Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come; see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples. He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him. So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said “Greetings!” And they came to him took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Easter Sunday! A day for new clothes, for celebrating just how good life is, and for rejoicing that with us, the world is once again coming to life, renewing, resurrecting, re-enliving what had been cold and closed and dormant. And we want to be part of it. We want to be part of the celebration, part of the affirmation that life is good, part of the expression of gratitude that life, and love and spring have come again. We are a little more iffy on the resurrection part.
The story of Jesus’ resurrection pushes many of us just beyond the point of credulity. It might make us sad or angry, if we had grown up with the all the fun, the bells and whistles of Easter, and now, with our adult skepticism we feel that we need to give all of that up- or should. And it is a lot to give up. But we don’t need to.
Biblical scholar John Dear wrote a book called the Questions of Jesus. It turns out that while the powers that be, the political powers and the ecclesiastical powers want there to be known answers to difficult questions, common answers that bind the people and quell dissent, Jesus had a different idea.
Jesus, as one who nurtured the growth of the spirit in individuals and in the community did not parcel out answers. He was not the answer guy. He wanted people to think things through for themselves. Jesus only directly answers three of the 183 questionsthat are posed to him in the four Gospels. Only three answers! In contrast, Jesus, the teacher, the guide, the respecter of persons is recorded as asking 307 questions of others. He was the question dude, not the answer dude. Which suggests to me that it is not only not blasphemous or irreverent to approach Easter Sunday with questions, confusion and even a little healthy skepticism; it is the approach that Jesus would have encouraged us to take. Come to life with an open mind and an open heart- curious, questioning, learning all the time. There you will find the life of the spirit in full flower, in the engagement of curiosity in the service of wonder and love.
However, not all questions are equally helpful. Not all questions will get you to the deeper wellsprings of your soul, or of your world. There was a time when the slogan “To question is the answer,” was popular, and many folks slapped bumper stickers on their car with that saying. It is cute, but it is not true. Not every question is worthy of being asked. Not every question will lead us deeper into the life of beauty, truth and love.
Francis Collins, who was the director of the incredible Genome project, that was mapping the human genetic code, tells this story:
There once was a man who wanted to know all about the creatures that lived at the bottom of the sea.
So he created a huge net with weaving that left openings of only three inches between each weft and warp.
He devised an elaborate plan to lay the huge net down upon the ocean floor, let it set awhile, and then pulled it up, capturing all in its grasp. Then he examined the contents and prepared a report on his meticulous research.
It was all fascinating, he said. So many different creatures and varieties. The thing he found interesting though, was that there are no creatures smaller than three inches that inhabit the ocean floor.
The questions we ask, will determine the kinds of answers we will get, and ultimately their truthfulness and their usefulness. If you leave three inch holes in your question, you will only retrieve answers that don’t fall through those cracks. The answers do lie in questions, but they must be wise, insightful, probing and open enough, that they have the chance of engaging the deeper dimensions of our souls.
In the Gospel of John, which begins with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, two of John’s disciples who have witnessed the baptism, start to follow Jesus. He says to them “What are you looking for?”
“What are you looking for?” It is a hard question, a non-trivial question that can take you places, important places. What is it that you are looking for? For what does your spirit yearn? For what do you hunger and thirst?
When blind Bartimaeus who has been sitting by the road to Jericho calls out to Jesus “Son of David have mercy on me!” Jesus stops and engages him. He does not presume what the need is; he asks. “What do you want me to do for you?”
What do you want me to do for you? It is Jesus most frequent question. Bartimaeus says “My teacher, let me see again.”
“Go,” Jesus says, “your faith has made you well.” (Mark 10: 46-52) Bartimaeus’ knowing of his need and of his deep yearning, Jesus calls faith.
Focusing Questions: What are you looking for? What do you want me to do for you? To answer these questions is to do the faith work we are called to.
And what of resurrection? Maybe the question is about you and your spirit, and not about Jesus. What is it that you need to revive your soul? For what are you looking? When you can speak the answer, as did Blind Bartimaeus, the Holy Spirit can respond and your faith will have made you well.
Prayer: Gracious God, Sustainer of Life, Healer of hearts and aching souls, we thank you for this day, for this time to be who we are, naked and unafraid, before you. You have known us and loved us anyway, despite our sins of omission and commission. You have held on to us, even when we have let go of you.
For this day of revival of our spirits and resurrection of our faith, we give thanks. We ask that we might have the open heart and mind and spirit to receive all that you have to give.
We ask your blessings upon us, upon those we love, and upon those we do not love, for while our hearts are limited, yours, O God is not.
And through your blessings this day and in the days to come, may we become blessings to our world in need. Amen.
1. John Dear, The Questions of Jesus, Image Books, Doubleday, 2004, p. xxi
2. Op cit