Summary: Our Easter joy is not always immediate. It certainly wasn't immediate for Jesus' first disciples either. Even the empty tomb and the angel's proclamation left them bewildered. It was in remembering Jesus' own words that the Spirit brought them to faith.
“Why Believe the Good News of Easter,” Luke 24:1-12, Easter Sunday, March 27, 2016
Brothers and sisters, you probably know that this coming Friday is “April Fools’ Day;” a day that is always celebrated every year on the first day of April. It’s a day, when many Americans are expected to play some practical jokes on one another.
It is also a day when some Americans concoct some “pretty tall tales” to be sure. It’s a day when those blessed with the skillful art of telling a story will eventually have their victims sitting right there on the very edge of their seats, right there where they want them! That’s when they then expose their own pranks – by calling out loud: “April Fool’s Day, Gotcha!”
But I am standing up here this morning to tell you that the “Good News of Easter” that we are celebrating today with millions of other Christians worldwide—is no “April Fool’s Day” story!
Every year I find myself confronted with the same question: “Why do I believe the good news of Easter?” And the best answer I can come up with is—because this belief, this faith, is God’s greatest gift that he, by his grace, has ever given to me!” Today is a day when I have to give 100% of the credit for my faith to the powerful ministry of God the Holy Spirit! For as St. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12:3, “No one can say that Jesus Christ is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit!”
Furthermore, let me tell you that trying to “prove” the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is like trying to prove the existence of God! The truth of Easter, like the truth of the Creator, is not arrived at, achieved or deduced through experiments. Belief in the resurrection is an enterprise of faith. And true faith is always an act of remembering.
One thing we all know for sure, is that something absolutely LIFE-CHANGING, something of MOMENTOUS PROPORTIONS happened in the lives of Jesus’ first disciples that transformed them completely—that converted them from being the kind of cowardly, frightened, timid followers they were at the time of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, into the courageous advocates of the Word of God that they became later, risking life and limb for Jesus, as their lives’ stories are rolled out before us in the Book of Acts!
Have you ever stopped to think that some of the biggest arguments against the reality of our Savior’s glorious resurrection would require more faith to believe that the good news we are celebrating today?
How would you respond to the contention of some—that Jesus’ first disciples were only hallucinating, when they thought they were seeing him alive that Easter day in his resurrected and glorified body?
The problem here is that hallucinations never happen to groups of people all at once! Besides this, St. Paul tells us in First Corinthians, that he was able to produce 500 people who had seen Jesus gloriously alive and back from the dead!
Or how would you respond to the contention of those who say that Jesus didn’t really die on that cross? That perhaps he had just slipped into a coma and was revived to full consciousness later? The disciples only thought that he was dead!
The difficulty here is that to believe this you would have to completely ignore three important facts: (1) First, the Romans were masters at performing crucifixions. It was a form of capital punishment that was a result of their own invention—their own chosen way to carry out an official execution. (2) Secondly, it’s a documented fact of Roman history that soldiers who botched crucifixions were themselves crucified. (3) Thirdly, we know from John’s Gospel that while the soldiers broke the legs of the two malefactors who were crucified—with one of them being located and crucified of each side of Jesus’ own body, they chose not to break our Lord’s legs, because they could easily ascertain that he was already dead!
Nevertheless, just to absolutely sure that Jesus was actually dead, that’s when one of the soldiers thrust a spear into Jesus’ side; all to insure that each of these three so-called “criminals” being put to death on that day were indeed dead; as dead as a door-nail.
And there really is not enough time for me to mention the “rapid-decay” hypothesis, where in Palestine’s hot, muggy climate, some say that the body of Jesus must have simply decayed at an alarming rate.
Never mind the fact that St. Matthew tells us that when the religious leaders went to Pilate demanding that he as the Roman procurator put a Roman guard at Jesus’ tomb, he told them: “You have a guard of soldiers yourselves (probably referring the temple police). You make the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard” (Matthew 27: 62-66).