Rev. Sam Gutierrez
Alleluia–Christ is risen! “Alleluia” is a common refrain during the Easter season. It means “Praise the Lord!” Easter is the second major feast day in the Christian liturgical calendar, followed by a fifty day season allowing us to explore the wonder, depth, and far-reaching implications of Easter morning.
There are many verses in the gospels that pertain to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. One of my favorites is John 20:7 (ESV) “…and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, was not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.” On that Sunday morning two thousand years ago, Jesus woke up from his death sleep. His eyes opened and he untwisted the funeral robes he was wrapped in. Next, he folded the cloth covering his face and placed it neatly on the ground. This simple and silent moment speaks loudly about God’s redemptive work. Death is defeated once and for all, but not with fireworks, bullhorns or flashy billboards. God’s defeat of death is marked by Jesus calmly and quietly folding up the death cloth.
Yet in that moment the world shifted on its axis. Nothing has ever been the same.
Easter is not only the defeat of death, but is also God’s stamp of approval on the Jesus way—the path of peace and nonviolence. God does not resort to redemptive violence; God saves the world through redemptive suffering—by taking the violence upon himself. This is why the first Christians were called followers of “the way.” This “way” is the way of love. The church is called to follow Jesus in his way of love and to join God in his work of healing and reconciliation—praying for and loving enemies rather than excluding them and exterminating them. The radical gospel movement is towards inclusion rather than exclusion, towards reconciliation rather than retribution.
This is why many of the lectionary passages during the Easter season are drawn from the book of Acts. Following the resurrection, the lectionary texts highlight how the good news of Easter works its way from the garden tomb into streets, cities and homes. The early church speaks and lives the message that death has been defeated, fear has been unmasked, and “the Jesus way” is the only way to bring healing to our world (and our hearts).
Easter is a feast day—I pray you were able to feast and to celebrate the risen Christ with your loved ones at home. But the season of Easter continues for the next fifty days—fifty days to pray, read, talk, eat, laugh, reflect and dive deep into the far-reaching implications of Easter morning. Take a moment to reflect on God’s quiet and calm defeat of death, when Jesus took off the cloth covering his face, folded it up, and placed it neatly to the side. Alleluia!