am the resurrection and the life," yet now he is gone; Jesus is, dare I say it, Jesus is dead.  

Peter remembers almost walking on water and promising Jesus his absolute loyalty.  "Even if all forsake you, I'll still be by your side," Peter had promised. Judas the betrayer, hung himself, leaving behind thirty pieces of silver. John was left to console Mary, the mother of our Lord, who lingered near his cross until the last drops of blood soaked the ground below.  

Now our brothers and sisters, these early disciples of Jesus are huddled together in darkness.  Afraid for their lives, they move about deliberately and with great caution. We are told 'for fear of the Jews' these closest to Jesus, remained in secret.  If the Master could be killed what might become of them?  In their seclusion they contemplated Jesus' words, "The servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted me they will persecute you." (John 15:20)

How were they to understand the sleepless hours they have just endured?  Betrayal, denial, a hasty trial, and in the end a frenzied mob embrace a murderer and crucify the Prince of Peace.  

What is to made of the darkness at noon day?  For the space of three hours the sky looked as bleak and foreboding as what was happening on top of Golgotha, the place of the skull.  At 3:00 in the afternoon, those final words from his parched lips, "It is finished," lingered in the air.

Now, it is the first day of the week. Early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary of Magdala makes her way to the tomb.  In the shadows she notices that the stone is not over the face of the tomb.  There had been some concern earlier, a discussion about who would be able to roll the stone away.  She and those with her were coming to finish preparing the body of Jesus with oil and spices.  Preparation for the Passover had delayed this final act of Jesus' burial.  No expectation of an empty tomb entered their conversation. 

What could happen next?  Arriving, Mary enters an empty tomb.  Leaving immediately she races back to tell the others. 

The news from Mary of Magdala is startling.  "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they put him," she said to Peter and John.  Throwing caution to the wind, Peter and John run to the borrowed tomb.  John out runs Peter and arrives first, without entering the tomb he observes burial cloths without a corpse.  Peter, upon arriving, immediately enters the tomb and John joins him.  It is here we learn, that until this moment, 'they did not yet understand the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead.' 

Perhaps it was a closer look at the burial cloths that convinced John.  The Gospel simply says he saw and believed.  What did he see?  Some believe he saw the image of Jesus upon the burial cloths.  Although the Gospel does not say so, it is possible John gathered up the burial shroud for safe keeping.  
After his passion, Jesus presented himself alive to his disciples by many indisputable proofs.  This went on for forty days as he continued speaking to them about the kingdom of God.  Jesus insisted their mission would be world wide.  And into all the world they went, from Jerusalem unto the uttermost parts of the earth, preaching forgiveness of sins in his name.  

They said this man, after being put to death on a tree, God raised up on the third day.  Having eaten and drank with him after he was raised from the dead, they spoke of him present, alive, and the same yesterday, today, and forever.  

Those first disciples preached what the late Paul Harvey would call, The Rest of the Story.  What a story it is.  Jesus, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.  And on the third day...also known as the first day of the week, we celebrate the indestructible life of Jesus.

Hallelujah!  He Is Risen!

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, That I may live in you, the Son of God with power, the very spirit of holiness, the resurrection and the life, Jesus Christ my Lord.  Amen.

No comments: