Chaplain Norris Burkes: Was the Resurrection a prank?
I’m grateful to have such helpful neighbors as Ysanne Edwards and her husband Mike in Lake of the Pines. Nevertheless, neighbors like Ysanne fill me with a healthy fear of April Fool’s Day.
As the famed prank day neared, she texted to ask, “Can we borrow your patio heater?”
“Sure, but since we’re in Honduras, you’ll need to call me so I can tell you how to unlock it.”
“What?” she asked, surprised by the need to secure it in our gated community.
“Quarantine has put these things in hot demand.”
A few minutes later, her follow-up text caught me completely off guard.
“It’s not there. Your heater is missing.”
My first thought was, “If this is a joke, it’s not funny.”
I’m guessing those were very near the words of two women on that first Easter morning.
Luke records their names as Mary and Mary Magdalene, and they went to the cemetery carrying burial spices to anoint Jesus’ body.
They located Jesus’ tomb, but were astounded to see the heavy stone sealing the entrance had been pushed aside like a ball of cotton.
Officials had earlier placed the stone to prevent Jesus’ supporters from stealing his body and claiming he was resurrected.
The women bravely ventured inside the tomb and found only the shell of his burial clothing.
“Was this a sick prank?” Mary may have thought. “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
These two were practical women, not given to superstitions. Surely they calculated the odds of Jesus exhuming himself as nil, nonexistent.
If finding Jesus’ body missing wasn’t bad enough, they must have been terrified to meet the intruders — two men cascaded in light.
“Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” the men asked.
The women suddenly realized that Jesus was risen. They fell to the ground in reverence, now seeing the trick that was played against the evil that conspired to kill Jesus.
Then, as if gently scolding the women for pointlessly searching for the living in a dead zone, the two glowing guys reminded the women of Jesus’ promise to return three days after he died.
The women ran off to bring word to Jesus’ other followers who also wondered if this was a prank.
Now, two thousand years later, we all must consider the same question.
“Was this some kind of prank?”
I believe it to be true, of course. “But why?” you ask.
Like for many of you, the resurrection testifies to an afterlife where I will one day see my father, my brother, my best friend. It’s a place I will resolve my wrongs and see my pains healed.
But my belief is also based on the practical observations of the here-and-now, more than it is on the by-and-by of someday.
For instance, while serving as a young pastor, I saw miracles of restoration. I celebrated the reunifying of broken families and saw marriages reborn. I was first-hand witness to the power of forgiveness offered by a congregation.
As a healthcare chaplain, I saw the miracle of a child resuscitated from the bottom of a pond. I sat with hospice patients as they described a world far beyond mine.
As a military chaplain, I saw resilience rebound when soldiers were pulled from the battlefield and returned to duty. I sat with many commanders who made selfless and brave decisions.
Resurrection power is all around us. Open your heart. It’s no joke, no scam, no fake news. The resurrection remains the ultimate prank played against evil in all of time.
As for my neighbor, I’m hoping to have the last word.
When she finally admitted that she was pranking me, I waited 30 minutes and texted her. “Too late. I’ve called security and they are coming over to talk to you.”
Two can play that game — even though my odds of winning her game are indeed nil, nonexistent.
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When Rabbi Nochum and Chyena Yusewitz organized the first public menorah lighting in Nevada City in 2016, it was the two of them and a very big dream.