An Easter People in a Good Friday World – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester

It doesn’t take much to imagine just how crazy people thought Jesus to be. Indeed if someone stood on a street corner today saying much the same thing, they would get a similar reaction. This is crazy talk! We’ve all seen death. We all know the reality of death. Death is real. We see it in the news, on TV and in our own lives. None of us have been untouched by death. Yet Jesus, like that crazy street corner preacher, boldly stands in the Temple and declares whoever keeps my word will never see death.[1] Is it any wonder those who heard him dismissed him as crazy? After all everyone they knew from Abraham, to the prophets, to their parents, to themselves and their children and grandchildren had either died or would die. This is the talk of a madman.

Yet while what Jesus said about death was dismissed as the talk of a madman, the response of the crowd, and perhaps us as well, is the response of a shortsighted people who have lost sight of a vision.

You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations[2] God told an old childless man whose wife was no longer capable of bearing children. Yet this crazy talk by an unknowable God to an old man came wonderfully true. Abraham and Sarah in their old age had a son and today billions of people claim descent from them. Abraham’s vision saw beyond the physical reality of age and caught a glimmer of the vision which God held out for him.

All too often our vision falls short. We cannot see beyond what we know, or what we think we know to be true. All too often our vision fails and we see only what is in front of us, and not what is beyond us. All too often we fail to catch a vision, not of what is, but of what might be.

That happens today in the gospel reading[3]. Jesus holds before his audience a vision of what might be, a vision of Easter, but his audience can only see Good Friday.

As Christians we are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world. We are a people called by God to see, not what is in front of us, but what is beyond us.

Yes, death is all around us, and we like those gathered around Jesus in the Temple know all too well the reality of death. But as an Easter people our vision ends not with the cross of Good Friday, but with the Empty Tomb of Easter Day.

In a Good Friday world, talk of Easter is crazy and those who proclaim it are mad. Yet we are here today because all of us have caught sight of a vision. Like Abraham we may not fully comprehend it, but we know God to be faithful and true, and so we fix our eyes, not on the Cross before us, but on the Empty Tomb beyond us. And fixing out sight on the Empty Tomb we come to know the words of Jesus to be true: whoever keeps my word will never see death.

[1] John 8: 51

[2] Genesis 17:4

[3] John 8: 51-59

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  1. Ruth West on March 19, 2016 at 16:21

    Thanks for this good homily. It so speaks to us in this day and time. In my weekly Bible Study, we are beginning the study of I Corinthians. Paul states that the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. Easter is the difference between Christianity and the other great religions of the world. “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again.” Praised be His name.

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