On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
We have arrived. Through this long season of Lent, through the challenges of Holy Week. We have arrived at the day of the resurrection, the empty tomb and promise of a new creation.
And yet there is some discomfort. This isn’t like Advent that builds to the birth followed by a couple of weeks of holidays over Christmas. Easter morning brings a lot of discomfort. If Maundy Thursday was the funeral lunch, and Good Friday the burial. Today is the moment of wondering, “Okay, now what?”
But it is more than just not knowing what comes next. It is more than sorting through all that has taken place. It is wondering about how this story will be told? Who will tell it? Who gets to tell it?
We can see already, that the question of who gets to tell the Easter story was there on the first morning. The disciples didn’t believe the first reports, they had to verify.
And some 2000 Easters later, the question remain. Who will this Easter story? Who gets to tell it? Who should tell it? Questions that add some unexpected discomfort to our Easter experience. In a world of Pandemic, Protests, Inequality, Racism and Colonialism, War, Violence and death… who tells this Easter story is still a question we have NOT truly answered.
Being uncomfortable with this story and who gets to preach it is not something new. In fact, Luke tells us that discomfort with the resurrection story and the ones telling it is as old as the story itself.
Three women have gone to the tomb early Sunday morning. It was only on Friday, three days ago that they watched Jesus die on the cross. And because of the sabbath (Saturday), his body hadn’t been properly prepared for burial. They were on their way to do this last thing, one final act of love for Jesus.
But they arrive at the tomb, and the stone is rolled away. Jesus’ body is gone. Luke says the women were perplexed, but that hardly seems to describe what these women were probably feeling.
And then a couple of guys in dazzling white clothes show up and tell these “perplexed” women that Jesus has been raised from the dead.
This isn’t an “Aha” moment. This is more of a “Holy (you fill in the blank)” moment.
And in that “holy” moment the women are snapped from their grief, their perplexity, their terror and are reminded of what Jesus had been telling them the whole time.
And they go racing back to tell the other disciples.
And it is at this point that Luke really starts to get interesting.
The women go back to tell their news to the “male” disciples. But the men think it is nonsense. Now what the english translation says is that the men think it is an “idle tale.” You know, the kind of inane chit chat of no importance that men think they can just tune out because it’s the womenfolk talking. But that is not what the greek says. The greek says the men hear the story as nonsense or crazy or nuts. The kind of story you hear someone tell and you respond by saying, “No way, that’s not possible, that didn’t happen.”
And then the english translation says the men didn’t believe the women, as if the men actually took the time to consider the content of their story. But the greek says the men didn’t trust the women. The story wasn’t believable because of who was telling it. The men didn’t bother listening to the story right from the beginning.
And then there is the last bit about Peter. Peter runs off to check the tomb for himself. Why would he do that if he didn’t trust the women enough to listen to their idle chit chat in the first place? Well, in most bibles there is a little footnote that comes at the end of this verse about Peter’s “checking on things” at the tomb.
The footnote that explains that verse 12 (this whole bit about Peter verifying what the women had reported) is not included in other ancient manuscripts. Or in other words, the verse is likely an addition to the story.
So here we have this story of the resurrection that is hard enough to make sense of on its own but the real problem with this story seems to be not with the story itself, but with the people who have been chosen to tell it. The disciples think the women’s story is nonsense because they are untrustworthy women. Recent English translators, who still have a problem with the fact that women are the first ones to tell the story, try to turn the nonsensical report into an idle tale – something not even worth being listened to at all by the men.
And to top it off, the early christian community added this bit about Peter verifying what the women reported so that somebody credible would be the one telling the story of the resurrection. Because Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Jesus’ own mother Mary weren’t credible witnesses on their own because they were women.
Oh, how things haven’t changed.
As hard as it is to makes sense of somebody being raised from the dead, our real problem is still with who gets to tell the story.
Christians have spent a lot of time and energy in the past 2000 years telling people who can and who cannot tell the story of Jesus. And it’s not just women. Christians at various times have told people of colour, LGBT people, poor people, uneducated people, and even lay people that they are not among God’s chosen story tellers.
For some reason our issue has been less with the content of the resurrection story itself than the character of the ones chosen to tell it.
Because it is hard to believe that of all the people to find the empty tomb, God sends the very people who were considered untrustworthy and unreliable as witnesses.
How would this story have been different if the disciples simply trusted the women?
When the women arrive at the tomb, early on that Sunday morning they were expecting to find the body of Jesus. Mary’s son, Mary Magdalene’s and Joanna’s friend and teacher. They expected to be anointing a body with spices and oils. They were expecting to finish the Jesus story for good, one last goodbye to the one they loved.
They most certainly did not expect that all that crazy talk that Jesus had been going on about for 3 years to be true. Betrayal, trial, crucifixion… and now resurrection. They did not expect to find the living among the dead, they did not expect that Jesus had been raised.
They didn’t yet understand just what Jesus’ death and resurrection had accomplished. They did not know yet that the Risen Christ overturns and undoes the established orders of the world. The first order of which is the established order of death. The Risen Christ upends the order of death and replaces it with a new order, a new system, a new way – Resurrection and New Life.
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. The Risen Christ also overturns the established order of power and privilege. It cannot be understated just how significant it is that the first witnesses (and therefore preachers) of the resurrection are those without power, those on the margins, those whose testimony is discounted before it is even given because they cannot be considered “trustworthy” by decent and proper folks.
When these women are met with news of the resurrection, they would not have expected that of all the disciples that they would be the ones called upon to deliver this news – Jesus has risen. They weren’t the leaders, the gifted ones, the talented ones, the respected ones. They weren’t even considered trustworthy by the disciples who knew them well. They were just women. They were forgotten, unimportant, unworthy. They were not the kind of people anybody would expect to be called upon to carry out such an important task. They were the wrong people.
But for the Risen Christ, they were the right people. Because the God of New Life has turned the world upside down. Death is now Life. The Powerful are now the powerless. The weak and lowly are lifted up. And the wrong people to deliver this news, the wrong people like those women… for God, they are exactly the right people.
The Risen Christ completely changes our world and our reality, Christ’s death and resurrection turns everything and everyone upside down. All the old orders, all the ways in which we told others and in which we were told we aren’t good enough – those orders, those ways are ended. And the Risen Christ says the good news of new life is for not just for the right people, not just for the wrong people. The Good News is for all. Resurrection and New Life is for us.
And maybe that is crazy nonsense in a world like ours.
But it is not crazy nonsense for God.