Summary: Easter C: In jokes, the third person often provides the punch line. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus raised two people from the dead, but his resurrection was different-- God’s punch line.
Please join me again in proclaiming the Easter greeting:
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!
Among our brothers and sisters in Christ in Eastern Orthodox traditions, Easter is a time for humor. After the seriousness of Lent, and the heaviness of Holy Week, Easter is a time to lighten up, to enjoy God’s little joke.
Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial.
Well, it seems that someone pulled him aside and said, "Joseph, that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone else to be buried in?"
Joseph just smiled. "Why not? He only needed it for the weekend."
Christ’s resurrection is God’s joke on the devil— for the devil must have been surprised to find that the tomb and the bonds of death could not hold the Son of God.
In the Easter text for this morning, Luke shows that the resurrection was God’s joke on the disciples, too— for the women didn’t expect what they found, and the men didn’t believe what the women told them, and Peter himself was truly amazed at what had happened.
In the Bible and in jokes, three often is an important number. Important things come in threes. Three establishes a pattern. Three is the number of completeness. We confess our belief in the three persons of the Trinity— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus often used the number three in parables. Peter denied Jesus three times.
And... have you ever noticed that in many jokes, the third person often provides the punch line?
Three fools died and find themselves at the pearly gates of heaven. St Peter tells them that they can enter the gates if they can answer one simple question.
St Peter asks the first fool, "WHAT IS EASTER?"
The fool replies, "Oh, that’s easy, it’s the holiday in November when everybody gets together, eats turkey, and is thankful...."
"WRONG," replies St Peter, and proceeds to ask the second fool the same question, "WHAT IS EASTER?"
The second fool replies, "No, Easter is the holiday in December when we put up a nice tree, exchange presents, and celebrate the birth of Jesus."
St Peter looks at the second fool and shakes his head in disgust. He looks at the third fool and asks, "WHAT IS EASTER?"
The third fool smiles and looks St Peter in the eye.
"I know what Easter is. Easter is the Christian holiday that coincides with the Jewish celebration of Passover. Jesus and his disciples ate the last supper. He later was betrayed and turned over to the Romans by one of his own disciples. The Romans took Him to be crucified, made Him wear a crown of thorns, hung him on a cross, and stabbed him in the side. He was buried in a nearby cave which was sealed off by a large boulder."
St Peter smiled broadly with delight. The third fool continued... "Every year the boulder is moved aside so that Jesus can come out, and if He sees his shadow there will be six more weeks of winter."
Well.... It’s the third person who provides the punch line.
Looking back through the Gospel of Luke, I find it interesting that Luke gives us three accounts of people being raised from the dead.
In chapter 7, Luke gives us the account of Jesus raising the widow’s son at the town of Nain. While traveling around in his ministry of teaching and healing, Jesus saw a widow weeping in the funeral procession of her only son. Luke writes that Jesus had compassion on this widow, and said to her dead son, "Young man, I say to you, rise!" The young man sat up and began to speak.
In Luke chapter 8, Jesus raised the daughter of synagogue leader named Jairus. Jairus asked Jesus to come to his house to heal his daughter, but she died before Jesus arrived. Jesus took her by the hand and called out, "Child, get up!" She got up, and Jesus instructed her parents to feed her.
In the first account, Luke writes that the people were seized with fear when the son’s life was restored. In the second, before Jesus raises the daughter, he tells the people, "Do not fear." People’s lives being saved in this way was not a normal thing, especially during the time of Jesus. Modern medicine often gives people second chances at life now— not so in the time of Jesus. Life restored showed the fearful power of God.
Another thing is that in these accounts in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus raising people from the dead, and in the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead in the Gospel of John, these were times when life was restored. They were not resurrections. Life was the same following these events, and those people lived life, died, and were buried.