Hallelujah Anyway

St. Philip Lutheran Church
17 April 2022 + Resurrection of Our Lord
Luke 24.1-12
Rev. Josh Evans




The women stood by Jesus until the very end. They saw everything – the trial, the crucifixion, the death. They watched as his body was laid in the tomb, paying careful attention, so that they could come back with their spices to care for their friend, even in his death.

And yet, for all their eyewitness accounts through it all, their words seemed to the other disciples – the men – to be “an idle tale.” They didn’t believe them. Maybe they had come to expect being dismissed like that, living in the patriarchal world they did. But it had to sting.

To be clear, the role of the women in these stories cannot be understated.

But Peter doesn’t believe them. He has to go to the tomb for himself. When he gets there, sure enough, the women were telling the truth. (What reason would they have to lie?) But does Peter apologize for not believing them in the first place? No, of course not. Instead, he just goes home. What’s up with that?

It’s easy to want to blame Peter for his lackluster response. But when I consider the circumstances and ask myself what I would have done … Well, I probably would’ve done the same thing. What else is there to do?

Maybe it’s not that Peter didn’t believe them. Maybe it’s that he was afraid to believe them. What if they were telling the truth?

Think about it. Only a couple days before, you’re sitting in the courtyard of the high priest, while your teacher and friend is inside undergoing a sham trial, after being abruptly arrested for reasons you can’t comprehend. And when someone in the crowd recognizes you, your go-to is to deny who you are. Not just once, but three times. And then, just like that, just like he said, the cock crows … and you meet his gaze, looking back at you. Abandoned.

Would you want to face that person you hurt so badly again if there was any chance they were still alive? What would you even say? What would you do?

What if the women were telling the truth? What if Jesus was somewhere around? What if he was lurking around the tomb, just waiting to confront you? I’d go home, too.

There is no “feed my lambs, tend my sheep” moment in Luke’s gospel. No moment of reconciliation between Peter and the risen Jesus. There’s really not even any direct evidence, at least as far as Luke tells the story, that Peter and Jesus ever saw each other again. Only that final gaze of denial and disappointment in the high priest’s courtyard.

The next appearance of Peter won’t come until the book of Acts – “Luke: Part 2.” In Acts, Peter would go on to become one of the boldest and fiercest leaders in this new Jesus movement, even to the point of martyrdom. Atoning for his past mistakes, maybe? Making up for lost time? Attempting to somehow repair a relationship he never had the chance to mend?

***

It is into that broken relationship that resurrection happens. Not dependent on anything Peter (or anyone else) says or does. Hallelujah anyway.

It is into our brokenness, too, that resurrection happens. Into our broken world. Into hospital wards overwhelmed and understaffed. Into cities destroyed by military strikes. Into our countless stories of loss and grief and isolation and fear.

Into all of those places that don’t feel like much cause for rejoicing, resurrection happens. Hallelujah anyway.

As the late theologian Marcus Borg puts it, to say that Jesus is risen is to say that Jesus is Lord. And to say that Jesus is Lord is to say that Caesar and Rome are not. Jesus is Lord, and nothing else gets to lay claim to that. Not violence or war. Not disease or death. Not loss or grief. Nothing.

That is cause for shouting “Hallelujah!” And perhaps especially so when we can hardly bring ourselves to even mumble “Hallelujah.”

To shout “Hallelujah!” is to proclaim resurrection in the midst of broken places. To proclaim that brokenness does not get the last word. Hallelujah anyway.

Holly McGhee puts it best in her children’s book Come with Me:

“All over the world, the news told and told and retold of anger and hatred – people against people – and the little girl was frightened by everything she heard and saw and felt,” the story begins.

But after riding the train with her papa and going to the grocery with her mama and walking their dog with the neighbor boy across the hall, the girl realizes:

“One step at a time, they understood what they could do to make the world a better place. They could go on. Brave, gentle, strong – and kind … to one another and all living things.”

McGhee doesn’t once say the word “hallelujah.” But in the actions of the characters in her book, in their ways of showing up and making the world a better place, their lives proclaim: Hallelujah anyway.

This Easter morning, our first back together in-person in church since 2019, three years ago, we carry so much with us. So much that might give us pause from shouting “Hallelujah!”

And yet: Here, this morning, in this moment, we proclaim a defiant and unexpected resurrection. Hallelujah anyway.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen!

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