The Federated Church of Marlborough
Marlborough, New Hampshire


Easter 2016 10:00am Reflection
Scripture Reading: Luke 24:1-12


The Rev. Robert Vodra


     Letís be honest, this whole resurrection thing is a little hard for me to understand.  In my work on the ambulance and fire departments over the years, I have gained a pretty good understanding of life and death.  There is that whole gray area, where you are doing CPR, officially their heart is not beating, but you are able to coax it back, occasionally.  But then we have the dead people we are called to.  Sometimes their heart has stopped beating an hour or more before we are called, and there is nothing we can do.  Of course we will often hook up our machines to them just to confirm they really are 100% dead, but often that is not necessary.  It is a sure thing, dead is dead.

     And Jesus was dead, 100%.  The cross was very effective.  It was torture that always ended in death.  And the disciples knew this.  They were probably not at the foot of the cross when Jesus died, but were off just a bit, could still see what was going on.  They probably saw him struggling, hear him cry out and breathe his last breath.  And then it was over.  The man they were following had been killed.  After some time, probably an hour or two, his body would be taken off the cross, wrapped up in linens and put into a tomb.  Once the body was inside a stone was rolled in front of the door.  I had not really understood this before I went to Israel many years ago.  These stones were like a grinding wheel in a mill, except had a diameter of 5 feet or so.  Since these tombs were carved out of stone, when they carved the entrance, they left a place to put this stone, which was rolled back on a slight incline.  When the tomb was to be closed, it did not take much to get this rock to roll down and fit tightly across the entrance.  And this was done on purpose, you donít want a few kids to roll away the stone and play in the tomb, or anyone for that matter.  When I looked at it, I doubted that my family, all working together, would have been able to even move the stone on the tomb we saw. 

     So Jesus was dead, had been wrapped in linens and brought to this tomb.  Now in strict Jewish families no work happens on the Sabbath.  From sundown on Friday night until sundown on Saturday night, you donít cook, or clean, push a button, or even strike a match to light a candle.  Donít imagine they had many buttons in Jesusí day, but that is one of the rules that strict Jews still follow today.  So Jesus was left in the tomb, dead, with a big stone rolled in front of the door for their Sabbath. 

     And then early morning, on the first day of the week, which was Sunday, the women went to the tomb with spices to prepare the body.  Depending on which account you read it may have been just one, or may have been a few women.  In some accounts they are concerned about how they are going to get the stone rolled out of the way.  But when they get there the stone is rolled back and tomb is empty.  Jesus is gone.  The man in dazzling clothes remind them, the son of man must be crucified and on the third day will rise again.  So what do the women do, run back to tell everyone else. 

     The English Bible describes them telling the eleven and all the others, and they assuming they are telling idle tales.  That is nice.  The word used in Greek is ďLiriousĒ as in Delirious.  They thought the women were crazy!  ďNo, seriously, you could not get into the tomb, you are just joking with us.  Not funny, we know that Jesus is dead.Ē

     And honestly, that is probably how I would have reacted.  I have seen dead people, quite a few over the years.  Never have I had one come back to life or be resurrected.  I have read in some of those newspapers you can buy at the check out line in the grocery store, about someone about to be buried that knocks on the inside of the casket.  It is normally right after a story about alien abductions, and just before a story about another person finding Big Foot. 

     Resurrection is not easy to believe.  Now in some ways, we are unlucky.  We have all heard the story before.  If you ask a bunch of people about what they know about Christianity, someone will say something about Jesus being hung on a cross and being resurrected.  In one way this is unfortunate.  If you hear something over and over again, it becomes more and more believable, and the more people say it, the truer it becomes for you.

     If you are, in your life, at a place where you are 100% sure that the resurrection happened, I am not there yet.  I do believe in the resurrection, but I have said before, I am a science person.  I want to see the 12 lead done on Jesus heart after he was brought down from the cross.  I want to examine the body for other signs of death.  Once you convince me that he was 100% dead, I want to see him alive again.  Not as some ghost walking through locked doors, but living, solid, displaying all the signs of life that were missing before.  Even if you are 100% sure that the resurrection occurred, I encourage you to put that aside for a minute. 

     I am sure you have heard that there are only two things that are certain in life, death and taxes.  Death is a sure thing.  Will happen to all of us.  And in this life, there are not a whole lot of things that we can count on.  Job security is gone.  Relationships change and sometimes fade away.  A house can be destroyed very quickly by fire or natural disaster.  All that money in investments and banks can lose value or evaporate.  What would it mean if that one thing you thought you could count on could be messed up by Jesus?  Kind of overturns the apple cart.  Resurrection, seen this way, breaks all the rules, and while most of us will admit that the old rules aren't perfect at least we know them. They are predictable, and in this sense comforting. And resurrection upsets all of that.

     I often laugh when I hear people talking about Christianity as a norm.  Often those will pick and choose the Bible verses that they want to support their view.  But perhaps what Jesus was saying and doing was more about challenging the establishment. 

     I hesitate to even say that because our political race has gotten so wrapped up in who is establishment and non-establishment.  Jesus was not in either of those camps.  Jesus was willing to suggest that even death, that one thing we can all count on, could not stop him.  He challenged the money changers in the temple, he challenged the view about those Samaritans those foreigners.  He healed on the Sabbath, he was not afraid to touch the sick and those who were considered unclean.  And even in the end, when they thought they could control him by having him put to death, he rebelled.

     I think it is hard to accept the resurrection, and harder yet to understand it.  No matter where on your faith journey, I encourage you to question what happened and why it happened, or even did it really happen at all.  The disciples, those who left everything they had to follow Jesus, who heard Jesus say that he would be killed and on the third day raise, still considered the women crazy when they heard it did happen.  Did they doubt it?  Of course they did. 

     But maybe, just maybe Love and Life are stronger than Fear and Death.  Maybe God has plans for us, individually and as a church to follow the teachings of this one we call Lord, and do amazing things.  Maybe this resurrection, even though we donít all fully understand it, is the starting point of a faith that will make all things new, bring a new heaven and a new earth here, begin to fully realize that the Kingdom of God is not only someplace we will go when we die, but can also be a true vision of what we want our world to be.