How do you greet someone, a friend, for instance? Probably with something like “Hi”, or “How are you doing?” And in reply, you likely get “Hi”, or “I’m doing good. How about you?” We greet each other informally most of the time, ask about health or something, keep things comfortable and familiar.
Well, people who know about these things tell us that the earliest Christians, the ones who lived close to when Jesus walked the earth, greeted each other like this: one person would say, “The Lord is risen!”, and the other person would reply, “He is risen indeed!”
In other words, they greeted one another like it was Easter Sunday. They greeted one another with the good news of the resurrection. Can you imagine if that’s what we did all the time? We see each other at Wawa, and instead of me saying, “Hey, how you doing?” and you replying, “Pretty good. You?” I say, “The Lord is risen!” and you say, “He is risen indeed!” I suspect the other folks would look at us like we were nuts.
But for those early followers of Jesus, to share the good news of the resurrection was the best greeting they could share with each other. Because they saw the resurrection as the absolute game-changer it really is. They saw Easter as the absolute greatest thing that had ever happened (which it is), and they simply had to share it, repeat it, make it the core of who they were as a community.
Now, granted, that greeting only worked with another Christian, and saying it to a non-Christian back then might have gotten you arrested, but still, my point is that, within the community of faith, how you doing wasn’t near as important a greeting as the good news of Easter.
Why? Because Easter is God’s final, complete, and absolute triumph over all the forces that seek to defy, resist, or reject God. Sin had been overcome on the cross, on Good Friday. Supreme love had been shown on Good Friday, as Jesus gave his life for us, forgave those who rejected and killed him, welcomed an undeserving thief into Paradise, took care of his mother, commended himself finally to God, and declared his work complete.
But at the end of that Friday, Jesus was still dead. Death still looked like it reigned supreme. Death had taken God’s Son. And for three days, that was the reality seen by all. And then came that Easter morning, when faithful women discover, not a corpse, but an empty tomb. They are given the good news, the game-changing news – Jesus ain’t here, in a tomb. Death, didn’t win. Jesus is alive, forever and ever. Resurrection beats death. Death is shown to be temporary, not final. God wins.
And this game-changing news isn’t just for Jesus. It’s for everyone who believes in Jesus. Everyone who is called to faith by the Holy Spirit. Everyone who is baptized in the healing waters. Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus. Thief on a cross, disciple who denied knowing Jesus, persecutor who becomes apostle, and everyone else who has been touched by the good news, touched by grace, touched by forgiveness, touched by love, touched by the Holy Spirit.
Easter was so important to the folks back then, they couldn’t stop talking about. It became the basis of their relationships with each other. It became their everyday greeting.
I hope Easter is that important to each of us today. I hope we see it as the game-changer that it is. I hope it is the very core of our faith, the very basis of our relationships with one another. I hope it is the foundation of our life of prayer.
We pray to the Living God, the God who gives life, brings life, renews life, sanctifies life, rejoices in life. We pray to the God who made life to triumph over death. We pray to the God who raised Jesus from the dead, who will raise us from the dead. We pray to the Risen Lord. We pray in the certainty of God’s love for life, our life, the life of everyone else, the life of the whole world.
We pray in the glory, the power, the victory, of Easter. Whether we greet each other with it or not, the good news of Easter reigns supreme. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! See you in church.