Easter. If you grew up in a traditional church, you are probably familiar with the Easter story. You might also be familiar with flannel graphs (check out the image above) as a way for Sunday School teachers to teach the stories of Jesus. At the same time some were learning from a flannel-graph, most of us were being introduced to the world of fairy tale. Some of our favorites include Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Alice in Wonderland, Beauty and the Beast, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. For many, the stories told on the flannel-graph about Jesus are nothing more than great fairy tales, full of legend and lore. But at Easter, we must ask ourselves an important question.
Is Easter a story like a fairy tale that just makes us feel good or is it the celebration of the real life story of the Son of God who rose from the dead? Is it nonsense or the greatest event in history?
In contrast to a fairy tale, here is Luke’s account of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus has been crucified and buried in a tomb. Early Sunday morning several women return to the tomb to complete his embalming.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. Luke 24:1-10
But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. Luke 24:11
Nonsense. It means little or no sense or meaning. The word in Greek was used by medical doctors to denote the babbling of an insane mind.
The followers of Jesus have been with him for three years, heard his teaching, observed his life, saw his miracles, and yet respond to the women: That’s crazy, insane, nonsense. No one was expecting to see Jesus ever again.
It didn’t matter that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God. It didn’t matter that Jesus had said, “I must suffer many things and be rejected and be killed, and after three days rise again.” It didn’t matter that their ears heard teaching like never before. It didn’t matter that they were there when He calmed the storm, healed the sick, turned water into wine, and raised the dead.
For the disciples, everything the women were saying was nonsense. For many of us, even though no event in history has been so carefully researched as the resurrection, it is still nonsense. Maybe we believe that a man named Jesus lived, taught, had a following and died by Roman crucifixion, but angels appearing to a group of women saying “He’s not here. He’s risen from the dead”? - that’s nonsense.
So what happened that changed the minds of the disciples? The natural thing would have been for them to disband, return home, and get on with life. But, as two of his disciples were walking home to do just that...
Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, “The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon.” Luke 24:31-34
What changed the minds of the two in Emmaus? What changed Simon Peter’s mind? Answer: They saw the resurrected Christ.
Is the resurrection of Jesus nonsense? Or is it the greatest event in history? If it is nonsense, it has no more significance then the Easter bunny. But if it is true, then the only nonsense is the nonsense of unbelief.