We know the story so well, because it’s been told for over 2000 years, we know the ending of the story. But the women who went to the tomb that morning were living the story! They went in grief and sorrow, expecting to find Jesus’ body. Expecting to tend to it with spices and ointment. But instead, all they find is an empty tomb. Let’s listen to this account from Luke’s gospel, it’s written in Chapter 24.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 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, 7 that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 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.
Did you notice that the story starts with the word ‘but?” As if to negate everything that had just been recounted before. Which is of course, the crucifixion account.
But! That word turns the story upside down and inside out. That word takes the story of death and turns into a story of new life.
Each gospel account of the resurrection story is different. In the first part of this one, Jesus isn’t present. Only two men, dressed in dazzling white, with a message that Jesus is not there. Asking a profound question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
For centuries, Easter was the most important celebration of the year. Not Jesus’ birth, not his death, but his resurrection. And perhaps we could ask ourselves a similar question, “Why do we live as if death was the end?” Let’s remember that Jesus is alive! Let’s remember that Jesus is always ahead of us. Let’s unleash faith, love and community amongst ourselves and the various communities to which we are connected, but especially to this one of North Dartmouth.
You never know where you might encounter Jesus… I encountered him Thursday afternoon. I didn’t plan to meet him; in fact he interrupted my schedule. You know, the busy Holy Week schedule that included a student evaluation, multiple services, and of course in an all-important manicure too! I dashed out the door in the midst of that driving rain… and was in my car in the parking lot, on my way to said manicure when a truck pulled into the parking lot… beeping the horn…
I didn’t recognize the truck, but waited, since obviously whoever it was, was trying to get my attention. A man got out, approached my car, and as I rolled down my window he said, “I need some help, can you help me?”
I confess that my first inner thoughts were less than charitable…
• If only I had left 2 minutes earlier, I would have been gone,
• I need to get to my nail appointment, so that I can get home, have supper and get back here in time for the service tonight.
As those thoughts raced through my head, thankfully, given that I’m a minister, they were quickly followed by this thought, “What about Jesus, what about that man you preach about each week and profess to follow? What would Jesus do in this encounter?”
I stopped and really looked at him. I recognized him. And as I looked into his eyes, Jesus words pierced my heart, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”
I encountered Jesus on Thursday… and it is through your commitment to faith, love and community that Jesus was fed that day. Listen to another story of some early followers of Jesus who didn’t recognize him either.
13 Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles[f] from Jerusalem, 14 and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, 16 but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?”
They stood still, looking sad.18 Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?”
19 He asked them, “What things?”
They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.[i] Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. 22 Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, 23 and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” 25 Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! 26 Was it not necessary that the Messiah[j] should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?”
27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. 28 As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. 29 But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.”
So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” 33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.
34 They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.
This is one of my favourite stories of scripture. So why didn’t those disciples recognize Jesus? Two people, walking side by side, companions of some sort, there is some speculation that they are husband and wife. Who don’t recognize Jesus. Until he blesses and breaks the bread. Jesus is known to them when the bread is broken open. When their hearts were on fire with his words. Jesus is known to us when the bread is broken open… Jesus is known when we are broken open to give and receive Jesus words.
What does this story have to tell us about our ability to recognize Jesus and God’s work in our community?
What ministry might be bubbling up that we might not recognize right away because it’s not the way we’ve done it in the past.
What ministry might be bubbling up in YOU that you didn’t imagine/dream of as ministry because it doesn’t fit in with our past.
May our eyes be opened to Jesus, who appears in unexpected people, in unexpected ways, and in unexpected places.
Thanks be to God for the challenge and the opportunity of living resurrection!
Luke 24: 1-35
April 4, 2021 – SMUC