There’s nothing more dismissible than Easter. Some say the gospel accounts are noticeably inconsistent, four writers that can’t agree on who showed up first, what the angels were wearing and how the stone was rolled away. Others that the Christ was and is eternal, an apparition of truth that philandered in the flesh but never ultimately engaged the mortality of Jesus long enough to bleed. Others that the bible is a book of poetry employing metaphor and allegory, literary devices that disclose spiritual revelations rather than claim literal realities. And nearly all agree that there’s nothing more believable than the finality of a funeral, that what’s dead always stays dead.
Yet, despite last respects being paid, the casket being closed and the plastic flowers being arranged, there remains a persistence about the empty tomb, a resiliency about the third day. After all, we’re still here gathering our lives around this same story millennia later.
So why won’t Easter die?
Luke 24:1-12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Because God wills nothing less than life.
Scripture promised nothing less, and God fulfilled the prophesies.
God’s love is far too big for the tomb.
In 1983, Jimmy Valvano waited in Reynolds Coliseum for his basketball players to arrive for practice. With their shoes laced up, they anticipated another afternoon of sprints and drills, scrimmages and strategy sessions. But the gym was empty, except for a ladder under one of the baskets. Valvano gathered his confused players and then handed them a pair of scissors. “Boys,” he said, “today we practice cutting down the nets.” A few months later, Jimmy V finally found somebody to hug in Albuquerque.
There are a thousand reasons to be jaded, exhausted by the beat down and the burn out. To be a cynic, stuck in the stupor of pessimism. Certain that Cinderella teams don’t dance, that stones don’t get rolled away, that every tomb holds a corpse.
But Easter won’t die because in a world so zealously committed to crucifixion, God is unyielding in his ridiculous habit of resurrection. The phrase “idle tale” in Greek means the ranting of a person suffering from delirium. It began with Magdalene, Joanna and Mary’s crazy talk in the graveyard, and for 2000 years since, the Good News has spread every time someone somewhere has said:
It’s nonsense, but the body was riddled with tumors and now is cancer free. He is risen!
It’s a silly story, but after raising a fist in violence, the handshake of peace was extended. He is risen!
It’s poppycock, but after a career in alcoholism, the bottle was forsaken for sobriety. He is risen!
It’s a tall tale, but every time we assume the absurd, insist on the impossible and defy what’s dismissible, He is risen!
Church, atheism is easy, the fatalistic view that what’s dead always stays dead. Hope, however, is a terribly holy burden, the courage to actually believe in something. To give our lives over to the Christian truth that, “He’s not here, he’s risen.”