Before the sun had risen some of the women that loved Jesus made their way to the tomb. They carried with them items that they would use to show their final respect for his battered body. The gospels present differing narrative accounts but agree that the women found the tomb open and empty. Some of them rushed to tell the disciples that his body had been removed. Two of the disciples came and saw the empty tomb and returned to the place where they had been hiding fearing for their own safety.
John’s gospel tells how Mary Magdalene remained alone at the grave and looked inside the tomb to see two angels sitting at the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. They asked her why she was weeping. She turned and saw Jesus and she thought he was the gardener. It wasn’t until he called her by name that she recognized him.
Later the gospel writers describe the disciples gathered together when Peter announces that he is going fishing. They cast their nets all through the night but catch nothing. Suddenly Jesus calls out to them from the shore asking if they have caught anything. He instructs them to cast their nets on the other side of their boat and the net is filled. Only then were John’s eyes opened and he tells Peter, “It is the Lord!”
In our passage, two of Jesus’ followers are walking the seven mile road from Jerusalem to Emmaus commiserating about their loss when Jesus approached them asking what they are talking about. They do not recognize who he is… even as he presents the Scripture’s narrative describing how the Messiah must suffer and die and then rise from the dead. It is only later, as they sit down to eat when Jesus breaks the bread that, “Their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
We lost a great author last month; Harper Lee. Her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird” describes a small town in the deep south of America. It captures a piece of our country’s past. The novel was published in 1960 and a wonderful film was made in 1962 staring Gregory Peck as the widowed attorney, Atticus Finch.
In one scene a rabid dog stumbles down the road and into the community. In the 1930’s human contact with rabies meant death. The children, Jem and Scout are instructed to get into the safety of the house as the sheriff and their father, Atticus, both remain in the road. As the sheriff passes the rifle to Atticus the older child cries out, “No!” He assumes that his father has no experience with a rifle. Atticus shoots the rabid dog and Jem suddenly recognizes something he had never before known about his father. The sheriff turns to Jem and Scout and says, “Didn’t you know that your father was the best shot in the county?”
In the difficult to watch courtroom scene, the prosecutor asks Tom why he would come into the fenced yard of the young white woman who accused him of assaulting her. He begins to answer that it was because he felt sorry for her. His answer is true but it dooms him because the jury is made up of men who could not accept the fact that a black man could feel sorry for a white woman. That would mean that all races are equal and they could not recognize that truth.
Even Atticus, in the climactic scene of Harper Lee’s story is at first blind to what happened as his children were attacked by Bob Ewell. In the film adaptation of the book, Atticus struggles to remember if Jem was 12 or 13 years of age making the assumption that Jem had stabbed Bob Ewell protecting his sister. Atticus was already thinking about Jem’s legal standing stating, “Of course it was an act of self defense.” The sheriff turns to Atticus and asks, “You think Jem stabbed Bob Ewell?!” as he looks at the gentle and shy character that was Arthur "Boo" Radley. Just as Atticus realizes the truth the sheriff states, “I am still the sheriff of this county and I say that Bob Ewell fell on his knife.” Atticus turns to Boo, shakes his hand and says, “Thank you Arthur… for saving my children’s life.”
I find it interesting how we are so often blinded to certain understandings in our own lives. How we differentiate God’s love for us from those who we feel are different than ourselves; by the color of their skin or their language, sexuality or faith.
Resurrection means so much more than the truth of an empty tomb. Resurrection is the power to see clearly what before; we had been too blind to see. It is our hearts and minds being brought to life through God’s love for all creation. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen Indeed!