In his gospel, Luke makes us wait for the full impact of the resurrection to be revealed.
It all begins predictably, with women going to do what is needed for the dead body of Jesus. But the tomb is empty. Then there are messengers, giving instructions. Then the disciples discount the women’s testimony, although Peter is motivated to go and see for himself. Then two disciples walking away from Jerusalem encounter a stranger, who enlightens them. But it is only when the stranger breaks bread that Jesus is revealed, resurrected. Finally, the disciples are instructed to prepare themselves to be empowered to be sent out into the world.
A child once asked, “Why did he come back?” It is a good question. Why, indeed, to a world full of rejection and cruelty? The answer has to lie in Jesus’ total commitment to humanity – which is in itself evidence of God’s commitment to humanity.
I have seen a comment that while we live on this earth it is always (Easter) Saturday. I don’t agree. The resurrection has happened. We live in a post-Easter world. Just because everything doesn’t seem to have been finished yet, as in completely accomplished, does not diminish that. Yes, there is still sin. This has been a week to emphasise that. Yes, there is still death, and it has touched many of us. But resurrection has happened.
The returning, resurrected Christ brings hope to a world full of hope-suppressors. In his resurrection, Jesus demonstrates that death does not have the last word; he also shows that sin and evil cannot have the last word. God can transform even the most desolate situations into something new and life-giving.
This hopefulness comes with a spirit of motivation. The resurrection of Jesus shows that the darker side of human nature does not prevail, it demonstrates that it is worth trying to make a difference for good in this world, and it encourages us to participate in the drawn-out story of the resurrection.
By drawing out the story of the resurrection – and continuing it into the life of the early church, Luke draws all readers, of all generations into the story, and makes us a part of it, and it a part of us.
Jesus is not stuck on the cross, nor imprisoned in a tomb. He is out there – out here, in fact, precisely because the drawn-out story brings us into the picture. Like the first disciples, formerly flawed, fallible and fickle, we are to prepare ourselves to be empowered for action. We no longer have to wait for something to happen: we can get on with the rest of the story, the task of solving the mystery not of death, but of life and our part in it, fuelled by the hope and motivation of the resurrection.
Christ has risen! Alleluia!