"Next, on 'Luke'," by Pastor Fred
At our house we tend to DVR most of our shows. Partly because we’re often not there when our shows are on, and partly because we like to fast forward through the commercials, if you kinow what I mean! And, here’s the important part! As we turn our attention away from whatever it was we were doing, we sometimes miss the, “previously on NCIS, or, previously on Blackish.” Wait, one of us will say, Go back, I don’t remember what happened last week! Oh ya, he was in that terrible car accident. I can’t believe it! Did he survive? Is he still alive? And we’re hooked, we’re ready to watch what comes next.
That’s how I feel about Easter, today – I don’t want to miss the “previously in Luke!” This episode of Luke we just read, is not nearly as exciting, or fulfilling, without the “previously on Luke…” I mean, why are the women going to the tomb, early at dawn, on Sunday morning? Who are these women, exactly? Two Mary’s and Joanna? And why the prepared Spices? Is this a cooking episode with Rachel Rae! Why are two men in dazzling clothes? Did we record, Project Runway! Wait! Go back to “previously!”
Ok, “Previously on Luke,” remember it was just this past Thursday, that Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, and in the middle of this festive, feel good family get together, all hell breaks loose when, out of nowhere, Jesus predicts one of them would betray him to the authorities, who would arrest him, and another would later deny him 3 times, even as he stood trial for sedition and pretending to be King of the Jews? And their banqueting table is turned into a melee, like a March Madness pool of fans playing their NCAA fantasy brackets, shouting each other down!? Remember how the disciples turned the Seder into a quarrel about who was the greatest among them?!
And on the next day, at noon on Good Friday, after all Jesus’ predictions come eerily true, and after all the disciples had abandoned him – except a few un-named acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, says Luke – remember how he was crucified, a true Passover spectacle for those arriving in Jerusalem for the holidays. Remember how one of the authorities, Joseph of Arimathea, the only one who didn’t cast a vote to crucify Jesus, offered up one of his own upper-class tombs, large, and in a garden, to honor of him?
And also “previously,” remember how the women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women who followed from Galilee, disciples in their own right, were the only ones who had not fled, but had observed from a distance to the cross, away from the drunken spectators, mocking the King of the Jews, who eagerly imbibed the narrative of Rome’s absolute power and control?
Remember how the women had stayed to the bitter end, observing where Joseph of Aramthea, the rebel Councilman, had laid Jesus’ body, in his rock hewn tomb, right at sundown, and because it was the beginning of the Sabbath, they couldn’t fulfill the duties of washing and anointing his body on Saturday, so they went home to wait and prepare, so that, as soon as the Sabbath was over, on Sunday, at early dawn, they would be ready to bring the spices to anoint his body? Remember?
And now, on this week’s episode of, The Gospel According to Luke… It was “the first day of the week, at early dawn, when [the women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared…” What they expected, of course, was to pick up where they left off. They expected to find his body, and to lovingly anoint it with the spices, myrrh and aloes, just as they did for every family member who passed away. They expected to have to ask someone to help them roll away the stone. All that by itself, would have been a beautiful story. But a plot twist is coming!
And so, about half-way into our DVR’d episode of Luke, a number of our questions we had going in are answered, but now, new ones are arising too.
How about a more familiar story?! Sometimes you have to take a break from an intense drama. One of my favorite escape stories, ripped from the headlines this year, is the discovery of Planet Nine, just announced, about the two scientists from Cal Tech, who think they have discovered a new planet, here in our solar system?! Remember how Pluto used to be one of our planets, the 9th, and farthest from the sun, until about a decade ago, when it was declassified? Now a new addition to our solar system, some 50 billion miles away, much farther than Pluto, and ten times the mass of Earth, could be added. While they haven’t actually sighted the planet, they’re very sure it exists—because they say, “nothing else can account” for the way objects in that outer part of the solar system move. “It must be there,” as one astronomer said. “Nothing else could exert such influence!”
Ok, now I think we’re is prepared for what comes next in “Luke!”
When the women arrived with their anointing spices to find that the stone to the tomb had already been rolled away, they went in, but his body is not there! Being perplexed about this, says Luke, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them – 1st C. code for angels, or God’s FedEx delivery service. And their same-day message to the women? ‘“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words.”
So, “previously in Luke,” worked for the women too! Jesus had prepared them for this moment, telling them 3 times previously in this season, that: “the Son of Man must suffer and die, and on the third day rise again.” It’s just that, nobody understood what that meant. Even though resurrection was becoming a common belief in Jesus’ time, no one had seen it yet. Was Jesus the planet that had to be there? The, “nothing else that could exert such influence!”
The disciples had abandoned Jesus, because they still lived in Pluto’s orbit – the old narrative that Jesus was preparing them for a battle against Rome and the current corrupt authorities of the Temple, and eventually a victory, ala, King David! But they did not perceive how Jesus was talking about “Planet Nine,” a whole new orbit, and about overcoming the last and greatest enemy of all, death itself!
And this episode, “The Resurrection,” is not the final episode of “As Luke Turns,” because, the women’s story is at first, not believed – as too often has happened in history – they’re scoffed at, by the 12 Apostles, when they report the good news. But Peter decides to confirm his disbelief, and runs over to the tomb himself, only to find Mary, and the other women, are telling the truth!
There are previews of what’s next, at the end of every 1 hour episode, too?! And so, Next on Luke: that very evening, two un-named disciples are returning to their home in Emmaus, a few miles away! A stranger comes near and joins them… cut to late night dinner at home, and the stranger is breaking bread at the head of the table. Could it be? He looks exactly like Jesus did at the Passover meal… Tune in and find out next week! And so go a number of the wild and disparate appearances of Jesus in the gospels. And of course there’s that spin-off series Luke writes, called, The Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter stars. And also, introducing the evil, but handsome, Paul of Tarsus!
Like the discovery of a brand new planet in our solar system, still un-seen, we are left to take a bit of a leap of faith, as the followers of the risen Christ. What is certain, is that the apostles lives were changed in a most profound way. Their expectations of a Messiah were fulfilled, just not as they expected. It was a sharp pivot, as sharp as finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
But they began to see that he lived again as one who had come from God, who had conquered the power of death, provisionally for us, in the here and now, and as one who promised the future redemption of all creation. His life, death, and resurrection, stand for the future God is drawing us all towards already – giving us a map and directions on how to go. The prayer that Jesus had taught them – your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth! as it is in heaven – finally made sense!
God love’s us, and all the world. God’s future is breaking into our lives already - no one else could exert such influence. Now we too, are made a part of the next episode of Luke – we become disciples and followers of Christ in real time – perhaps a new Reality Show!
Alleluia, Christ is risen…!