Sunday, April 8, 2007

"Remember What He Told You"

Text: Luke 19:28-44

AT MY WEEKDAY JOB AT THE architecture firm, there’s a guy named Steve who’s the computer drawing expert. He’s considered to be the best CAD (that stands for "computer aided drafting) operator in the firm, and he holds classes from time to time for the rest of us.

Last fall, it was my turn, along with a couple of guys who like me only draw by hand. We had maybe three sessions, then I went back to doing my usual hand drafting the next few months.

Until late February, that is. That’s when I got pulled onto a job that was all being done on the computer. I got thrown into computer drafting headfirst, and didn’t do too badly for what I had to get done. But I kept running up against difficulties where I couldn’t make the program do what I needed it to. And I’d go round to Steve’s desk and say, "Steve, how do I get all my lines to show up when I print?" Or, "Steve, how do I make my drawing the right scale?"

And more often than not, Steve the CAD expert would say, "Don’t you remember what I told you? It’s in your notes!"

When he says that, there’s no point arguing that he’s lived with computer drafting programs every day for the past ten-fifteen years, but this is the first time I’ve had to use one. No, I didn’t remember what he told me! How was I supposed to remember? Last October it didn’t mean anything to me!

That’s how our hearts and minds work. If you enjoy a certain body of knowledge or skill, it’s constantly real to you and you keep it in mind. But if an idea confronts you that’s disconnected to your everyday reality, you won’t remember it or grasp it, no matter how many times it’s repeated to you.

That’s what it was like for the two Marys, Joanna, and the other holy women and for Peter and the other disciples that first Resurrection Sunday morning. During His ministry Jesus had kept on telling His disciples that after He was put to death, He would assuredly rise again. But that statement meant nothing to the disciples. It didn’t compute. Jesus might as well have been banging a pot, for all the sense His words had made to them.

So it’s daybreak, and the women approach the tomb. They fully expect Jesus’ dead body to be there. And when it isn’t, it makes no sense! Then two young men in dazzling white appear-- One more thing they couldn’t take in!

But as the women hide their faces in terror, the angel voices penetrate their confusion. The angels say, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, he is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again."

St. Luke records that now, the women did remember. By the power of the Holy Spirit the truth of the resurrection broke into their reality and made itself at home. Now they remembered what Jesus had said about rising again! Now Jesus’ words about rising again were rich and full of meaning. They were exactly what those grief-stricken, downcast women could use.

Thank God, the angels at the empty tomb were not like my colleague Steve. When Steve says, "Don’t you remember how I told you?" he’s exasperated, because I’m wasting his time. But the angels say, "Remember how He told you?" and the phrase holds out comfort, compassion, and new hope.

Of course the women hurry and tell the rest of the disciples. Jesus has risen again, just like He said He would! But the good news of Christ’s resurrection is still gibberish to the others. Luke says, "They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense."

We’d be the same in their place. Think how shocked and frightened they were. What a pall of despair must’ve oppressed them in that room! Think-- no, feel the misery those men and women had! Their Lord had been crucified. Their hope and the hope of Israel and all the world had been lacerated and hung on a Tree! If you’d felt like that, the Good News that first Resurrection Day wouldn’t have been good news, it would’ve been meaningless noise.

And I’d say Peter felt most desperate and miserable of them all. Not only was Jesus dead, but the last time Peter saw Him, he’d sworn up and down that Jesus wasn’t even somebody he knew!

Peter’s very desperation drives him to the tomb to see for himself. But he comes, he looks, and he goes away. All Peter can do is wonder to himself what has happened.

And there our reading ends.

But we know what had happened! Jesus was raised from the dead, and we give testimony to that this Easter Sunday and every Sunday of the week! The very fact that we are gathered here to worship Him is proof of the fact that the tomb of Jesus was empty and stays that way to all eternity.

But you and I, like the women, like the other disciples, like Peter, we all go through times when the resurrection of Christ seems to have no meaning for us. Times of trouble and grief, when our feelings overwhelm us and the words of preachers like me seem like empty sounds.

That’s why it’s dangerous to try to prove Christ is risen by what we feel in our hearts. Our hearts are fickle and tell us all sorts of lies. No, believe His word, for it is constant and true.

Believe His Holy Spirit, who helps you understand what the Bible says. Read it, hear it, and, remember how He said-- He would be raised again. We know Jesus lives because the Holy Spirit speaking through the Scriptures tell us so, and from start to finish the Scriptures give glory to Him.

Jesus is risen, whether we feel He is or not. Jesus is risen, despite the claims of false religion and false science. Jesus’ word is faithful and true, He is alive even now, and we never need to give in to confusion and despair again.

So rejoice on this morning and every morning! Remember always what Jesus your Lord told you: He died for you, He is risen for you, and that is the plain, meaningful, and wonderful truth.
All praise to you, Lord Christ! Alleluia, amen!

[Preached at the sunrise service, the Feast of the Resurrection, A. D. 2007]

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