Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
See, it’s so easy! You just repeat the same words you repeat every year. Christ is risen… he is risen indeed, Alleluia! So then why couldn’t the disciples believe it?
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and some other women had just returned from the tomb as the first preachers of the resurrection. Mary Magdalene is the first Christian preacher and she just delivered the first Christian sermon of all time—also the shortest and best sermon of all time. “He. Is. Risen.” Full stop.
But Mary’s sermon has about the same effect as most preaching. That’s a nice sermon, Mary. “It seemed to them an idle tale,” says Luke in the Gospel reading, “And they did not believe them.” Well, that is to say most of them did not believe them. Maybe it was because they were women in a society run by men, maybe it was because the disciples assumed that if Christ were truly to rise from the dead surely he would make himself known to them first, but probably it was mostly just that the disciples lacked faith. Well, again, most of them lacked faith. There is Peter, who gets up and runs to the tomb, stoops down, looks in and sees. And what does he see? Nothing. No Jesus. And he goes home amazed.
Easter morning is about the absence of a thing, which makes it special in and of itself. Most of our lives are spent searching for something, for some thing, whether it be a newer, shinier car; a newer, shinier job; or a newer, shinier spouse. It’s usually a thing that we are after. But Easter reminds us that the greatest things are no-things. An empty tomb, an MRI that’s clear, no call in the middle of the night, no tombstone for a child—none of that. Things happen, and sometimes terrible things happen, and so we sit, like the disciples on that first Easter morning, wondering what went wrong. How can we fix it and make it all better?
Into that gloomy room bursts Mary Magdalene with a three-word sermon—still the best sermon ever given. HE IS RISEN! And the disciples do not believe her. They are busy trying to fix the problem, probably reading their Bibles, wondering which clues they missed. They are trying to take the thing that is broken and piece it back together again even though they know that death is final and there is nothing they can do. They are depressed, gloomy, angry. How dare these women come with this nonsense!
Well, there is Peter…
Peter, for all his faults, dares to hope for something better. Peter who denied Christ three times; Peter who was corrected harshly for wanting to worship the place where Jesus was transfigured rather than Jesus who stood before him, Peter who, according to John’s Gospel, was fishing naked in a boat, saw Jesus on the shore and was so excited to see him that he put his clothes back on before jumping into the water. This Peter who worshiped wrongly, who turned on Jesus in his greatest time of need, and who was a bit of an odd duck if we can say so—this Peter dares to hope for something better.
He dares wisely. The resurrection is the thing worth daring for. A person can put their trust in all sorts of the wrong things. You can trust in the lottery to find wealth, you can trust in your smarts to win friends, you can trust in your politics to influence others, you can trust in your phone to make you feel connected. None of that is likely to work, but trust in the resurrection and you will not be disappointed. Dare to hope for something better!