Acts 10:34, 38-42, Colossians 3:1-4, John 20:1-18
Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!
A certain kindergarten teacher was telling her students the story of Jesus. In her class was a little boy who came from a non-Christian family. He was paying very close attention to the story because it was all new to him. As the teacher told how Jesus was condemned and nailed to the cross to die the boy’s countenance fell and he murmured, “No! That’s too bad!” The teacher then went on to tell how on the third day Jesus rose from the dead and came back to life. The boy’s eyes lit up with delight and he exclaimed, “Totally awesome!” On Good Friday we heard the story of the suffering and death of Jesus. Like the little boy many of us felt like “No! That’s too bad!” Today we hear the rest of the story and again with the little boy we can now exclaim “Yes! Totally awesome!” Today we can again sing “Halleluiah” that we have not sung all through Lent. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24).
Why do we rejoice today? We rejoice because our faith in Christ has been vindicated, truth has triumphed over falsity, justice over injustice and tragedy has turned into comedy. It is like watching one of the episodes of Batman. First you see an innocent and helpless victim being attacked, robbed, kidnapped, assaulted and tortured by a wicked assailant. And we feel so bad seeing the triumph of the bad guy. Then, almost at the point where the victim has given up hope and is at the point of death, down from the skies comes Batman to the rescue. He battles and defeats the bad guy and rescues the innocent victim. And we feel happy inside at the triumph of justice.
The story of the suffering and death of Jesus on Good Friday is the story of the triumph of falsity over truth, of injustice over justice, of evil over goodness. Jesus was falsely charged of crimes he did not commit, and unjustly sentenced to a death he did not deserve. His good friend betrayed him, his trusted companions deserted him and his number one man denied him. The people he loved demanded his crucifixion and chose to have the bandit Barabbas released in his place. It is a story of betrayal and lies, dishonesty and meanness, unfaithfulness and wicked violence directed against an innocent and apparently helpless victim. All this comes to a head on Good Friday when we see Jesus scourged, mocked, led on the death march, nailed to the cross where he dies after a few hours and hastily buried in a tomb. If that were the end of the story that would be a bad story, a tragedy. But glory be to God it is not.
Death is not the end of the story. There is one more chapter. This is the most important chapter because, as the saying goes, they who laugh last laugh best. And in the last chapter of the story of Jesus we see him rise from the dead in all glory and majesty. He is vindicated. His enemies are shamed and confused. Jesus regains his eternal glory with the Father. He is the Lord who will prevail over all humankind, his enemies included. For us his embattled followers this is good news.
It is good news to know that truth is immortal. We can suppress Truth, accuse it of being a lie, condemn it, torture it, kill it, bury it in the grave but on the third day Truth will rise again. Remember this and do not give up on Truth even when everybody seems to give up on it. Do not give up on Truth; do not give up on Justice. Do not give up on doing what is right. True will always be true. Just will always be just. Right will always be right even when the world around us would have it otherwise. We must learn to believe in the sun even when it is not shining, knowing that by and by it will shine again. It is the end of the story that counts. That is why the church asks us today to rejoice and be glad. Even when we are going through very difficult times: through betrayal, unjust discrimination, lies, misrepresentations; even when the enemy seems to be winning the battle in our lives. Today Christ has won. And we know that in Christ we shall overcome. Halleluiah, Praise the Lord!