A reflection on Luke 24:1-12 by Pastor Jenothy Irvine
Easter and Christmas are both my favorite and my not-so-favorite days to preach. They’re my favorite because I get to retell the most beautiful, drama-filled, life-changing story of all time. They’re my not-so-favorite because of the pressure pastors often feel to present the most beautiful, drama-filled, life-changing story of all time.
When it comes right down to it, however, there is only one thing to say for Christmas and one thing to say for Easter. For Christmas, the good news is: “he’s here!” For Easter, the good news from the tomb is, “he’s not here!” Books-ends to the greatest story ever told. You can’t have one without the other.
With everything happening in our own country and around the world, the season of Lent felt longer this year. Ash Wednesday feels like forever ago…like a long hard winter. The war in Ukraine is just one of many countries torn apart and battered by war. When we hear about and witness things like the poverty in our own country that so many refuse to see, protests and demonstrations across our country and around the world, we need Easter now more than ever. The spike in crimes against first responders, minorities, and the marginalized. Political tensions. Increased social and economical division and fracturing. We need Easter now more than ever.
When we walk through challenging situations, face difficult circumstances, and wade through deep waters of personal trauma, local disputes, institutional change, cultural differences, governmental instability, life transitions, mounting frustrations, or global uncertainty we come to know what it was Jesus was up against and what he and his followers were living through. We come to know and perhaps understand why the followers of Jesus were so shook up, confused, scared, stunned, and left asking why.
They saw his miracles. They heard him teach and preach about a new kind of kingdom, a new way to live in community, a new kind of rule. They witnessed how he handled the religious leaders, how he stood up for those with no voice, those left for dead, and those ignored by the system. They received firsthand, his acts of service and sacrifice. How could he be dead? What did they miss or not understand? They, like us, were left with more questions than answers. They, like us, lived in the midst of cultural divisions, political fracturing, and systemic agendas. They, like us, were trying to navigate life and find a way through challenges, turmoil, and the unexpected.
I wonder if that was the inspiration behind what has been called one of the greatest Easter sermons ever preached. It was 1976 and the Rev. S.M. Lockridge spoke at a church in Detroit, MI. Lockridge captured the power and essence of Easter by expressing the corruption and brutality of what led to Easter morning. He brilliantly put to verse the people involved in those last hours of Jesus’ life, the actions carried out, and the implications of how it appeared things would go. Lockridge creates a scene of emotional and physical darkness and connects the human experience of betrayal, anger, fear, defeat, and pain to the divine providence of God; to the promise and hope found in Jesus.
“It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know That Sunday’s a comin’. It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning. It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross. And then they raise him up Next to criminals. It’s Friday. But let me tell you something Sunday’s comin’.
It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning. What has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? Ooooh…Its Friday. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered and Satan’s just a laughin’. It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’!”
The power of this day called Easter is found in the profound reliance life and death have on one another. Joy and sorrow. Victory and defeat. Hope and despair. We know the good because we endure the bad. We know the relief because we carry the burden. The fact that we know what it means to struggle; we know how it feels to lose love, face tragedy, endure pain, confront injustice, walk-in uncertainty, and live in systems of shame, division, and fear and because of that, the beauty of this day is made that much more rich, vivid, and full of color; because of that, the good news of this day is that much more valued, needed, and life-giving. Without one there is not the other.
I’m no S.M. Lockridge. But I put before you people of God:
Sunday is here!
It was still quiet and dawn was just below the horizon
The air cold and quiet. Questions lingered heavy on the women’s chests. Do they not know Sunday is here? They rush to the tomb. Tear-stained faces, spice-filled hands. Hearts pounding - minds racing. Do they know Sunday is here? Uncertain, they approach. Perplexed and afraid. Scattered and scared. Belief waning, hope fading.
Don’t they know Sunday is here? Their eyes adjust, morning light and shadow climb stone walls. Holding their breath they look - they wonder. Is Sunday here? What did they see? What was found? Nothing. Nothing. Nothing! Sunday is here! What does it mean? Where did they take him? Confusion and belief hold hands. The angel proclaims He is not here! He is risen! It was Friday, but Sunday is here! Run Mary, run.
Tell the others. Be the first to make it known. Trust - Believe - Hold on. Sunday is here.
Sunday is here.
We have our Fridays too. The pain, fear, struggle, confusion, defeat, and grief.
We have our Fridays - times of doubt, conflict, challenge, dissension, and uncertainty. We have our Fridays - deadlines linger, bills come due, hardships happen, illness takes over, tragedy strikes, frustrations mount, and differences surface.
Oh yes, we have our Fridays people of God, but Sunday is here!
He is risen!
Pastor Jenothy Irvine