In the Name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

Easter involves the body of Jesus Christ. It is not a ghost story. On Good Friday Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man and a secret follower of Jesus who sat on the court that condemned him, went to Pilate and asked for the crucified dead body of Jesus. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a linen shroud, and laid it in a rock hewn tomb where no one had yet been laid. Nothing more could be done that late afternoon because it was the eve of the Jewish Sabbath which is Saturday.

The women who had followed Jesus up to Jerusalem from Galilee saw the tomb and noted where and how his body was laid; then they prepared spices and ointments to anoint him.  They rested according to the Sabbath Commandment.  At early dawn on Sunday they returned to the tomb, taking their spices and ointments.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, and when they entered, they did not find the body of Jesus. Saint Luke says they were perplexed.  Matthew and Mark say they were amazed and afraid.  Saint John says that Mary Magdalene was dismayed and that she wept. It was bad enough that Jesus had been judicially murdered by his enemies.  Now she was deprived of showing reverence for her dear Lord’s body.

While they were perplexed about this, two men appeared standing by them in dazzling apparel; and as the women bowed their faces to the ground, the men said, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?”  They reminded the women that Jesus himself had foretold his crucifixion and had also said that on the third day he would rise from the dead.  So the women told all these things to the eleven apostles, who took their words to be “idle tales.”  The other Gospel writers join Saint Luke in recounting this unbelieving response by the apostles to the women’s report.

Then things started to happen.  First, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene near the tomb while she was weeping.  She mistook him for the gardener, asking where the body of Jesus had been taken, but then the Lord spoke her name.  Then Jesus walked on the road out of Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus alongside two disciples who did not recognize him until he blessed and broke bread with them at their destination; and he vanished. The two hastened back from Emmaus to Jerusalem, and as they were telling the apostles in the locked Upper Room, Jesus, who already had appeared to Simon Peter, appeared and stood among them.  But they were startled and frightened and supposed they were seeing a spirit.  Jesus showed them his hands and his side and ate a piece of broiled fish before them, saying, “A spirit has no flesh and bones, as you see I have.”  Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you, and what was written of me in the Scriptures must be fulfilled…that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.  You are witnesses of these things.”[1]

Much more would happen.  Jesus would reveal his resurrection a week later to Thomas in the locked Upper Room; then again to Peter and John and Thomas and four other apostles by the Sea of Galilee; then to more than 500 disciples at one time; then to his brother James; and finally, to an enemy of his disciples on his way from Jerusalem to persecute more of them in Damascus – Saul of Tarsus, whom we know as Saint Paul, the man who was to write half of the New Testament.[2]  The resurrection appearances eventually would cease after Jesus ascended to his Father in heaven and sent in his place the Holy Spirit to empower his church to the end of time.

So here we are, celebrating Easter an ocean away from Jesus’s Empty Tomb two millennia later. The resurrection we celebrate is not a ghost story, but neither is it the resuscitation of a body back into this earthly life.  Anyone thus miraculously revived must die again.  But Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death has no more dominion over him. Jesus’s resurrection appearances defy space and time.  Jesus did not have to rent a room in between his resurrection appearances.  Nor is Jesus confined to the 33 years of his earthly life.  He was raised, and he lives, in glory, body, soul and spirit, in perfect union with God.

What we see in Jesus’s resurrection is coming our way, to each of us.  The Apostle says that when we die we leave an earthly body which returns to the dust; but that we shall be changed.  The trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised incorruptible. We die an earthly body; we will be raised a spiritual body.  This mortal will put on immortality.  Jesus’s resurrection is not past.  It has to do with us now; now and on the other side of death.[3]

Easter leaves us with a question: What shall we do?  Recall the short lesson this morning from Paul’s letter to the Colossians.  He said since we have been raised with Christ, we are to seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Our true life is there. “You are dead,” he writes, “and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ who is our life appears, then we will appear with him in glory.”

Easter is no ghost story. As for the whereabouts of Jesus Christ’s body, let’s start our search by receiving the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. Do you have doubts?  Don’t let that stop you.  Mary Magdalene and Peter and Thomas and several other disciples, even members of Jesus’s family all doubted.  As have I.  If you’re not baptized, we can do something about that – probably not right now, but soon enough. Just talk to one of us; we’ll be delighted to help you. 

Depend upon it, this is the real thing.  It’s all true.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen!  The Lord is risen indeed!  Alleluia.

In the Name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost.  Amen.


[1] St. Luke 24:1-53; St. Matthew 28:1-20; St. Mark 16:1-8, 9-20; St. John 20:1-30; 21:1-25.

[2] I Corinthians 15:1-11.

[3] I Corinthians 15:35-58.

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