"We are witnesses to these things," said Peter. Yet as the gospel for the second Sunday of Easter opens, "these things" do not include Jesus' resurrection. That morning Peter had seen an empty tomb with some scattered linens. He had witnessed absence, not resurrection. At that point, he had not even witnessed Jesus' death—he had missed his chance. Yet soon Peter becomes one of the boldest and most powerful of witnesses to Jesus' message, death and resurrection. Clearly something happened.
My mother’s generation of women was raised to expect that families would depend financially on the husband’s income. My mother is lively and creative, and as a child she wanted to be a doctor—but women just didn’t do that. When her husband left her, her creativity and energy were channeled into supporting three children on the small income from a job initially intended to supplement the family’s welfare and provide a personal challenge.
Some ideas are bigger than our intellectual capacity to deal with them. Some news is richer than the words we have to describe it. When that happens, we turn gratefully to art and music and works of the imagination. That’s why on Easter we put the emphasis on beautiful hymns and great organ and trumpet music. Words alone cannot convey the message.
Chances are that your world is either experiencing or anticipating an awakening earth after months of winter slumber. Grass is turning green, azaleas are splashing the landscape with brilliant reds, dogwoods are sprouting pink and white blooms—little Easter catechisms shaped like crosses and complete, each one, with a crown of thorns. When the birds begin their morning songs these days, and the bees their carpentry, we imagine that the sounds they make are Easter music served up by nature, as the church’s most important holy day coincides with the renewed activity of creation.
The risen Christ breaks bread in Emmaus and then eats fish in Jerusalem. Easter, or at least the first Easter as Luke describes it, is not as much about an empty tomb as about food. Jesus spends Easter Day eating. His followers celebrate Easter not at an empty tomb, but around a table. So we might consider Easter as a multicourse meal rather than a trip to the empty tomb, and experience resurrection by eating.
I shudder when I’m reminded that it is painful for someone with dark skin to hear that “God is light, and in God there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Being legally blind, I know firsthand that to walk in the light (1 John 1:7) often hurts. I wear sunglasses both to darken my world so that I can function and to protect my eyes from the light.
Most New Testament scholars say that the Gospel of Mark originally ended with the story of the women who go to the cemetery, only to encounter a mysterious young man pointing to Jesus’ empty tomb and announcing the resurrection. One of the challenges of this view is that if Mark truly ended his narrative here, he seems to have concluded by deliberately not concluding, by dangling something incomplete and unsatisfying before the reader in the final verse.
In the days before Easter, preachers find themselves ricocheting back and forth between anticipation of full-to-overflowing sanctuaries and anxiety about being up to the task. In the case of the people who make it to church only on Easter, the preacher has only one shot; we want to make it count.
As long as the ascension is in any way related to upward movement (like an elevator going to the clouds), I am and will continue to be unmoved. The vertical directional imagery just doesn’t do it for me. I am not even moved to argue about whether or not “it” happened.
Paul is making an unexpected visit to Athens. His proclamation of Christ crucified had angered the Jews at Thessalonica so much that they had followed him to Beroea to incite riots in the crowds there. Rather than risk Paul’s safety, the Beroean believers had sent him off to Athens. There, while he waits for his colleagues to join him, Paul takes in the sights, tours the city and tries to learn something about its people.