Puzzled and terrified—an Easter homily on Luke 24:1–12

Puzzled and terrified—an Easter homily on Luke 24:1–12 March 30, 2023

“They stood there puzzled” (v. 4, NLT).

“The women were terrified” (v. 5).

“The story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it” (v. 11).

“He went home again, wondering what had happened” (v. 12).

Annibale Carracci’s The Three Marys at the Tomb (c. 1600), oil on canvas painting, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg / Flickr

Puzzled. Terrified. Nonsense. Didn’t believe it. Wondering.

These are not words we normally associate with Easter. And yet, here they are in Luke’s Gospel narrative of that first Easter morning. Why would Luke include these details?

At the outset of his Gospel, Luke explains the purpose of his writing.

Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught. (1:1–4)

If Luke’s purpose is to help Theophilus and subsequent readers to “be certain of the truth of everything [they] were taught,” is not that purpose undermined by including these details of puzzlement, terror, unbelief, and seeming nonsense?

For many of us, even the idea of trying to be certain of the truth of everything we have been taught is troubling. The certainty we once had, or at least thought we had, has come crashing down as we have come to question some of the beliefs we were taught. Maybe it is particular beliefs about Scripture or creation or the end times or sexuality or atonement theory. Whatever it might be, after changes in our thinking about things we once held certain, it can start to feel like everything is up for grabs. . . .

This homily was originally preached at Keller Park (Mennonite) Church, South Bend, Indiana, on April 17, 2022, and was recently published in Vision: A Journal for Church and TheologyRead the entire sermon here.

About David C Cramer
David C. Cramer is teaching pastor at Keller Park Church in South Bend, Indiana, and managing editor at the Institute of Mennonite Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana. He is co-author of A Field Guide to Christian Nonviolence (Baker Academic, 2022). You can read more about the author here.
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