Easter Sunday at Mississippi Abbey

This is what did not happen on the day of Jesus’ resurrection: It was the first day of the week, the disciples were hardly able to contain their excitement. The glorious day for the resurrection of Jesus had arrived! They formed a triumphant procession singing hymns and songs of thanksgiving as they went to the garden where Jesus was buried. Arriving at the tomb they saw that the stone had been rolled away just as they had expected. And behold! An angel inside the tomb said to them, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth. He has risen. He is not here.” Then Peter entered the tomb and carefully gathered the linen wrappings. Standing at the entrance, and lifting them high into the air in front of the other disciples he proclaimed, “The Lord has risen!” And they responded with shouts of joy, “The Lord has risen indeed.” But that’s not the way it happened, is it? By contrast, the Gospels are shockingly honest about the disciples disbelief.  

On the first day of the week three women came to the tomb with heavy hearts not to seek a risen Lord, but to anoint his dead, crucified body. They expected nothing more than a corpse. And the eleven apostles, fearful for their lives, did not even have enough courage to venture outside the locked room where they were hiding. After all that Jesus had said and done, after miracles and prophecies foretelling his death and resurrection, they did not even consider it a possibility. They had no hope at all that he would rise from the dead, not even enough faith to check out the tomb on the third day to see if he really meant what he foretold.

Then Jesus revealed himself to Mary Magdalene, to a woman who was a sinner, from whom he cast out seven demons. To her Jesus gave the honor to be the first to proclaim the good news. And when the other disciples did not believe her Jesus appeared to them and rebuked them for their lack of faith.

Several billion people in the world today still do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God who was crucified, died, and rose from the dead. So it is the mission and the honor of all Christians to profess the good news wherever we are.

In 1930, Moscow sent a Bolshevik named Bukharin to indoctrinate the Christians of Kiev about Communism. In a crowded assembly he presented many arguments against Christianity and in favor of militant atheism. The force of his words was backed by the presence of soldiers standing around the hall with weapons in hand. Pleased with his presentation, Bukharin asked if there were any questions. One man rose to his feet and asked permission to speak. He went up to the microphone and stood next to Bukharin. Not a sound was heard as he looked out over the people who were sick of hearing about the glories of Communism. And then he shouted out the ancient Orthodox greeting, “Christ is risen!” Immediately the entire assembly stood up together and with one voice thundered their response, “He is risen indeed!”  It didn’t happen this way on that first Easter Sunday. But it has been happening like this ever since. Christ is risen, alleluia, alleluia!