Gospel: Luke 24:1-12
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1st Reading: Acts 10:34-43
2nd Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:19-26
I invite you to put yourself in that garden that morning. All is dark and then the sky begins lighten. See the dew on the plants. Smell that morning garden smell. As the sun rises, the birds begin to call to one another. It is just as it was in that first garden called Eden, where creation was singing God’s praises and glorifying God, but humankind was a little off track. I guess in both gardens they were.
But in this garden, the humans won’t be expelled. A separation won’t be coming between God and humankind. Instead, God will use this offense, the torture and death of his beloved child to draw near to humanity, to envelope them in forgiveness, bring a new Kingdom, restore relationship, and adopt them into one family forever.
In that first garden of Eden, Jesus was present. “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Jesus is the saving word spoken at creation that brings all things into being. In this other garden, Jesus is also present.
Do you hear another little sound? It is coming from over by the rock wall. It is a little tap tap. As you draw closer notice it is the grinding of the stone as it begins to jiggle—then a budge and another, and then finally the stone begins to roll free of the tomb.
A crack of light enters the tomb and then spreads across the floor of the cave. See Jesus standing there looking out, squinting a little maybe. Does he yawn? Does he stretch? Imagine him folding his grave cloths and laying them neatly there. His mother raised him right—or was it his Father? The men in dazzling white must have provided something suitable for him to wear.
Did he watch from a corner of the garden as the women approached the burial place? Maybe he heard their chatter as they came down the path. Did he see the looks on their faces? Would he hold it against them that they were surprised, even though he had told them over and over what was going to happen—that he would be crucified but that he would rise on the third day? Hadn’t they listened to a thing he said? But he would have looked on them with joy as they started to finally understand. He made them the first preachers of the good news, even though no one would believe them, that the world was turned upside down, the one who was dead is alive, and God’s Kingdom is most surely here.
Did he wait to see what would happen next? Was he disappointed that only Peter came? Did he see a little hope on Peter’s face or only confusion and fear?
Now that all this activity is over, Jesus has to decide where he will go first. Will he go to the home of Mary and Martha and Lazarus? Those three have been through so much! Should he confuse them even more?
Will he go to Pilate and Herod and demand a change—freedom for captives and justice for widows? He doesn’t force anyone’s hand or use fear and intimidation. That’s a tactic that Pilate and Herod would use. It would be against everything Jesus stood for.
Would he appear to the crowds who had cried “Hosannah!” as he rode into town and laid down their cloaks to make a path for him and who turned on him two days later, crying, “Crucify him?” Would he go to them and show them how wrong they were and make them regret what they had done, if they didn’t already? That also, was against everything he stood for. His kingdom was about hope. It was about peace. It was about forgiveness. It wasn’t about getting even.
So Jesus just started walking, much like he had most of his ministry. He was on a journey to let people know about God’s love and generosity and help them to live a changed life and to recognize God’s Kingdom all around them.
His journey was no longer one of moving toward the cross. That was all behind him. Now that he had experienced the worst of what humanity had to dish out, now that he had endured betrayal, and denial, and physical pain, and mocking, and ridicule, he found himself moving forward with God’s plan to bring in the Kingdom. He could finally get down to his true mission—new life.
He was the first to experience this new life and now he was making it available to others. He was going out to show people what really mattered. He was making himself available to those that needed some hope. He was living proof that it didn’t matter what others thought of you, or whether you had any possessions. What mattered was love. What mattered was forgiveness. What mattered was generosity.
Maybe he saw that resurrection hope coming to fruition around him—God’s kingdom breaking in and becoming a reality. Maybe he saw the poor being fed, not just from his hand as he fed thousands with a few loaves, but through the hands of others inspired to share and not fearfully hoarding it for themselves. Maybe he saw people reaching out to those they had once feared—the sick, the dirty, the possessed. Maybe he saw his ministry making a difference. Maybe he saw the resurrection new life playing out all around him and spreading.
The resurrection is more than just the moment that he was raised. He was still living the resurrection, the new life. Resurrection is ongoing. He was living that resurrection, when he went to forgive, when he went to love.
Maybe on that journey that first Easter, he came across some of them who had yelled for his death, yet he made them his brothers and sisters, loved them all the same. Maybe he came across Judas’ grave and stood there mourning and weeping over a friend who had walked beside him for three years and yet was so troubled. Who would come to anoint his body? The one no one could forgive, Jesus came to save. Maybe he came across the Centurion who gave him vinegar when he asked for a drink as he hung there on the cross, his mouth so dry he could barely get out the words. If he did, he would have looked at him with compassion and forgiveness and hope for a changed life for him, knowing he was bringing with him a new way of looking at the world, where military power wouldn’t have the last word, knowing that the days of the Roman Empire were numbered, anticipating a time of peace.
But today’s Gospel reading doesn’t tell us where Jesus goes and what he does. He is most notable today by his absence. Jesus—absent on Easter? He isn’t where he’s expected to be (again)! He was supposed to be silenced, to be conquered, to be dead. Instead we encounter his confused friends. Through them, his story is going forward even though they aren’t exactly sure what the story is. The Good News is being told—“he is not here, he is risen. We’re not quite sure what that means.” Jesus is living on through the message and action of these misfits.
This story is a cliff-hanger. Where is Jesus? It is good that it is left open, because we pick up where the disciples left off. We announce with joy, “Christ is risen! Alleluia! Christ is risen indeed!” and are still in the process of living the rest of the story.
We don’t know where Jesus was that morning, so we can picture him in any scenario. See Jesus entering your workplace, looking with compassion on that co-worker you can’t stand, teaching you to see with new eyes the things that trouble others. See Jesus in creation and treat the earth with care. See Jesus in a person in need in your neighborhood and reach out a hand in friendship and sharing. See Jesus in a little child and take the time to talk to a child, be interested in what they think, learn their name. Hear Jesus in a noisy outburst and instead of being irritated, find out what’s going on and if you can help. The story comes to us unfinished. And the rest of the story is our story. It is God with us. It is resurrection continuing.
Our Savior cannot be pin-pointed on a map, but is in every saving interaction between people and in creation. So look around for your Savior here and every place you go. Look for your savior in others, especially those that you aren’t quite sure about. Look for your savior in your own words and actions. Keep your eyes peeled for him because he is there, loving you, teaching you to be generous, loving, and forgiving, bringing you hope, putting people on your path to mold and shape you, using your hands to ease someone else’s burden, giving you the words to comfort someone. The savior is not in the tomb because he is risen and he rises through the people to bring this world resurrection hope.