The Walking Dead
Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.
62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, ‘He has been raised from the dead,’ and the last deception would be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.
After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
“Make the tomb secure.”
The leaders of the Jews came to Pilate asking that there be a guard put on the tomb of Jesus to make it secure, because Jesus said he would rise in three days.
And they come up with the idea that the disciples might steal the body and proclaim Jesus risen.
And Pilate says: “Go ahead, make it secure as you can.”
Make it secure.
It is a strange scripture to me. And here is why. When you go through the gospels, Jesus seldom says he is going to rise from the dead. Three times in Mark’s gospel for instance. And each time in the gospel Jesus is alone with his disciples who do not believe it.
So Jesus doesn’t proclaim it publically. And sure as shooting the disciples are not going around telling everybody that Jesus is going to rise from the dead, because they don’t believe it and they don’t understand it. It sounds stupid to them. Remember the Messiah is supposed to conquer, not be defeated.
So how is this such a big deal to leaders of the Jews? How do they know about it?
It is a mystery.
But they want the tomb secure.
They don’t want any dead bodies coming out of that tomb whether by their own efforts or someone else’s efforts.
I can understand that. Dead bodies coming to life are not only uncomfortable for Jewish and Romans leaders two thousand years ago…
They are as uncomfortable if not more so for us modern scientific people in the 21st century.
It is much easer to preach about ….loving one another… and forgiving one another… and doing unto one another as you would have them do unto you…
Preaching about a dead body coming to life is not as easy in our modern scientific age.
Strangely enough dead bodies coming to life are all the rage in fiction and movies and media.
How many Zombie movies and books are there?
How many Vampire movies and books are there?
I remember the movie Sixth Sense with Bruce Willis as a child psychologist dealing with a child played by Haley Joel Osment.
And the boy’s famous line is: “I see dead people.”
The boy can see and talk to ghosts. It is a good movie which garnered six Academy award nominations.
Or maybe you remember the movie Ghost, where Patrick Swayze is murdered and he becomes a ghost trying to save his girlfriend from the clutches of his so called best friend who basically was the man who hired his killer.
Whoopi Goldberg played the Medium who could see the ghost that Patrick Swayze played.
It too was a great movie and Whoopi won an Academy award for her performance.
Or maybe you have heard of the very popular TV series called The Walking Dead and Zombies are everywhere walking around and the few humans left are trying to survive.
Dead bodies coming to life in books and movies are very popular, but we are talking about real life here.
So when we read that when Jesus died the tombs were opened and the bodies of saints walked around, it sounds much more like a bunch of zombies and the walking dead than it does a present reality.
What’s up with that?
Well let me tell you a little about the origins of Zombies. The idea of a Zombie came from Haiti where there were numerous African slaves. They were treated so badly, beaten, starved and worked to death, with no medical treatment. It was cheaper you see to get new slaves than to properly feed or look after them and especially the children or the sick.
Life was such a hell that most of the salves wanted to die and suicide was common.
So the plantation owners twisting some concepts from African religion came up with this idea of a Zombie. Someone who died but lived on as a slave forever. It was a scare tactic to keep the slaves from committing suicide.
A Zombie was a never-ending slave.
But the gospel story of the saints walking out of the tombs is supposed to be the exact opposite.
It is of people being set free. Set free from all that oppresses people. People set free to love and include and to be like Jesus.
They are the signs of a new reality, a reality that all of us can be part of
An unconditional love for all people,
a reconciling love for the world and everyone in it,
an inclusive love that embraces those who are left out, marginalized and excluded,
a peaceful love that is non-violent and non-judging,
a compassionate love that truly cares and ministers to those in need.
Now I have never met a zombie, but I’ve seen the walking dead.
Those who are slaves to their egos and to selfish desires…
Those who are slaves to power and fame and adulation…
Those who are slaves to money and material possessions…
Those who entrapped in a system of violence and oppression…
Those who live in the chains of addiction…
Those who are entombed in depression or despair or unhappiness…
Those who enslave others, physical, emotionally, financially, materially, or spiritually…
Some of these walking dead live in nice houses and drive sports cars and wear expensive clothes…
But they are in the grip of death and controlled by the powers of death…
Movies like the Sixth Sense and Ghost are aware of the same thing.
