After the longest weekend of their lives, the disciples of Jesus find themselves in a state of utter despair. Their master, teacher, and hope has been crucified. Killed senselessly. Crushed by the oppressor that we thought he would liberate them from. The silence is palpable. No one wants to speak. There is no reason to. For them, everything was lost. The tears had been cried. The anger had been unleashed. Now they feel completely washed up. Lifeless. Hopeless.
A few of them depart to anoint the body of their pitiful Messiah. To give him the proper Jewish burial rites. To say their final goodbye to their only hope of liberation and salvation. But as they approach the tomb, they notice that the stone is rolled away. Their stomachs twist and tears begin to flow from their eyes. They rush to the tomb to find that his body is missing. Gone. Stolen.
But as they turn around to rush back to the others, they are stopped by an angel. A being whose brilliance and brightness defies that of the sun. The angel speaks to them: "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He is risen." These words resonate in the ears of the disciples. Their hearts leap with hope. But their minds remind them of Friday. He was dead. He is dead. He cannot be "risen." This is impossible. In the midst of such despair, such injustice, there could be no such hope. This must be a cruel joke.
They run back to the place where the others were waiting. They report what they have seen and heard. The message isn't one of joy. Far from it. It's one of great fear. Fear of what the Romans could have done to his body. Fear of what was coming for them. Fear of the angelic being that they had encountered. Sunday morning was one filled with fear.
In the midst of their hysteria, they hear a familiar voice. A voice that cuts through all of the tears and fear. And the voice speaks only one word. A familiar word. But a word that no longer seemed to exist. "Peace." As they turned around, they saw him standing in their midst. It was Jesus. Their teacher. Their hope. The one that they saw crushed on Friday. Utterly destroyed. Here he stood. Alive? He spoke again to them. "Peace be with you." At once, their fear vanished. No one was sure what was happening. No one understood how this could be. But as Jesus looked deeply into there eyes and outstretched his scarred, bloodied arms to embrace them, all fear vanished. Peace was all that was left.
This holiest of days, Easter Sunday, humanity is invited in to a celebration of hope. We are invited to believe that even in the darkest of circumstances that there is a light that shines. We are invited to believe that even in our most God forsaken moments, in the cruelest of injustices, in the vilest of offenses, that there is redemption. The first disciples awoke this morning in utter despair. They woke believing that God was dead. That hope itself had been utterly destroyed on a cross three days earlier. And it was. On Good Friday, we all witnessed the death of God at the hands of injustice. We witnessed the breaking and pouring out of hope. The darkness descended. All that was left was fear.
But on this morning, we are reminded that the story does not end there. That the seemingly senseless violence of the cross was not in vain. That Jesus Christ, the creator made flesh, willingly allowed himself to be oppressed, to be marginalized, to be murdered in order that he might expose the systems of oppression and destroy them. It is on Easter that the events of Friday are seen through a different lens. We understand that the violence of the cross was not in vain. We begin to see the cross as the supreme act of love. In our rebellion to God and his way of grace, humanity responded with hatred. We oppressed the Lord of life. We crucified the Creator of all things. And he, out of love for us, did not respond with wrath. He instead pronounced forgiveness with his last breath.
This morning we share in the joy that Love truly does win. That even when the powers of hate rage against it to the point of death, Love is still stronger. Love was crucified on Friday, but this morning Love has risen. Love has won the victory. Love stands, arms outstretched to all of us- the vilest to the most pious- and says, "Peace." As the sun rises over our planet this morning, we can be assured that even in the midst of all of our sorrow, Jesus is alive. He is working. He is bringing about a renewal of all things. He has the power to redeem even the most senseless acts of injustice. As the rays of the sun kiss our cities this morning, we are reminded that light penetrates darkness. That no matter how oppressive a system may be, the way of peace will always prevail in the end.
This morning as we arise from our slumber, may we know that the God who has created us does not look upon our failings, sins, and participation in injustice and condemn us. Instead, he takes it all upon himself. He has allowed our depravity to be poured out on him. And he has overcome it with grace. For no amount of sin can nullify the eternal Love that God has for each one of us. This morning we announce to the world the resounding Truth- "Christ is Risen!"- and it is in the reality of this announcement that we all are assured that no matter what vile acts of injustice we may experience, God is not dead. He is active. He is working to redeem and restore. He has already overcome and will continue to overcome.
It is in the power of the resurrection that each of us find renewed strength to face our lives, knowing that he who is in us has already overcome our greatest fears. And in light of that truth, we are empowered to be the hands and feet of the resurrected Christ to everyone we encounter. To stand in the divides that hatred has caused. To reach down and touch the untouchable because we know that Christ has done the same for us. To freely give our lives to others with abandon out of love for our world. To work to make Jesus' pronouncement of peace a reality for every human being on our planet.
This morning we are reminded that God is not dead. He is alive. And he is actively working to bring about liberation and peace to our world. There is no enemy that we face, no fear that we hold, no injustice that we experience that will not be overcome by the risen Son of God. He is victorious. He will make all things right. The endless night is fading. The rays of dawn are bursting forth on the horizon. Each ray seems to proclaim, "Hallelujah!" The sorrows have lasted for the night. But the joy has come this morning. He is risen. He is risen indeed. And that is the greatest news that has ever been heralded across the face of the earth. May we celebrate that reality on this day. And every day. For Love has conquered. Liberation has come. Peace is here. May it be,
“I rise to taste the dawn, and find that love alone will shine today.”