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Narrative Lectionary: Perplexed, Fearful, and Amazed (Luke 24:1-12)

Photo from https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Nativity-Figurine-Decorations-Centerpiece/dp/B08YFCDT36/ref=sr_1_19?dchild=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw0oCDBhCPARIsAII3C_EF19XcTcQKo4G7mhusxVF9HFL2ISFOvprbpctHEFwKKT8Y-Y38h0saAijsEALw_wcB&hvadid=504000939082&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9007519&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=b&hvrand=12245487440315522146&hvtargid=kwd-1194120751851&hydadcr=8758_10371787&keywords=wooden+easter+nativity+set&qid=1616977447&sr=8-19

Link to the text:  https://classic.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke24%3A1-12&version=NRSV;NIV;NLT;GNT;MSG

While most versions title this pericope “Jesus’ Resurrection,” this is a Monday-morning quarterback viewpoint. The Message more accuratelycalls this “Looking for the Living One in a Cemetery.”The women are looking for Jesus’ body to finish what they couldn’t before the Sabbath. They find the body gone and they are “perplexed” (NRSV). This sounds like a puzzle that leads to reasoned consideration in an easy chair with your pointer finger by your mouth, but the Greek means they are thoroughly perplexed and at a complete loss.

While in this state, the women are confronted by two men in blindingly white, glowing clothing. Like all meetings between humans and God’s messengers, the encounter makes them afraid. They bow down, and the two messengers remind them how Jesus spoke of his resurrection. And the women remember Jesus’ words. The women then tell those words to the disciples. The term for the “words” of Jesus and the “words” of the women about their encounter is the same (rhema, v.8 and v.11). Thus, the Greek appears to indicate that the women used the same words as the two messengers did–that they spoke as Jesus spoke and they tell what Jesus had said.

The reactions of the women and the disciples are, of course, quite different. The women appear to believe the messengers, going forward to share this nascent Good News. The text specifically reports that the disciples do not believe the women, thinking their words (rhema) an idle tale. This disbelief is in accord with the legal and cultural norms of biblical times when women were not accepted as witnesses in court and life.

In this part of Luke 24, there are not as yet any eyewitnesses to the risen Christ himself.  Jesus does not appear to anyone. The eyewitnesses have only, as of now, beheld the absence of Jesus’ body. The women find that the body missing and are perplexed. Peter finds the graveclothes empty and is amazed. What we have are eyewitnesses to the sharing of the news. We have messengers (the two men and the women). We have the word of the two messengers reminding the women of Jesus’ words. We have the word of the women telling the disciples what happened. What we have is words about the Word.

This is in some ways just the beginning of the story. The Word is told, it is shared, before it is experienced. It is heard before it is understood. Jesus’ followers have been told the Good News; and shortly they will see and experience the resurrected Jesus themselves. They have been telling Good News and soon they will be living into (but not solving) the mystery of the resurrected life, of new life. But in this passage, the words predicting and proclaiming the resurrection and the absence of the body are what they have.  

Since the Resurrection, we too are witnesses who share words about the Word. Since the Ascension, while believing in the Resurrection, we too are witnesses to an “absent” Jesus with regard to his body.  In the Church, we live out the words about the Word through the preaching of the Word. In the Church, we participate in the absent, ascended, resurrected Jesus through sharing in the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper.  And, in the world, we live out our witness to the Word and to the resurrected Christ by speaking of God’s selfless love and by acting in selfless love as the body of Christ.

Links

This year’s Working Preacher commentary is at https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/resurrection-3/commentary-on-luke-241-12-7. Further WP commentaries on this text can be found at https://www.workingpreacher.org/?s=Luke+24%3A1-12+E

For other ways of looking/thinking about this passage (themes with links expounding on them), see https://bjhlog.wordpress.com/2021/03/25/narrative-lectionary-themes-and-resources-for-easter-luke-24-1-12/

Questions

  1. What does it mean to look for the living among the dead?
  2. How do we use Jesus’ words when we tell the Good News?
  3. Where do we see legal and cultural disbelief of groups of people today?
  4. What does it mean that Jesus’ body is absent but present?
  5. What are the next steps in our own journey to knowing the resurrected Jesus?
  6. How can the church more fully witness to that journey?

