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Easter Sunday outdoor service

posted 9 May 2015, 07:08 by Rosie Addis

So, the women are walking to the tomb, carrying spices, prepared for wrapping up the body of Jesus. Because they knew, as we know that dead bodies decompose, and the spices were going to be a way of masking the smell of decomposition. The Jewish people had a two stage process of caring for the bodies of those who had died. At first the bodies were wrapped in spices and put on a shelf in a tomb until decomposition had taken place. The bones would then be collected and put into a bone box. Luke, our narrator, knows this as well, even though he is not a Jew. He has said at the start of his Gospel that his aim is to write an orderly report of the events that took place to a man called Theophilus.

But this careful narrator, this historian/theologian, a second-generation Christian who knew Paul, who sounds so rational and thoughtful, adds his voice to that of Mark and the other writers – there is no body! God’s plan didn’t include a dead Messiah, but one whom He raised back to life! There was no body. There still is no body. Luke gives us three resurrection stories, as though to prove the point that the impossible has happened. Here in this first story the reaction of the women is terror, and when they go back and tell the men what they’ve seen the reaction is the same as ours – it just doesn’t make sense to them.

Each of the Gospel writers come from their own background and perspective. For Luke, a Gentile who has travelled around with Paul (an ex-Christian persecutor and killer), he wants to show that this unexpected God intervention means that the old barriers of race are removed. This is a new community, to which anyone can belong. This is the reassurance he wants to give to his friend Theophilus.

Jesus died. God raised him back to life. It didn’t make sense to the first disciples. It still doesn’t for us. But someone changing back from death to life certainly points to something or someone outside and beyond our immediate experience. We are not alone.

And then there is this new community. One without barriers, to which all are welcome.

Today we are looking at the empty tomb. Astonished. Scratching our heads. Beginning to think of what we can’t see or understand.

But in the weeks to come I would challenge you to go further. What happened next? Luke structured his Gospel in anticipation of its sequel – the book we call Acts. Why not read on – read about this group of Jews and Gentiles, and how they began to form a whole new community – one that had never been seen before in history. Ask questions. Look upwards. But also remember – Jesus was dead. God raised him back to life. The tomb is empty.