- Pastor A.J. Houseman
"SURPRISE!" Easter 2022 Sermon by Pastor A.J. Houseman
When I was growing up, my friend Jordan I would do this skit on Easter morning for all the services called “Surprise!”
We had this empty tomb set with a big stone rolled to the side that we could both hide behind and then when the people who were playing the women approached, we would jump out from behind the rock and yell, “Surprise!”
This would, of course, terrify the oncoming actresses even though they knew what was coming. We were just that good.
“Surprise! He is risen!” The angels are here to terrify you!
As the angels, we were just too excited to share the good news of the empty tomb that we were so gitty with excitement to tell the grievers that they do not need to be sad but to shout for joy for he is risen!
There we were, two goofy pre-teens who had already had wayyyy to much sugar that morning jumping out from behind a cardboard rock in pipe cleaner angel wings, you could just feel the excitement for the Easter news.
We were really good at this skit because we were loud and hyper most of the time.
I imagine what the mood was for the angels on that first Easter morning. We don’t get any tone in our written word. And from the terror of the women at the tomb, I wonder what the messengers were like.
Were they so excited that they jumped out at the women and yelled, “SURPRISE!”?
I can just see it: Joanna falls over, the other Mary drops her spices, and Mary Magdalene throws one at them because she is definitely on the fight side of fight or flight.
I mean, let’s do a quick recap:
It’s been a rough couple of days. They celebrated the passover meal behind closed doors because their teacher knew he was a wanted man. Then he gets arrested.
They stand in the crowds and watch as he is stripped, mocked, tortured, and sentenced to death. His hands and feet were nailed to a slab of wood and he was left there to hang until he asphyxiated.
They stood there at the feet of this hill and watched, helpless to stop it. And he died.
He died just as the sabbath was starting so he had to be rushed to the tomb or it would have been unclean to perform a full burial ceremony during the sabbath. And by a stranger, this guy Joseph from Arimathea, WHO for the record was on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council that wanted him dead.
They didn’t even get to say goodbye. To bury him within their rituals. He’s just gone.
Now, on the third day, as the sabbath ended, they woke early to go finish the ritual so their lord could be buried with honor.
As they near the tomb, they know something isn’t right. The door is open. The stone rolled away. They get to the tomb and his body is gone. Well that seems fishy and distressing, already piling onto their very stressful week.
… Can you imagine, someone with news so awesome they just can’t contain it, maybe waiting there for hours for someone to come looking so they could share their good news with someone… anyone. Then the women, grief stricken and sullen approach the opening of the tomb, and the angels like just can’t hold it in any longer… “SURPRISE!”
It’s kind of fun to imagine these messengers from God being so gitty with the news that Jesus Christ has risen just like God promised he would that they are literally terrifying.
They ask the question, “why do you look for the living among the dead?”
What? They weren’t looking for the living. Um. They came to find someone who was dead. Definitely dead. They watched him die. They know he’s dead.
It’s just so exciting. Because see the empty tomb is our hope.
The empty tomb is the foundation of our faith.
The empty tomb is where our new life begins.
In this moment… SURPRISE!
It is exciting. This thing that God does in Jesus. In the empty tomb.
See God doesn’t just “undo” Jesus’ death. It's not like playing a video game where you die, then you are reset to try again. It's not the delete button, it's not white out. Jesus is no zombie, come back as a white walker in the north. Time was not reset to make Jesus alive.
God takes death and makes life.
God has given you a gift. The gift of new life.
I think maybe our reaction could be like the women at the tomb that morning in the face of that kind of gift. One of my favorite lines from a song is from Relient K’s “Be My Escape”, I’ve shared it before but it bears sharing again. It says, “The beauty of Grace is that it makes life not fair.”
Grace is the gift that we are given on this day. SURPRISE!
Grace is the unending love of God, liberation from sin and death, that is given to us freely in the cross and witnessed in the empty tomb for all the world to see.
There is so much joy and excitement in this gift. The gift of new life. The gift of burdens being lifted. The gift of resurrection.
SURPRISE HE IS RISEN!
I hope as you share this resurrection gift it comes with all the excitement of two young angels with pipe cleaner wings.
Hallelujah! He is risen! (He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!)