He died but he’s not dead. That’s the paradox of Easter. It’s the story we tell every year. It never changes. It always ends the same way. The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. I can’t explain how it happened but I want to be told again and again that it did happen. I think we all do. I think that’s why we come here on this day.
Like children with a favorite bedtime story we want to hear it one more time. We need to hear it one more time. It’s not because we think the story has changed or might end differently. It’s because our story, our individual life story, has changed and is changing and we’re just not sure how it will end.
Life is delicate. Relationships are fragile. We work to make changes and then go back to doing the same old thing. One day all is well, the next it’s all different. The doctor gives a diagnosis. A spouse wants a divorce. We watch a parent struggle with dementia. We worry about our kids. A loved one dies. A job is lost. Sometimes it feels as if we are hanging on by a thread and getting more tired by the minute.
These and a thousand others like them are the stories we carry with us. They are stories of change, fear, loss, and death. They are the stories that took the women to the tomb in today’s gospel. They are the stories we bring with us today and they are the reason we want and need to hear the Easter story one more time. So here it is.
The empty tomb lies within each of our stories. Regardless of what happens next in your story the ending has been written. The stone has been rolled away. Not so Jesus could get out but so we can see in. (Culpepper, 473) There is no body. The tomb is empty. There is nothing there. God has a future for us. That is the promise of Easter. That’s what we come to hear and be told today. Christ is risen from the dead.
Sometimes this all seems like an idle tale, too good to be true, too improbable to be real, and too hard to believe. Look again. The stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty. Listen to the story a thousand times. It will not change. Our life has been guaranteed by God.
So what does that mean for us? It means we can quit looking for the living among the dead. It means we no longer have to look at the past and say, “If only.” It means we no longer have to look at the future and worry, “What if?” For me it means that when someone asks, “Do you have children?” I can say, “Yes. We have two sons. The younger one lives in Hawaii. The older one died about three years ago.” It means that I can never say he is dead. He died but he is not dead. That is the truth of Easter and it is as true for each one of you and your losses and deaths as it is for me.
Christ is risen! The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!