We have arrived at the day for which we have been preparing for the last 40 days. It is Easter Day, the day of Resurrection, the day when we remember and celebrate the fact that the women went to the tomb and found it empty. And yet, despite the season of preparation, despite our disciplined efforts to make room for God in our lives, despite the fact that we have been looking forward to this celebration for weeks, we may still feel unready. We may still feel unprepared for this celebration, because the Resurrection challenges our assumptions and transforms the way we look at the world. Even as we celebrate the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, we may have lingering doubts. After all, people do not rise from the dead in our experience. In spite of all our preparation, we may feel unready to proclaim that Christ is risen.
We are not the first people to have these doubts. Luke’s gospel tells us that the women went to tomb early in the morning, only to find the stone rolled away and the body of Jesus gone. After two men in dazzling clothes asked why they were looking for the living among the dead, the women rushed to tell the apostles, who dismissed it as “an idle tale.” This word that Luke uses can also be translated as “foolishness” or “nonsense.” For the apostles (and probably for the women who went to the tomb), the idea that someone could rise from the dead was ludicrous. First-century Jews knew just as well as twenty-first century skeptics that people do not rise from the dead, that death is the end of the story, that talk of resurrection is nonsense. The apostles had the same doubts that many of us have. The tomb may had been empty, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus’ followers were ready to proclaim that Christ is risen.
Nevertheless, even as the apostles dismissed the women’s story as nonsense, one of the apostles ran to the tomb to see if it was true. I can only imagine what Peter’s inner monologue was like as he rushed to the place where Jesus had been buried: “This is so stupid. Those women must have been seeing things. Maybe the gardener was messing with their heads. Anyway, there’s no way that Jesus’ body is gone. There’s no way that he rose from the dead. Things like that just don’t happen.” Peter was among those who confidently dismissed the very idea of resurrection, and yet as he approached the tomb, doubts may have crept into his mind. What if the tomb was empty? What if he really had risen from the dead? Luke’s gospel provides a wonderful detail: as Peter arrives at the tomb, he has to stoop to look inside. As he approached the tomb, he had to slow down and pause at its entrance. He had to take a deep breath and stoop to peer into the gloom, terrified of what he would (or wouldn’t) find.
Even in the midst of our doubts, even in the midst of our confident belief that the very idea of resurrection is nonsense, Easter challenges us to take a deep breath and stoop to peer inside the empty tomb. We may look to satisfy our morbid curiosity, we may look to prove our skeptical neighbors wrong, we may look because we are desperately in need of God’s promise of new and abundant life. Whatever our motivation, Easter challenges us to look for new life even in those places that have known only death and despair. We may have our doubts, but Easter challenges us to look past our doubts and embrace the possibility of resurrection, the possibility of transformation, the possibility that this life can be renewed by the power of God who loves us. When we stoop to peer inside the empty tomb and embrace the possibility of resurrection, we can proclaim to this world that God’s love and faithfulness have the power to transform a world that his enslaved to death and despair. When we embrace the possibility of resurrection, we are given the opportunity to live resurrection lives of love and service to others. Resurrection is more than an empty tomb; it is a promise that the world can be transformed, that the evil powers of this world are no match for the love of God, and that we have the ability to make this world a better place. Even if we are afraid of what we will find when we peer inside the empty tomb, we are called to proclaim the resurrection by working for the transformation of the world.