April Reading from the Message
Jesus lays dead in a tomb. His followers are distraught. One betrayed him, another denied him three times. They keep their distance, riddled with anxiety about their fate. But not all hide away; women who had been with him since Galilee prepared burial spices and returned to the tomb after resting on the Sabbath…
LOOKING FOR THE LIVING ONE IN A CEMETERY
At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.
4-8 They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.
9-11 They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest.
YOU’RE THE WITNESSES
44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”
45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem! You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses. What comes next is very important: I am sending what my Father promised to you, so stay here in the city until he arrives, until you’re equipped with power from on high.”
50-51 He then led them out of the city over to Bethany. Raising his hands he blessed them, and while blessing them, made his exit, being carried up to heaven.
52-53 And they were on their knees, worshiping him. They returned to Jerusalem bursting with joy. They spent all their time in the Temple praising God. Yes.
The Happy News
Christ was the Life Affirmer. And the Resurrection was that affirmation of life that would remain definitive in human history. The early church caught the spirit of it and joyously went its way proclaiming the good news, which quite accurately could be translated “the happy news.”
And the saints—those men and women whom the church has held up as being exemplary for our lives—have been joyful people. Tertullian wrote in the third century of the “hilariousness of the saints.” He told us further that he became a Christian not because he had studied the Scriptures but because he had seen the Christians live and coveted what they had.
Tolstoy wrote that he became a Christian because he saw that the men and women round about him who believed in the faith received from it a power that enabled them to face life and death with peace and joy. This post-Resurrection joy has been a creative power in the church, attracting people to Christ, sustaining them in suffering and temptation, and inciting new life throughout the world.