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Easter Sunday C

April 4, 2021

John 20:1-19

By Rev. John Tran

We take the joy of Easter for granted. Put yourself into the disciples shoes. Imagine: The wonderful Passover meal on Thursday ends on a mixed note: Jesus gives himself to his apostles by making bread and wine into his body and blood, but gives them also the strange charge to wash each others feet. Then he tells them that one of them will betray him. The eventful night ends in the dark confusion in the garden with Jesus being arrested. Things go down hill from there: all the apostles run away, Peter denies Jesus, and Jesus is condemned by the Jewish elders. It gets darker and worse: on Friday, Jesus is condemned to death by crucifixion by the Romans, he dies a shameful death and is buried. What a picture! All the disciples go into hiding in dread and fear, not to mention total disappointment and loss of hope: they had not understood what Jesus had been telling them about the kind of messiah he is.

It seems as if the power of the elders and Romans had won; but it was really their fear of loosing control, not their power that made Friday what it was. Fear and confusion also took over those who follow Jesus.

So, as the first Easter morning begins, what those followers experienced was not joy and peace, but confusion and despair over what had happened. The change in what they felt began slowly. It begins with the women early in the morning when they go to finish preparing Jesus' body, which had been hurriedly buried because Sabbath was beginning. What they find does not make sense: they find an empty tomb, with the burial cloths folded up.

In the gospel account in Luke which we read at the Easter Vigil, there is an angel, but in today's account from John, there is simply the empty tomb. We can feel the hope rising in the women and the two disciples who go to the tomb after the women report the extraordinary news that Jesus is not where they expect him to be. Hope rises all during the day: Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to the 12 in the upper room, and finally to the disciples going to Emmaus. This hope becomes belief, and then joy.

But what makes Easter day really mean something is not the joy, or even belief. In fact it it is what meeting the risen Jesus causes the disciples to do: they burst out of the upper room where they were hiding in fear, and go tell the world that Jesus is alive. The disciples are lead to put on Jesus and really become him for others. The result of the Resurrection is not simply belief and a quiet life. The resurrection leads us into a world that is full of surprises if we are open to taking up our cross and taking seriously our call to be Jesus to all those we meet. Each of us experiences the darkness of the upper room; but like the disciples, we have a real life only if we go forth. It is all a question of being faithful to the new commandment to washing each others feet. This is the new picture of Easter: love one another as Jesus loves us; and in doing this, lead a joyful exciting picture of new life.

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