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Barb Hedges-Goettl is a Presbyterian pastor and liturgical scholar recently moved to Rehoboth Beach, DE. She works with middle school special ed students in between writing liturgy, spending time with her husband Len, and training their new puppy, Cocoa.

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Narrative Lectionary Themes and Resources for Easter: Luke 24: 1-12

Photo https://www.amazon.com/Resurrection-Nativity-Figurine-Decorations-Centerpiece/dp/B08YFCDT36/ref=sr_1_19?dchild=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw0oCDBhCPARIsAII3C_EF19XcTcQKo4G7mhusxVF9HFL2ISFOvprbpctHEFwKKT8Y-Y38h0saAijsEALw_wcB&hvadid=504000939082&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9007519&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=b&hvrand=12245487440315522146&hvtargid=kwd-1194120751851&hydadcr=8758_10371787&keywords=wooden+easter+nativity+set&qid=1616977447&sr=8-19

An overview from pulpfiction.com addressing some of the aspects of meaning of Luke 24 can be found at  https://www.pulpitfiction.com/notes/easterc where the passage is part of the lectionary texts addressed there.

Another intro is found in a Working Preacher podcast* on the text, see https://www.workingpreacher.org/podcasts/narrative-lectionary-078-empty-tomb.

The arresting aspect of the text for me is that it stops short of where we usually go on Easter. The aspect of the incredulity of the resurrection and what they have to go on in these first verses from Luke 24 is taken up at minute 3 of the NL podcast listed above.  What is it that the disciples and Peter have in this pericope?  They are given an empty space into which a testimony/the word comes. Circling back to the tomb and finding nothing, they are called to go and tell others. This is also what we have—testimony to share.  Doubt on Easter (and not just by Doubting Thomas!), with an emphasis on the Greek is addressed at http://lectionarygreek.blogspot.com/2013/03/luke-241-12.html  For more on this, see my separate post “Perplexed, Afraid and Amazed.”

Taking this in a slightly different direction is “How can we believe the unbelievable?” by Eric Barreto https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/narrative-lectionary/resurrection-3/commentary-on-luke-241-12.

Preaching professor Tom Long also takes up the theme of the resurrection as unbelievable, too good to be true, at https://www.christiancentury.org/article//empty-tomb-empty-talk

Another take on this is to think of ourselves as entering, vs. solving, the mystery. See  http://caitlintrussell.org/2019/04/21/entering-the-easter-mystery-or-life-joy-and-suffering-luke-241-12/    or as improv and surprise (by Homer Henderson), see                                                                                               https://day1.org/weekly-broadcast/5d9b820ef71918cdf200241c/sunday_morning_at_the_improv   

Giving death its due (which might be appropriate these days) provides fodder for “We are all terminal, but… “ by Princeton Seminary President Craig Barnes at                                  https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2004-04/we-re-all-terminal 

The resurrection as an unnatural event, presenting a similar theme, w/ emphasis on the but, is Theodore J. Wardlaw at   https://www.christiancentury.org/article/2007-03/unnatural-event                                                    

The above WP podcast* (minute 7:30) also unfolds the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” We tend to look for the dead among the dead, but the dead are no longer dead. Sin has been forgiven; we no longer reside in brokenness and imperfection and despair. See also Joseph S. Pagano https://www.episcopalchurch.org/sermon/the-angels-question-the-great-vigil-of-easter-2019/

This year’s written Working Preacher commentary** lifts up the theme of the relationship between Jesus’ absence/the empty tomb and Jesus’ presence and also the related theme of remembrance. The theme of remembrance is also found in https://www.progressiveinvolvement.com/progressive_involvement/2010/03/lectionary-blogging-easter-luke-24-112.html

The podcast* also addresses the role of the women (beginning and end of the podcast) and “on the first day of the week,” echoing Genesis to talk about a new creation, in which the future re-creation breaks into the now. (minute 6)

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