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Once again, God used less-than-credible voices to proclaim the most in-credible news!
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they were greatly perplexed about this, two men stood by them in shining garments.
As the women were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'" And they remembered His words.
Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.
Their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.
Luke 24:1-12 NKJV, condensed
Expect The Unexpected
Suppose you came to church on Easter and the worship leader held up a painted egg, confessing, "It is not hardboiled. Then the worship leader playfully cracked the egg over the head of the nearest parishioner. People would be alarmed and expect a gooey mess to spill out of eggshell. But surprise! Out flutters a light showering of confetti. There was nothing to fear because the egg was a Mexican cascarone. And what emerged was not what we expected.
On resurrection morning, a small group of women witnessed something they did not anticipate. Carrying their spices, they had come to the cemetery looking for the dead body of their beloved Jesus. As they approached in the dimness of the early morning light, they could see the stone had been rolled away. There was nothing to prevent them from stepping inside the sepulcher. It was empty. They couldn't find the body anywhere and probably assumed someone had desecrated the burial site and disposed of the body in some atrocious way. Shock was added to their grief, like insult to injury.
All the characters who mourned the death of Jesus needed to come to terms both personally and collectively with the empty tomb. The disciples had left all to follow, learn and assist Jesus. Amazingly there were no dropouts among the original twelve until Good Friday, when they scattered and fled for their lives. But just three days later, with the exception of Judas, they were back together again, along with others including these perplexed women.
They had expected Jesus to be the Messiah and political savior of Israel. But above all, they loved him dearly. And when Jesus died, sorrow overwhelmed body, mind and soul. His death was a huge injustice, the cross a symbol of shame and criminality. It ended their hopes for a glorious deliverance from the evils and tyranny of foreign invaders.
Without Jesus, who were they? They had stepped out in faith and now suddenly their leader was dead. What were they supposed to do? They mourned all they had lost. Not only the life of Jesus but their own futures as well. The old normal would never exist again.
While the women imagined the worst, God sent angels with the best possible news. It came in the form of a question, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?" It was a provocative thought that cracked their despair, a crack thatwould open wide and allow light to overwhelm their darkness.
They remembered his words. Back in Galilee Jesus had told them he would suffer and die. They didn't want to believe it then, and paid little heed to the part about rising on the third day.
As long as they were looking for a dead Jesus, they would never find him. He is not dead, but alive! God is doing a new thing! Yes, why would they be looking for Jesus in a graveyard? But where and how would they find their living Lord? They had thought their life with Jesus was over; now it seemed like a new beginning.
The resurrection of Jesus occurred while no one was watching and didn't take long. Not nearly as long as it took for Jesus to be resurrected in the minds of his followers. When the women returned to tell the others, their witness didn't provoke the response they expected. Peter, at least, did get up. He ran (which implies some excitement) to the tomb to see for himself. But he didn't return to confirm their story. Instead he went for a walk, alone, to figure it all out.
The Easter message is not only about a change in Jesus, it requires a change in his followers. Jesus often told his disciples, "Don't be afraid!" Yet like those first followers, we drown in a multitude of fears. Easter's victory is more than the empty grave of Jesus. It's also about our own resurrection and all the possibilities for us to conquer those things that bind our spirits and bow our faces to the ground. Easter is a freedom song. So lift your head, stare down that fear, and get ready to be surprised by our wonderful God who loves us dearly.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Name one fear which you have overcome and state how you conquered it.
These women on Easter morning were prepared, focused, surrounded by grief, shocked, perplexed, startled, afraid, quizzed, and finally--joyfully excited. With which of these moods do you identify most closely at the moment? Describe the wide range of emotions you typically go through in a day?
When the women returned from the empty tomb, they went directly to their friends and fellow disciples to share their new insights and experiences. But to their amazement, no one believed them. How do you explain the cool reception they received? Did the disciples react as you expected, or did you expect better? What effect do you think their disbelief had on these women?
Remembering Galilee-- When you feel lost and separated from God, what memories do you have which help you find your way home again? What words from Jesus are most meaningful or helpful to you?
When my daughter was a teenager, I used to pray that she would marry a Christian. And she did; his name is Frederick Christian! When I tell people this, I usually add something about God's sense of humor. It reminds me of the cascarone egg because I got something better than expected. Describe a time when God cracked cascarones over your head.
Easter is about resurrection--in the midst of our lives. The question is, "Will we ourselves, touched by the resurrected Jesus, now rise and do life differently?" What is some old baggage which you are leaving behind in order to be free to walk in the light with Jesus?
What did the images of the old normal and a new beginning mean to the original followers of Jesus? What do these images mean to you?
In the Bible we have the Old and New Testaments, and some old and new commandments, declarations and covenants. Give some examples of God doing something new.Consider whether God has ever entered into your life with something new. If so, did God come quietly or with fanfare? suddenly or gradually? with clarity or complexities?