Happy Easter!

Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was once asked if he believed in resurrection. “Of course, I do,” said Huckabee. “Dead people vote in every election we have in Arkansas. Resurrection is very real to us.”

On February 17, 1991, Mrs. Ruth Dillow was sitting at her home in Chanute, Kansas when she received a phone call. The person on the other end of the line identified himself as being from the Pentagon and he was sorry to inform her that her son, private first class Clayton Carpenter had stepped on a land-mine and had been killed. Of course, the news hit her like a blow and as the reality began to set in, it was as if she had lost her own life with the life of her son.

On the third day, after mourning in the depths of despair, she got a second phone call and this time the person on the other side of the phone said… “Mom! I’m alive!” At first she couldn’t believe it was her son, but as they began to talk finally it began to sink in. “This really is my son, he’s not dead, he’s alive!” She said that it felt like she had gotten her life back again when she got her son back.

How Ruth Dillow felt when she got that news is something like how the disciples felt when they found out that Jesus was risen from the dead. They also had been in the depths of despair: their best friend, their master, their teacher and Lord they’d followed for three years had been crucified. Not just that, but now they were penned up, for fear of the Jews, in the upper room. And then to find out that he wasn’t dead but alive.

But there’s one big difference between Ruth Dillow and the disciples. Clayton Carpenter had never been dead, The Pentagon had simply made a mistake – not too surprising, right? But Jesus Christ had actually died.

Today we come to hear a story that is very similar. The disciples, family members, those who were at the cross have all received the news that Jesus is not dead but alive.

Joseph of Arimathea was a very wealthy Pharisee, a member of the council, and a secret follower of Jesus. It was Joseph who went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body after the crucifixion. And it was Joseph who supplied the tomb for Jesus’ burial. Well, it seems that someone pulled him aside and said, “Joseph, that was such beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. Why on earth did you give it to someone else to be buried in?” Joseph just smiled. “Why not? He only needed it for the weekend.”

We are so accustomed to hearing of Jesus risen from the dead that we could say, “Oh yea…we know all about it” and miss the grace of this holy season of Easter. But think about it, Jesus rose from the dead! Death is not the end. It is only the door to beyond.

The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our Christian Faith:  The Resurrection is the greatest of the miracles — it proves that Jesus is God.  That is why St. Paul writes:  “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain; and your faith is in vain…  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is a delusion and you are still lost in your sins…  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (I Cor 15: 14, 17, 20)

Without the Resurrection, Jesus would have remained forever a good person who had met a tragic end.  People would remember some of his teachings, and a handful of people might try to live according to them. All the basic doctrines of Christianity are founded on the truth of the Resurrection.  “Jesus is Lord; He is risen” (Rom 10: 9) was the central theme of the kerygma (or “preaching”), of the Apostles

You see, what we believe on Easter is not simply that God raised Jesus from the dead, but that God plans to do the same for us. We believe that God plans to give us life.  So Easter is not about celebrating our pain or sorrow, but believing that God will lead us out of them.  As strong as evil may be, it is no match for God.  We believe that God has the power and the intention to lead us out of death to life. Therefore it is the love and power of God which is the basis of our hope and the source of Easter joy.

But now we come to the practical question, which is in some sense the most important question.  How do we get to Easter joy?  If there’s pain or suffering in our life, how do we move to the joy of Easter?  We get to the joy of Easter by embracing the cross we cannot escape.  When unavoidable pain comes into our life, we are called to accept that pain in the light of Easter, to take up the cross as Jesus took up the cross, and to believe that God will lead us through that pain to life.  Whatever that evil might be, whether it’s losing our job, dealing with a divorce that upsets our family, grieving someone who we have lost, fearing to grow old, or coping with a sickness that will not let us go—whatever that evil may be, once it becomes clear that we cannot get around it, we are called to take up the cross and walk through it.  And we walk through it not on our own power, but on the power of God, whose love can conquer death.

So on this Easter night, let us not just believe that God raised Jesus from the dead.  Let us dare to believe that God intends also to raise us up.  And let us have the courage and faith to take up the cross we cannot escape, believing that the burden we carry will not lead ultimately to the tomb, but to the resurrection, not to death, but to Easter joy.

Wish you all Happy Easter….