There are people alive who are not really living the way they were intended to live.
They are in the grip of death.
And in some movies it is the dead people who get us to see that there is way to live that is kind and loving.
You see, Jesus rising from death is much more than a corpse coming to life.
It is universal love coming to life. It is the possibility of humans being reconciled with love, with the divine, with each other, with the animals, with the earth, with all things…
Jesus didn’t die and rise so that we could have chocolate Easter eggs and Easter bonnets.
Jesus didn’t rise so that we all feel nice and cozy in our pews.
Jesus didn’t rise to say that we Christians are right and everybody else is wrong.
Jesus didn’t rise even to primarily say that you are going to heaven even though I believe that is true
Jesus rose from death to proclaim that love is the way to be in this world. And nothing can kill this love, not even death itself.
Jesus rose to say that every person in this world is valuable, and that every person is loved.
Jesus rose to include everyone.
Jesus died to reconcile all things and rose from death to say that we can be reconciled to one another.
Protestants can be reconciled to Catholics.
Palestinians can be reconciled to Jews.
Muslims can be reconciled to Christians
That no matter who you are, age, weight, gender, looks, nationality, culture, creed, faith, sexual orientation, wealth or status….you are important and made to live in loving relationships with every other person.
That we can live in peace, that we can live in harmony, that we can live in equity and justice.
That people don’t have to starve, or live under constant violence or war….
All this is possible, if we let Jesus be resurrected in us.
If we let Jesus be born in us.
If we let Jesus live in us.
The resurrection isn’t just a doctrine that we believe or not believe…
It is an experience where we let Christ’s love come to life in us.
It is an event where we start actually having faith in Jesus, trusting Jesus enough to actually do what Jesus wants us to do, and that is love one another.
I haven’t seen a Zombie, but I have seen the walking dead.
Those who are alive but enslaved.
And haven’t seen the graves open up and the bodies of saints walking around…
But I have seen those who are already resurrected… those make and serve dinners for street people and the poor, those who work the food bank…
…those who visit the sick, share with others, comfort the bereaved, work for justice and equality, and love one another.
I have seen the love of God in action. I have seen Christ come alive, be resurrected…
right here in people who sit in these pews.
I believe the resurrection not because I have seen a dead body come to life, but because I have experienced Jesus in my life and in your lives.
Recently I went to see the latest version of Beauty and the Beast.
You know the story. An enchantress has turned a selfish prince into a beast and he will remain a beast forever unless he can learn to love and have someone love him back.
To make a long story short eventually the Beast and Belle fall in love…
But Gaston arrives with the villagers to kill the Beast. Gaston give the Beast a mortal wound but Gaston falls to his death.
And then the Beast dies while Belle is holding him and at the moment of his death she says she loves him.
And miracle of miracles the curse is broken and the Beast comes to life again and is transformed into a handsome prince.
I think the movies borrow from the bible all the time.
A dead body coming to life again.
The Beast is resurrected and transformed.
That’s an Easter story for sure.
But think of it this way. Each one of us is made in the image of the divine, capable of the greatest acts of love and compassion.
Each one of us has the beauty of God within us.
And each one of us is broken, or fallen, or imperfect, or does wrong, or is selfish, or is sick, or is sinful….
We all have the Beast within us.
We are not either the Beauty, nor the Beast..
We are both the Beauty and the Beast….
But in order to be whole, to be one… Beauty and the Beast need to be reconciled…
And that’s what Jesus does….
Christ died to reconcile us….
And when the Beast is loved, when the Beast is accepted, when the Beast is cared for and understood… When the Beast is forgiven…
The Beast in us dies and is resurrected. The Beast is transformed by love.
The Beast is reconciled with Christ and we are born again to love.
I believe the resurrection.
I believe that Christ is raised in you and me…
and that Jesus’ universal love is the power within us to die to the beast and to rise again to love….
The power of Jesus’ love is the power of transformation…
so that the way Jesus lives, becomes the way we live.
We are not the walking dead.
We are the body of the one who said: “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus lives in us and we live in Jesus. Amen.