Sunday we began living the ending and beginning of the greatest story ever told. The end, because we know that on Friday, Jesus will be nailed to a cross and left there to die at the hands of oppressive colonizers. The beginning, because what was meant for evil, God used for good. God breathed life back into our Savior’s body and in doing so conquered sin and death.
On Sunday we commemorated Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. We remembered people lining the streets and laying their palm branches on the ground so that the King of Kings’ donkey would not have to walk on the dusty, dirty road. Thursday night we will remember Jesus gathering with his disciples in a room to share a meal together and so that He could begin to teach them the most difficult lesson that they had to learn. On Friday we will remember Jesus’ trial, humiliation, crucifixion, at the hands of the world. Sunday, we will celebrate an empty tomb.
The story does not change year to year. We sing the same “Hosanna!” We wash feet in the same servant-like way, remembering what Christ did with his disciples, and then we remember Jesus’ passion. Despite never changing, the story remains as powerful as the first time we heard it.
For me, every time I sit down to pull out the message which God is giving us in the narrative we are living, the message gets deeper and deeper. The foundational message is that God conquered sin and death in the resurrection of Christ. The manner and method get richer and richer year after year, though. In John’s Gospel, as in the others, women are the first to visit the tomb on Sunday morning. Women, who held a second class status in occupied Ancient Israel. They were not invited to speak in public, purity laws prohibited them from entering the temple or speaking the religious officials. Despite their second class status, God used them as the first witnesses to the greatest story ever told.
In recent weeks the story of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen who was shot by a neighborhood watch-person, has pervaded our news. The case has brought front and center the fact that we are still dealing with race issues long after race and ethnicity have been covered under the civil rights act. For some it is shocking to think that a young man could be killed for being racially profiled. For activists, it is another case to use to fuel their justice-centered work. For Christians, it is a reminder that no matter how much trust and esteem we put into the structures and systems we have created, only Christ should have our ultimate allegiance.
If God the Parent were to raise Christ today, the first witnesses would be the Trayvon’s, the silent victims of violence, and the people living in the deepest poverty in the world. It is true that Christ was raised for each and everyone of us, but it is also true that on Sunday morning it took those controlling the power a little longer to figure out what exactly was going on.