I think it’s fun to see new believers celebrating their first Easter, who when startled by the first of many times of someone almost shouting “HE IS RISEN” in their face, don’t know that you simply have to smile and say, “HE IS RISEN INDEED” to get the startler to leave you alone and let you go about your worship of the Living God. So they say something really wild and crazy like, “ALRIGHT!” or “AMEN!” or “GOD IS GOOD!” or “THAT’S RIGHT!” or “HECK YEAH!”. Which, when you think about it, are certainly appropriate responses to the fact that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.
It’s kind of like the first time I went to a Roman Catholic mass. At one point, everyone stood up and people started saying to me, “Peace be with you”. Although this put some serious pressure on my preferred 3-foot radius of personal space, I still smiled and said, “Well, thanks. I’m Bjorn. What’s your name?” But nobody wanted to know my name. They wanted their “And with you as well”. Well, not everybody. I got mostly funny looks, but to their credit some folks were perfectly accommodating of my ignorance of their tradition.
Which is why it would have been great to be Peter, as I read about him in Luke 24. I’d imagine he was second only to Judas Iscariot in his shame and regret of what went down at the crucifixion. But upon hearing what the women who first went to the tomb report, he does not do what his compatriots do. He does not chalk it up to hysterical nonsense, but bolts out the door and runs to the tomb. And when he finds it empty, he goes back home, marveling at what had happened. I can’t even begin to imagine how the lifting of that weight off his chest felt. From the outhouse to the penthouse.
Peter didn’t have thousands of years of tradition to know the right response to say to someone who may have vigorously shaken his hand and said, “He is risen!”, and yet I can’t imagine any other human being on the planet who would have been more joyful and genuine and relieved at the fact that what Jesus told them would happen, did happen. Jesus said that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. That’s exactly what happened.
I recognize my attitudes of iconoclasm don’t resonate with all of you this Easter Sunday. Not all of you doubt and question tradition as quickly as I often find myself doing. And yet this is the great thing about the resurrection of my/our Lord Jesus. It’s not a tradition. It’s not like me blasting Easter Song by Keith Green on Easter Morning and dancing around in my underwear. It’s something that happened, a real event, a fact, something Peter and 10 other disciples, plus 500 hundred other people, plus James, plus a bunch of other people Jesus had specifically called, including Paul — a guy more steeped in tradition than almost anybody —attested to, and much to the detriment of their own personal comfort and lives.
In light of this, it doesn’t really matter how or what makes up your Easter celebration today. Jesus is alive no matter what we do or say or however we succeed or fail. I think that’s something to be excited about.