Many years ago my Father and I were walking along the beach and I asked him, “How do you know God exists?” He thought for a moment. Then he said, “Do you see that flock of seagulls hovering over the water there? I know that there is a school of fish just below the surface. I don’t have to see them to know they are there. If you want to know where the fish are, look for the birds.” The Resurrection account in the Gospel of Luke is not, “I’ll believe it when I see it;” rather the story begins with “I’ll believe it when I don’t see it.” In other words, Luke is calling us into hope, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 8, “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” The women come to the tomb and they do not see Jesus there. They go to the Disciples and proclaim what they had experienced. They proclaimed that which they do not see. Jesus was not there. There was only an empty tomb.
The Resurrection turns the world upside down and inside out. On the one hand, Resurrection is the proclamation of what we do not see because what we do see makes little sense. The four Gospels have radically different Resurrection accounts. In Mark, the women run from the tomb say nothing to anyone because they were afraid. In Matthew, Jesus appears to the women and tells them, “Do not be afraid. Go to Galilee and you will see me there.” In Luke Jesus appears only after the women go back to the Disciples. In John Jesus is there at the tomb and Mary mistakes him for a gardener. This is not the Gospel authors disagreeing with one another, this is an attempt at recording that for which there are no words. For example, how do you know this is brown? Because that is not brown. We learn a lot about our world by comparing and contrasting what we see. I know what being cold is because I have been warm. I know my hands are dry because they have been wet. I know what Resurrection is because . . . well, there’s nothing to which we can compare Resurrection. The Gospel writers had a difficult time describing Easter because it is a self-evident truth, like love, joy, and goodness. What is love? Well, a definition will always miss the point without experience. What is Resurrection? Jesus appears behind locked doors. He eats fish. He has wounds. He disappears. What is that? How does God show us Resurrection? By offering an empty tomb. By asking us “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” By offering us hope—the gift of faith in that which is unseen.
So what is it that we are not to be seeing? When we no longer see abject poverty, we know we are experiencing the Resurrection. When we no longer see children who are hungry, we know we are experiencing Resurrection. When we no longer see people vilifying each other because they disagree, we know we are experiencing the Resurrection. When we no longer see young girls being sold into slavery, we know we are experiencing the Resurrection. When we no longer see violence in schools, we know we are experiencing Resurrection. The tomb is not so much empty as it is full of the darkness that Christ crucified. Resurrection is the proclamation of hope—faith in things unseen.
But our abundant God doesn’t stop there. The Easter story is more than the darkness of the tomb. It is more than things unseen. It is more than knowing the fish are below the surface. It is also about raising your eyes to see the birds. Resurrection doesn’t leave us in hope, but also offers us assurance. Resurrection is also about what we do see. When the women realize that Jesus is not there, the angels say, “Remember what he told you, that he must die and be raised on the third day,” and they remembered. Their eyes were opened to what the scriptures were saying. You see, Resurrection offers us hope—faith in things unseen. Resurrection also offers us assurance—faith in what we do see. Their eyes were opened to the scriptures, and Christ did appear to the women and to the disciples. Christ first appeared in the breaking of the bread. When we gather around the table, we see and proclaim that Christ is risen! When we love our enemies, we see and proclaim that Christ is risen! When we feed the hungry and clothe the naked, we see and proclaim that Christ is risen! When we beat our swords into plowshares, we see and proclaim that Christ is risen! When all of humanity is valued as being made in the image of God, we see and proclaim that Christ is risen! When you know that you have been forgiven, and that you are loved, and that God wants to be with you each and every day, we see and proclaim Christ is risen! Easter is about hope—faith in things unseen, knowing that the tomb is full of the darkness which separates us from God and each other. Easter is also about assurance—faith in what is seen, knowing that this new kingdom, this new creation is built on forgiveness and reconciliation, and love. This is no idle tale. It is life, itself. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Praise be to God! Amen.