Resurrection by Candlelight
In his Easter sermon, “The Secret in the Dark,” Frederick Buechner notices how the gospel writers are surprisingly subdued in telling of Jesus’ resurrection. Here they are at the “most important part of the story,” he writes, and “they tell it in whispers.”
There are no explosions in the sky.
No first hand accounts of what, exactly, happened or didn’t happen in the tomb that morning.
Did Jesus wake up as from sleep, as you and I do each morning?
Was he like one of my sons who rises at full speed and runs around the house waking everyone else up, starving and asking for cereal? Or was he like my other son who takes a few minutes (or even a few hours) to fully receive the day?
We don’t know “how” exactly the resurrection happened that morning. We are simply given various reports on what those who dared approach the tomb that morning found when they got there, and what they didn’t.
What happens in the days and weeks following that first resurrection morning is equally subdued. Jesus simply “appears" mysteriously a different times to different people. Some gospels writers tell us he had a big farewell as he ascended into heaven Others just have his mysterious appearances gradually taper off.
Buechner observes, “The way the Gospel writers tell it, in other words, Jesus came back from the dead not in a blaze of glory, but more like a candle flame in the dark, flickering first in this place, then in that place, then in no place at all.”
Over the course of this Easter season we’ll consider our different sermon texts in light of, so speak, Buechner’s image of a flickering resurrection candle flame. We’ll look at some of the post-resurrection accounts from John and Luke, and pay close attention to these encounters his disciples had with the risen Christ. We’ll look ahead in the story and see how these same disciples and Paul would tell the resurrection story and try to interpret it to others in the early days of the church. And we’ll even look back into the gospels and look at stories from Jesus’ ministry with “resurrection eyes.”
For most of us, I imagine, our own faith and knowledge of these holy mysteries is more akin to a candle flame we do our best to keep lit, than a great explosion in the sky. Over this season until Pentecost we’ll consider how this is not only an acceptable approach to faith, but true to the story we’re given.