Can you blame them? Can you blame Mary, Peter and the other disciple for their confusion at the tomb? Can you blame them that disorientated by grief they falter and fumble? Can you blame them that in the aftermath of Jesus’ gruesome death, and with the discovery that his body is missing, they fail to rise to the high occasion of this day? Who can blame them for running to and fro like chickens with their heads cut off?
You know as I know that death and grief do strange things to people. They can rob you of reason. They can wring the sense out of you. They can leave you raw: twitching and trembling ... and without direction.
It was but two days earlier that they had witnessed a train-wreck. They were helpless onlookers, bystanders as Jesus and the Roman Empire hurtled toward each other. They watched—as if in slow motion, awful frame by awful frame—as the Palestinian peasant collided, head on, with the mighty Empire of Tiberius. Jesus collided with its armies and arms, its prisons, powers and prickly potentates.
It was no contest. None. Jesus was crushed. And the empire muscled on ... oblivious to the human wreckage it left in its wake.
Or, maybe not ...
You see, the impossible possibility that Rome doesn’t survive the collision and Jesus does, is what his loved ones are trying to get hold of ... trying to wrap their arms and their heads and their hearts around.
But they can’t. They’re not up to it. Not yet. It is too big ... too much for them. It is unbelievable, unimaginable ... inconceivable that Jesus could survive such a collision.
I gotta tell you: Back then, if you asked me to wager on the contest between Jesus and the Empire, my money’s on the Empire. Hands down. But we know what Mary, Peter and the other disciple were barely beginning to grasp:
That it was the Empire that was shown up that day. That in the contest between Jesus and the Empire, the Empire was exposed.
It was the Empire that died that day ... or began to ... began to collapse and crumble under its own excessive weight and hubris. Infected by corruption, dependent upon intimidation it began to rot from within.
And Jesus? What of the Nobody from Nazareth? Whatever became of the Palestinian peasant, the Cow-town Carpenter who faced down an Empire? Who stood up to it? Who absorbed in his frail frame the full force of its fury and might?
Whatever became of him? Take a look! Look around you. Look at the world today. The world is at church today!
And, here’s the kicker: Guess what happened Friday. Guess what mighty thing ... what mighty-empire-like thing ... closed on Friday in honor of the Palestinian peasant, the Nobody from Nazareth? Wall Street! Shut down. Lights out. Doors closed. Computer monitors blank. Trading ceased!
The fact that Wall Street closes each year on Good Friday is nothing short of breathtaking.
We are here today ... you and I are here today ... the world is at church today ... because the Roman Empire didn’t survive the collision ... not in the long run. Jesus did. And with Jesus, love survived. And peace. And life. And kindness. And justice. And grace. And, mercy... do not ever forget mercy.
The Roman Empire is history.
And Jesus? Not so much.
Time is divided by him. The luminous brushes of Michelangelo and Da Vinci ... inspired by him. Bach and Beethoven riffed on him. Schweitzer and Bonheoffer ate from the Jesus-table, and to circumstances of wretchedness and hate they introduced life and goodness. William Wilberforce and Sojourner Truth, Tutu, Romero, Chavez and MLK Jr ... learned from Jesus. They learned from Jesus the sweet, deep, honey-dipped, silver-tipped taste of freedom ... not only freedom from oppression (as if that were not enough) ... but freedom from hate. Freedom from fear ... even fear of death.
Welcome to the World According to God: where empires turn to dust. They do. They will.
Welcome to the World According to God: where might does not make right.
Welcome to the World According God: where Jesus lives death is dead, and love wins.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!