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“All Bets Are Off!” Matthew 28: 1-7 Key verse(s): 5&6 “The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.’”

“When the game begins, all bets are off!” Did you ever hear that phrase and wonder what it really means? We often use it to mark a friendship that gets put on hold until after some game of friendly competition has ended. The phrase really originates with the notion that the betting window is always closed when the race is taking place. It is too late to speculate on the outcome of something when that something is already being determined. I suppose its use as a friendly reminder that competition implies an out-of-character aggressiveness and self-focus comes from the notion that before and after the event the rules of friendship are the norm. During the event, the rules of engagement hold sway.

Many years ago I worked at a summer camp as a dishwasher. My best friend also worked with me. His name was Marc with a “c” and mine with a “k.” We worked Monday through Friday full-time during the summer washing dishes, bussing tables, and doing odd jobs around the camp. We were pretty much inseparable from June through August as we spent most of our summer vacation together. We became good friends, eating our lunches together, sharing stories, fishing on the weekends and chumming around in our off-time. Each work day we were allowed an hour for lunch and, since neither of us as yet owned a car, we were pretty much confined to the camp from morning till late afternoon. Marc and I often frequented the game room on the property during our lunch. It was a good place to eat lunch and also play table tennis. Marc was an expert player; although he was the best of friends, kind, considerate and giving when we were working or chumming around, he became a different person when on the other side of that table tennis net. “All bets were off when he picked up a paddle. Marc was transformed in a competitive and aggressive opponent whose goal was to defeat me, not befriend me. Marc was transformed every time he got behind that net. He literally became a different person, one that I could only recognize by appearance and not by character. In a sense, the Marc I knew was not there in the course of those few minutes it took us to play the game. As summer went on, I became accustomed to working with the two Marc’s. The one during the course of the day’s work and the other transformed Marc whenever we were locked in competition. Both looked the same; but neither reflected the other in character.

When the women came to visit he tomb of their friend and teacher, the crucified one, early on the morn of a new week, their expectation was that they would see the man that they had loved so dearly over the course of the last several years. They were expecting to view his body, the hands and arms that had reached out to them; the face that had smiled upon them, always forgiving, always encouraging. They expected to see Jesus of Nazareth, Rabboni, their special teacher and friend. Instead, they found a strange man sitting on the rolled stone. There was no body, no Jesus, no teacher and friend. He was not in the tomb where they expected him to be. In fact, the whole situation that morning did not fit their understanding of what should have been. Somehow, everything had been transformed, changed and made different. The angel’s words were stunning. “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just...

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