The night before was long and dark. It was the Sabbath day, the seventh day, and those who had followed Jesus had gathered together. Just hours before they witnessed Jesus’ gruesome death on the cross and now they waited to finish a job that was rushed that evening. You see, some of Jesus’ followers hurriedly placed him in a garden tomb knowing that the Sabbath was coming and that work to prepare Jesus for burial would have to wait for the next day, which was a Sunday.
That was the mood as the women gathered on that Sabbath night. We can assume they told stories of Jesus’ life. Perhaps they talked about how he fed more than 5,000 people with barely little food or how he healed so many people. Through their tears, they prepared the spices that would be used to give Jesus, their teacher and friend, a proper burial. The only things that kept them from going to the tomb, then, were the dark skies and the Sabbath laws that prevented any work from taking place until the following day.
Once that day came, that new day, announced by the sun’s beginning rising above the eastern horizon, the women made their way from their hideout to the grave. They knew what to expect. They expected to find a wheel-like stone covering the entrance to Jesus’ grave. They expected to find Jesus lying in the tomb.
This, though, was a new day. A day that would be unlike any other in recorded history before or since. When the women – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others – approached the tomb they found things that they did not expect. Something that left them bewildered, startled, and, yes, even “puzzled.” The stone was rolled away.
There was enough light for the women to make out the inside of the tomb. It was still early in the morning. They ventured inside to investigate and to make sure everything, and everyone, was still there. When they got inside nothing was as they expected. Jesus was not there.
They began to think about what happened. Was Jesus’ body stolen by grave robbers? Did the authorities move him elsewhere? They did not know what to expect. That is until they saw two men standing in the tomb. They didn’t know how they got in there, but they immediately recognized them as messengers from God. So they bowed in an act of worship waiting for the men to speak. Once the men spoke, the entire world changed upon the announcement of their words. They said there was no need to look for the living among the dead. Why? Because Jesus is not to be found in a tomb. He is risen!
That news shook the women’s world, and our world today, because it was something that was never expected. Yet, it was that news that began a new day on that first day of a new week. We have gathered to celebrate and to make sense of that new day. We call today Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday, but today is really the celebration of the dawn of the 8th day. The day in which God began something new and something never before seen. God began to make all things new in the world and in us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let’s be honest with ourselves, though, for a moment and admit something we do not want to admit. That is it is not always easy to believe Jesus is risen. We say this because the resurrection challenges our expectations. Our world, today, is filled with things that makes like difficult to comprehend, but there things that we simply expect to happen. We expect that sometime before April 15 we will grumble as we mail our taxes. We expect the sun to rise in the morning, and set in the evening. We expect that when we turn on the coffee pot that coffee will begin to brew. We expect the things that have always happened to happen again. So we, like the women and the disciples, find it only natural to expect the dead to remain in the tomb, because that is what has always happened.
Yet, on this Easter Day we proclaim a tale that is original, because what always happened did not happen. A tomb was found empty. A man – a Savior – who is risen from the grave. But, no one ever saw it happen. The women arrived after the fact and received, essentially, the breaking news reports from the on-site news reporter from the heavenly reporting pool. If we were writing the story we would have chosen a much different method. Maybe something akin to what introduces a sporting team before the start of a big game: music, lights, and lots of noise. This story, this new day, begins with words announcing to the world something new is taking place.
Perhaps we find this Easter story troubling because the world doesn’t seem all that different as a result of the news that Jesus is alive. We see the violence in the streets, especially with what took place in Brussels this week, and wonder if anything has changed. We see the fear that has risen throughout our nation, and wonder if anything has changed. We see the struggles families experience day after day, and wonder if anything has changed. To be sure, we look within our own hearts and lives and wonder if anything has changed.
Sometimes we need to be honest with ourselves and recognize how we have more in common with the first response of the women and the disciples than we want to admit. This day is as confusing as it is joyous. It is as perplexing as it is amazing. It takes faith to claim this day for it is. That is the day that changes everything.
Maybe this is where we need to begin to claim this day, this Easter day, for what it is. It is the dawn of God’s 8th day. Today we celebrate that though everything seems to be the same, nothing will ever be the same again. That is because God, on that Sunday many years ago, began to change all the rules that we had counted as a given.
This day, then, has a lot in common with the creation narrative where in the beginning God created everything. On that Resurrection Day, God re-created the world through the hope of Christ and the good news that the tomb cannot contain the love of the Lord and the joy of God for all people. God began to do something new and it began in the tomb, when God raised Jesus to a place of victory to claim the rightful place as the king and lord of all.
The new creation of the 8th day is about starting over and replacing what was with what is and what could be. Through the resurrection, God began to remove the world’s fear with the hope of God’s everlasting presence through Christ. On the 8th day, God replaced sorrow with a sense of peace. On the 8th day, God replaced death with life. The great news of the resurrection is that God is doing something new and it began with the words that death does not win. Jesus has won.
We find ourselves, today, in the midst of God’s 8th day and work to recreate the world with the hope of the Lord. Because of the resurrection, God wants to do something new and amazing in our world and in each of us. That is what we must begin to claim on this 8th day. That God wants to do the things no one believes is possible. The things that only God can do. God wants to take what is broken, what is destroyed, what is lonely, and replace it with the hope of the Lord, the peace of Christ, and the joy that we are never alone because our Lord lives with and in us.
The hope of the resurrection is truly all around us. We just need to be willing to see it. The hope of the resurrection, of God’s new creation, is experienced when a hungry family receives the generosity of a community that provides food for them in time of need. It is experienced by a man struggling with faith who receives a comforting call from a friend at just the right time. It is experienced by the drug addict who makes the choice to seek help and change their life. It is experienced by all of us in big and small ways that helps us to see something new in our lives.
It is experienced when we claim Easter for the start of something new in each of us. If we want to claim Easter as the dawn of new creation beyond 12 or 12:15 p.m., when the service ends and we head home to dine at the table, then we have to be willing to experience that God wants to do something new in all of us in ways we may never be able to comprehend. God wants us to experience something new and to experience the resurrection as the start of hope coming into the world and into our very own lives.
We do by living lives that are grounded in more than trite sayings about our love of Jesus. This is more than just saying “I love Jesus.” It means seeking daily to align our lives with the words, actions, and desires that Jesus desires of us. We know we can do this because this would be impossible if our Lord was still in the grave. But, our Lord lives. We can claim that hope, because the news that rained forth from the tomb might be hard to believe at times but it is the news we need today. The great news is that Jesus is alive and, because of this, God is starting all over and making the world all over again.
Today, God wants to start a new in our world and in each of us. May we claim the work of God’s new creation in each of our lives. May we claim the hope of the resurrection and allow God to do a new work in us, our church, and in our community, so that we may all shout with a loud voice, “Hallelujah! My God lives!”