Does anyone out there not have just a little bit of trouble swallowing the bait that those Survivor, Fear Factor, Amazing Race, Bachelor and Bachelorette programs are Reality TV?
I mean, how many times does your real life demand that you immerse yourself in a vat of cockroaches?
How many of you frequently bungee jump down your office building to get to work?
When is the last time a dozen GQ/Victoria’s Secret suitors begged for the chance to court you?
In truth, all these newer reality shows have no more basis in reality than the old reality shows – those that tried to convince us that Ozzie and Harriet or The Brady Bunch were what American families were really like. In both these new and old reality shows – whether their casts are professional actors or hand-picked amateurs – the goal is to depict a life that’s more interesting than our own, more exciting than every day, more rewarding than we think is possible in our work-a-day world.
In other words: If we want to really live-it-up, we have to become unreal.
We buy into this unreal reality every time we buy up a batch of short-cuts to fulfill dreams.
Kids who are trapped in substandard run-down, crime-ridden housing projects might have holes in their walls and gangs terrorizing the hallways, but they have designer sneakers on their feet.
Suburban moms and dads spend all their car time on crowded, crawling interstates, snarled school parking lots, fast food drive-thrus, and cruising for parking places at the mall, yet buy the biggest, toughest, four-wheel drive SUVs they can find. They need four-wheel drive here in Florida, because you never know when you’ll run into a snowstorm or have to negotiate one of those Florida mountain passes, right?
So if we can’t live our dreams, then we’ll buy others’ dreams instead and pretend they’re a dream come true.
When Nikita Khrushchev died in 1971, his country faced a grave problem. Khrushchev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, had fallen from grace. So the Communist Party that had cast Mr. Khrushchev aside was uncomfortable with the idea of burying his body on Soviet soil.
And so they called President Richard Nixon and asked if the United States would take Khrushchev’s corpse. But Nixon had his own problems at the time and politely declined.
Then the Soviet leaders tried Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel. Mrs. Meir was agreeable but she added, “I must warn you that this country has the world’s highest resurrection rate.”
Well, she was right – Israel does indeed have the world’s highest resurrection rate. In case you’re curious, the world’s highest resurrection rate is one. And that is why we are here today.
The Easter morning that Matthew describes is the story of a dream truly come real, a dream reborn, a dream resurrected.
The two Marys set out in the cold pre-dawn hour to reach Jesus’ tomb just as it’s becoming light. These women had been present when the huge stone had been rolled across the tomb’s entrance, so they knew they could do nothing more for Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel the women can only be going to the tomb to mourn. That was their reality.
But as soon as they arrive at the tomb that grim reality becomes high drama. Think about the spectacle: Earthquake; Angel; Rolling Tombstone; Great Pronouncement; New Directive. Then the most astonishing dramatic element of all: Encounter with the risen Christ.
This experience at the tomb transformed these women’s existence from real life to resurrection life. In the face of this miracle the women had to abandon their old plan (to mourn) and their old identity (as frightened followers of an executed criminal).
The angel gives the two Marys a directive with direction. These two women are to carry the most miraculous message ever received by human beings, the message of Jesus’ resurrection. And they’re also to command the other disciples to go to Galilee to meet with the risen Jesus. Galilee, the real site of most of Jesus’ teaching, preaching, and healing ministry, was now to become the first resurrected site of Christ’s message and mission to the whole world.
But not everyone responds well to the challenge of this resurrected life.
The guards, placed before Jesus’ tomb to keep the possibility of any grave-robbing disciples away, completely miss out on the resurrection miracle. They too feel the earthquake. They too see the angel. They too witness the rolling stone. But instead of being filled with fear and joy as the women were, these men are simply frozen in place, paralyzed with terror. In the face of resurrection, it’s the living guards of the old life who became like dead men (28:4).
Guardians of the old reality, wardens of the expected, jailers of our junk lifestyles, are still standing frozen among us.
Are you, like them, threatened with resurrection?
Do you like life the way it is . . . do you really want the unreality of real life when the hyper reality of resurrection life is there as a gift?
Are you so captivated by a life that finds meaning in a McMansion, a Kate Spade handbag, Gianni Versace jeans, a nose-bleed title, a nose-jobbed, perfectly sculpted, wrinkle-free face – are you so captured by the unrealities of a so-called real life that you’re running away from the possibilities and promises of a resurrected life?
If so, then this Easter is for you. This Easter, let resurrection life back into your reality TV life. For resurrection life is the real life.
A pastor stood at the door of his church on Easter Day. “I’ve never seen such a crowd in church,” a woman exclaimed. The pastor didn’t know her, but apparently she was impressed by the number of people at church for Easter worship. Then, as she was shaking his hand and moving toward the outside of the church, she added, “Do you suppose it will make any difference?”
He held on to her hand so she couldn’t get away, “What do you mean?” he said. “Will what make a difference?”
“Easter,” she shot back. “Will Easter make any difference for all these people, or will life tomorrow be the same as it was yesterday?”
A couple of weeks after Good Friday some friends asked Joseph of Arimathea, “Joseph, why did you give your brand new tomb to that Jesus guy?” He replied, “Oh, it’s all right. He only needed it for the weekend.”
Easter certainly made a difference in the lives of those first disciples. They knew that Christ had conquered death and that caused them to give everything they had, including their own lives, to get the word out to others. I pray that Easter makes a difference in your life as well. Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!