Monday, April 1, 2013

Amazed at Easter
Luke 24:1-12
March 31, 2013[i]
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.  (Luke 24:12).
Peter was amazed on that first Easter morning.  He had run to the tomb to check out what the disciples thought to be an “idle tale” told by the group of woman (Luke 24:11).  That word “idle” is deceiving in translation.  We think of an “idle tale” as talk that simply fills in the time, talk that goes nowhere.  In the Greek, it meant something far stronger.  It suggested that the women were “out of their minds.”
Peter, the denier, had to see for himself.  Peter was the one who early on had recognized something so special about Jesus that Peter referred to him as the “anointed one of God” (Luke 9:20).  Peter, the one who couldn’t figure out how to respond to the Transfiguration—he wanted to build a monument and stay there.  Peter was the one who bragged that he would follow Jesus to his death, but when the time came, would follow only at a distance, and would deny that he ever knew Jesus.
This same Peter had to check out this “idle tale” for himself.  He carried the baggage of his past with him; maybe that is why Peter ran to the tomb.  He peeked inside the tomb, saw that it was empty—just as the women had said.  Peter saw the neatly folded linen cloths, and was amazed.
He didn’t understand it.  He didn’t explain it.  He didn’t talk about it—at least not yet.  For once, he just took it all in.  He was amazed.
Should he have been so surprised?  After all, Jesus had told them many times that this would take place.  Mark tells us that on one of those occasions, Peter took Jesus aside and actually “rebuked” Jesus for saying such things.  It was bad for his image.  Bad PR.  The response that Jesus gave Peter still must have been echoing in Peter’s mind:  “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mark 8:33).
Are you amazed by Easter this morning? 
Amazement means more than happy.  More than jubilant.  It means overwhelming surprise and astonishment.
I fear that in our world, we have become so sophisticated, so calloused, so intellectual, that we have lost our capacity to be amazed, especially on Easter morning. 
Or maybe we have told the story so often that we have lost awareness of its message.  Or maybe we have grown so accustomed to looking down that we forget to look up.  Why do we continue to look for the living among the dead?
Let me repeat the message that we proclaim this morning.  Christ is risen.  Christ has overcome the power of death—but not only His own death.  He has overcome the power of death for us all.  He tells us that “because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19).
We, too, may be tempted to dismiss this as an idle tale.  But just like Peter, we are   setting our minds on human things.  But our human minds can only understand just so much.  It is true that “There are more things in heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy.” (William Shakespear, Hamlet, Act I, Scene 5).
My invitation to you this morning is to let go of human things.  For this moment, accept the truth that is larger than we are.  Let your mind be filled with divine things:  with divine love that formed you in your mother’s womb, love that gave you birth, love that gave you life.  Love that showed all of us how to live.  Love that is so powerful that, even when we rejected it, that same love keeps calling us back, offering to us forgiveness and reconciliation.  Love that was so amazing that Jesus loved—not only until it hurt but until love killed him.  Love that demonstrated on that first Easter morning that not even death itself can overcome the power of death. 
Charles Wesley wrote about this amazing love using these words:
And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior’s blood!
Died he for me who caused his pain?
for me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love, how can it be
that Christ my God should die for me.[ii]
I invite you to spend a couple moments with me.  Let go of everything else that is going on around you.  Let go of the concerns about breakfast and flowers and music and visitors.  Let the amazement of God’s love overwhelm you. 
Copyright © 2013 by Thomas E. Frost.  All rights reserved.

[i] Preached at the Sunrise Service at Cunningham United Methodist Church in Palmyra, Virginia on Easter Sunday.
[ii] Charles Wesley, “And Can It Be that I Should Gain,” in The United Methodist Hymnal, (Nashville:  The United Methodist Publishing House, 1989), 363.