Some 2000 years ago, in a backwater of the Roman Empire, something happened that changed the world. On the first Good Friday, Jesus of Nazareth was executed on a cross. On the first Holy Saturday, he lay buried in a borrowed tomb. And then on the third day after his death, the first Easter, he was raised from the dead, as a sign of God’s love for Jesus and for us. For we are told that if we have faith in God’s saving love, we too will be raised from the dead. That in a nutshell is the Easter message.
But faith is such a tricky matter! If we but read the newspapers or watch the news coming out of Syria or Turkey or France or Belgium, it is easy to believe in Good Friday. It is easy to believe that the world would brutally kill a gentle man whose only wrong was to teach God’s love. It is easy to believe the Holy Saturday message that this man of peace is dead and buried—The End! But to be honest, it is harder to believe in the Easter message, that sin and death did not—and do not—get the last word!
We may imagine that ours is the first generation of doubters, but that just isn’t the case. St. Paul contended with his fellow Jews trying to convince them that the Resurrection of the Messiah was foretold in scripture if only they had the eyes to see and the ears to hear the truth. Later, St. John wrote the Gospel account of the Resurrection that we heard proclaimed today. He wrote his Gospel for one reason and one reason only: that all generations might know the truth about what God did in his day and, believing that truth, might have eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Of all the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, John’s is the most vivid and detailed—and convincing! In the midst of the miraculous, we get real, honest portrayals of how various disciples of Jesus reacted to his death and later to the mystery of the empty tomb.
The two boys, Peter and the Beloved Disciple, upon hearing that Jesus’ body has gone missing from the tomb, compete in a footrace to see who will get there first. The Beloved Disciple wins, but then chickens out, letting Peter be the first to enter the tomb. One disciple is forever changed; the other is merely mystified. The Beloved Disciple believes, even though he doesn’t understand. Peter is just plain confused. The impatient boys head home. And because of their impatience, they miss out on a miracle (at least for now).
O God, who by the preaching of your apostle Paul have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen
Almighty Father, who inspired Simon Peter, first among the apostles, to confess Jesus as Messiah and Son of the Living God: Keep your Church steadfast upon the rock of this faith, that in unity and peace we may proclaim the one truth and follow the one Lord, our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.