EASTER | Three Honest Questions of Faith
Rachel Billups | Luke 24: 1-12
One of the best ways to gain faith is to wrestle through a few good questions and that’s what I’d like to create space for today… three questions, nothing complicated.
1. What are you afraid of?
Fear can wreck us! Did you know that fear weakens our immune system and causes cardiovascular damage? Fear can lead to problems like ulcers and IBS! Fear also effects our memory, even potentially damaging part of our brain called the hippocampus, causing us to live with a low hum of anxiety. Fear messes with our minds and makes it difficult to process and react to information. Long-term fear can lead to fatigue, clinical depression and PTSD.
So, it’s no wonder the women who have just experienced the trauma of Jesus’ crucifixion (Luke 24) came to the tomb in a fear-ridden fog of confusion.
When they arrived, they expected to have to overcome obstacles, roll away a big ole stone, but the stone isn’t in place, and neither was Jesus’ body. Can they really trust what they are seeing or is it just the fear and anxiety talking? Perhaps your fear is clouding your judgement today.
“While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24: 4-5 NIV).
2. Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
Our fears sometimes cause us to look of quick fixes. We grasp for a habit or hang up. But do we really expect them to give us life? Why are we searching for the living among dead-end hang-ups?
We binge watch Netflix, pour that 4th glass of wine, eat too much dessert, sink ourselves into bad relationships, that next job promotion or nearly anything that we believe will make us happy.
We can do all the things, achieve all the goals, drink all the drinks and still feel empty on the inside. Why are we looking for the living among the dead?
Several friends, colleagues and people I admire have left the church looking for faith alternatives. Some have poured their lives into advocating for people on the margin. Others have focused inward, working hard for inner peace. Still others get swept up in politics, thinking that a political affiliation will provide them with meaning.
Jesus is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” And it was then that the women remembered his words” (Luke 12: 6-8 NIV).
Resurrection was confusing! These women were attempting to piece it all together on their feet – using all the faith they could muster. Could Jesus have really risen from the dead? Could this be happening?
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke 24: 9-12 NIV).
The empty tomb isn’t magic and poof everyone believes. No, people are wrestling, the women are afraid, the men are resistant and even after Peter runs to the tomb to see for himself, he leaves asking himself, “What the heck just happened?”
If you don’t have a healthy dose of skepticism about this Jesus story, I wonder have you ever really wrestled through the Easter story for yourself?
Jesus doesn’t promise magic, Jesus promises God’s presence with us in ordinary and extraordinary ways. It’s not about making your life a little better, making you more successful, and having everything your heart desires. The divine invitation is an offer to experience the resurrected Christ.
When I think about my friends who leave the church, I wonder if they’ve found life in anything other than what Jesus offered – Jesus’ invitation is and was an invitation to experience unconditional love and undeserved grace.
Jesus draws me in even when I make pitiful life choices. Jesus never leaves in me in my mess. Jesus grows me from the inside out.
I can’t let go of Jesus and Jesus’ community (the Church) because even though humans are broken, the only way to put them back together is the power of Christ’s love.
Jesus’ sacrificial love invites us to consider a third question today:
3. What will you do with Jesus?
Derrick Williams, young dad and husband, who serves with our family ministry team, was looking for the living among the dead and had to come to terms with what he would do with Jesus. This is his story.