Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
If you’ve ever been out in the early dawn, before the sunrises you will know something of the sound of silence. Even in a city like Toronto that is practically awake 24/7, the early morning hours provide a taste of silence, especially the further you are from downtown. Back when I trained to run a marathon, the early morning wake-ups were grueling, forcing myself to get out of bed before 5 am, strap on shoes and running clothes was difficult, but once out on the trails the stillness and silence never got old. I’ve never been someone who listens to music while running, instead taking in the sounds around me, and my favourite runs were the pre-dawn ones with the stillness and silence that hung in the air.
One of my favourite parts of those pre-dawn runs was to progressively hear the world wake up, as the nocturnal animals returned to their slumber and the birds would wake from theirs. It started off quiet at first, a few chirps here or there breaking through the silent stillness but over the course of the run it turned into a myriad of bird calls, rustling of squirrels or deer in the bush. The silence transformed into a symphony of nature, life bursting forth after the nightly sabbatical.
For two days the Word of God had laid silent in the earth, buried in the hillside tomb. The one through whom all things on earth were made, the one who was God’s word breathed and spoken upon the chaos at creation, had been rendered silent by the brutality, humiliation and degradation of a Roman Cross on Calvary, rendered silent by the total force of death and sin that the world could throw at him. A forced Sabbath from all the terrible work Jesus had accomplished over the past week: betrayed, beaten, humiliated, all the weight of sin and death hung from his shoulders on the Cross, the very Prince of Life experiencing the excruciating sting of death.
To everyone who watched the events of that fateful Friday that we recalled yesterday, the next day was no Sabbath day for Jesus. To them the Cross was the end, the end of their friend, the end of their teacher, the end of the one who they thought was God’s Messiah, ultimately it was the end of their hope. In the minds of the crowd Jesus had entered into eternal rest in Sheol, endless silence until the Lord’s day.
The women, in our Gospel story this night, came to the tomb early on the first day of the week, the day following the Sabbath, the day of rest – but for them it had not been restful, for them it was a day full of grief and loss; a day that had likely been spent huddled in hiding for fear that the authorities might come for them next. But with the Sabbath finished the women plucked up their courage and Luke tells us that they came to Jesus’ tomb in the pre-dawn, and were carrying spices – spices which would anoint the body of Jesus, a sign of their love and care for him whom they had known as their friend and Lord.
One can only imagine the silence that permeated the air when the women approached the tomb. Unlike Toronto where there is always a little bit of a hum even in the dead of night, stillness and silence would have filled the outskirts of Jerusalem. Unlike my morning runs, it was not the symphony of nature which pierced the morning air, but rather the shocked screams of the women as they came upon the tomb of their beloved lord, finding the stone rolled away.
Luke doesn’t tell us much about their reactions, but when we consider all of the Gospel accounts, we can imagine that the women who had come to the tomb that morning were gripped with grief, having lost Jesus for a second time, tears flowing for the indignity that someone had stolen his body, mere days after the first indignity of his brutal crucifixion.
But like the growing symphony of the birdsong on my early morning runs, the song of life was beginning to swell. While the tears filled the womens’ eyes, a dazzling light shone before them as two men appeared in the tomb, a light which pierced the dark pall which clouded their eyes, their hearts, their minds.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you.”
He is not here, but has risen.
He has risen!
Silence. Silence broken by the only words that could pierce it: life has overcome death. Grace has covered sin. Jesus has overcome the grave.
In the beginning Genesis tells us that on the seventh day God rested; here on the Sabbath day the Word of God was silent buried in earth, in a tomb cut into the hillside… but this night is the beginning of the eighth day; today is the day of new creation; today is the day that grace has washed away the stain of sin forever; today is the day that life has unequivocally claimed victory over death.
Last week, as we celebrated Palm Sunday, Jesus told the Pharisees that if the crowds were silent, the very stones would shout God’s praises. Today on the eighth day of creation, not only will the stones sing praises to God, but all Creation will sing with fulsome voice: the birds, the trees, every living creature will join in a symphony of praise; every corner of the earth will bask in the restoration, in the reconciliation, in the new life that Jesus has won through his death and resurrection.
Silence…. broken by the symphony of praise, silence… broken by the joyful chorus of creation.
Amidst the darkness, the brokenness, the sin and death of our world – Jesus breaks the silence with the words of life; the very Word of God speaks to us, speaks to you and me, opening up the path of life. This path passes through death, it passes through the darkness and despair of the Cross but on the other side is eternal and abundant life, life unfettered by the chains of sin.
Silence… broken by our alleluias, broken by our witness to the grace and life that God has offered to all through the life of his Son.
On this Easter night, let us not be silent; let us proclaim by word and deed the resurrection we have experienced in Jesus; let us declare through our lives that in God life has overcome death, grace has covered sin, love has defeated hate now and forever.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
Christ is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!