Primary Scripture: Luke 24:1-12
If you’ve watched the movie adaptation of The Princess Bride more than once, you probably can’t help but hear the word “Inconceivable” in Wallace Shawn’s voice. He is the brilliant stage actor who has become at least equally well known for playing Vezzini, the self-proclaimed genius and leader of a trio of criminals in the film.
Vezzini and his partners in crime kidnap Buttercup, the titular princess, and find themselves crossing a channel in a boat at night: a time at which they don’t expect anyone else to be sailing.
And yet there is a boat behind them.
Not to worry says Vezzini… Probably a local fisherman, out for a pleasure cruise through eel-infested waters. But a little later it becomes clear that the boat is following them. And even gaining on them.
Inconceivable, says Vezzini.
They reach the Cliffs of Insanity- aptly named as they are insanely high and impossible to scale. But Fezzik, the giant in the trio, is strong enough to climb AND to carry Buttercup, Vezzini, and the third of the crimninals – Inigo… all at once.
As they climb, whoever had been pursuing them by boat begins to follow them up the cliffs, using the same rope Fezzik is climbing.
They reach the top… the man continues to climb
Vezzini then cuts the rope, sure that their pursuer would fall to his death… but when they lean over the ledge to look, there he is, clinging to the cliff face. And then he begins to climb again.
At this point, Inigo turns to him and says, “You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means”
I love that line…
Truth is, he’s definitely using the right word. Every time the man persisted, it was illogical.
The speed of his boat was beyond their understanding of sailing and physics. It was beyond comprehension that anyone other than Vezzini’s strong man could climb straight up a cliff, much less quickly enough to close the gap between them. It was puzzling, unbelievable, confusing… In a word – inconceivable.
Luke never uses the word inconceivable as he describes the happenings on that first morning after what had been a tragic Friday and very long Saturday… but he sure could have.
Nothing was quite as expected.
It’s easy for us to lose sight of that truth, having heard the story so many times, having gotten used to the idea, the miracle of it all.
But imagine living it. In real time.
The women have been waiting, since sundown marked the beginning of sabbath and kept them from their work. They knew what to expect, in terms of the process they would follow. The rituals they would complete.
They knew right where to look for the body. They knew what what they were about to see, and – I would imagine – dreaded the prospect of dressing a body that had been treated with such violence. Especially seeing that evidence on the body of a man they loved.
Resolute, determined… they arrived. The stone had been rolled away. Inconceivable
The body was gone…Inconceivable
Two men in really shiny clothes show up…Inconceivable
And truly, what the men had to say wasn’t much help in making sense of what they were experiencing. At least not at first
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.“
Wait… what? What does that even mean?
No… We aren’t looking for the living.
Jesus is dead. That’s why we’re here.
How could the mind possibly conceive of a living Jesus?
They had seen him crucified. They had seen him, lifeless.
So had everyone else….
But the men were right. Jesus had said those words…
He had talked to them more than once about his death to come. And he had spoken about three days… and being raised…
But even after seeing Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead.
Even after seeing countless people raised from spiritual, relational, and financial death to new life in community with God. Despite knowing that Jesus had the power to heal and more…
But Jesus’ teaching about being raised to life?
It had been more than they could wrap their heads around.
It was beyond recall.
It was inconceivable.
Until they remembered for themselves. They remembered his words; they remembered him saying those words, and that was enough. They left the tomb and they went to tell the story.
Can’t you see it?
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and several other women excitedly describing what had just taken place…
And the men’s response…
Psh… what? Look… you all know we love you.
We’d all love to have Jesus back with us right now.
But come on…
For 10 out of 11 apostles… Jesus being alive was clearly inconceivable.
But the 11th, Peter, the one who had denied knowing and following him…
For Peter, It was conceivable.
It was plausible.
It was possible.
He had ears to hear.
He had eyes that were eager to see.
He believed enough to go to the tomb and see for himself.
And that spark of faith – Plausibility mixed with just enough hope and just enough love…It was enough to make it worth looking… And even worth the risk of being seen while he was at it.
See, faith is not about knowledge- at least solely about knowledge. Faith is an expression of courage-
the courage it takes to believe the unbelievable.
To conceive of the inconceivable.
Faith believes that there is life at the mouth of the tomb.
Faith believes that there is life in the words being spoken that morning.
That there was life in the words they had almost forgotten.
For the women and for Peter, faith is what told them that the words Jesus spoke can and should be trusted – even though they made as little sense in the first light of this first morning of the week as they did while during the long journey to Jerusalem.
It took tremendous courage to go to the tomb, when the Roman powers who killed Jesus remained a very real, very present danger. Both for the women and for Peter
And they believed without even having seen the risen Jesus!
That’s the funny thing about Luke’s Easter morning account… Jesus isn’t there.
Not when the women arrive.
Not while Peter visits the tomb.
He is not among the dead.
He is alive and – presumably- out among the living
Among those who are actively worshiping God
Among those who love mercy and do justice
Among those who weep, who mourn
Among those who are pressed on every side
Among those in need of healing and yet trust that God hears them.
Among those with eyes to see, with ears to hear.
The sinners. The tax collectors. The cast-offs and rejects.
We still have a hard time believing that part… Perhaps we have a hard time believing Jesus is with them because we don’t want to be them.
But we do want to Jesus to be with us.
Clean, shiny Jesus; predictable, knowable Jesus.
But now that we’ve walked the road to Jerusalem:
The road that led us through the audacity of a Palm Sunday parade and the passion that cleansed the temple
The road that led us to an intimate dinner with a family of choice and the sorrow of betrayal, denial and arrest.
The road that led us to the cross and the deep sense of grief and powerlessness that death always brings.
We have arrived at the moment for which we have longed:
the day of resurrection!
And so now we must live.
Among the living.
We must believe it in our bones in spite of evidence all around us that the work of Christ is not done.
In a world that remains ravaged by loss and injustice, we are still challenged to believe in the power of the resurrection.
Not because it makes any logical sense
Not because we can science or logic our way to an understanding
We are challenged to believe the unbelievable, to trust the inconceivable, because the power of resurrection is the very power than can and will transform our daily lives. As individuals and as a church.
The power of resurrection
The power of the God who created all,
The power of the God who loves all
The power that breathes life into tired bodies and newborn babies
That is the power that restores vision, renews faith and reconciles siblings in Christ that have long been separated.
I have no idea how that works. But I have seen the power of resurrection at work. And you know what?
I don’t need to understand it in order to long to see it again.
In order to long for each and every one of you to experience it
In order to pray daily that we might – together – be the evidence of new life in this community.
And so, when we sing Jesus Christ is Risen today, remember and trust, like the women at the tomb, like Peter, that the Christ we seek is the Christ who keeps promises.
And thus is we can trust that Christ is alive at work in the world.
Now and in the age to come.
He is risen
He is risen indeed