by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton
“No! Wait! He’s Up!”
When I was in elementary school one of my favorite programs was what my brother and I called “The Wrestling Show.” Whenever it was on, we parked ourselves on the floor as close as possible to the television set to cheer on our heroes Johnny Weaver and George Becker as they battled the evil Rip Hawk and Swede Hansen.
This was real low-rent entertainment, nothing like the arena spectacles they show now. There was just a wrestling ring in a room in the High Point NC TV studio, with a couple of rows of fans sitting in folding chairs on one side. The announcer was Charlie Harville, who also did the local sports news and play-by-play at high school football games and the occasional supermarket ad.
When I got older I figured out that the matches were carefully scripted morality plays in which you could rely on the bad guys to be gleefully nasty and to always cheat and the good guys to be clean-cut and moral and admirable representatives of truth, justice and the American way; but when I was nine it was all very, very real and very, very exciting.
The script always went like this. Things would start out even, then the good guys would start to get the upper hand, then the bad guys would start cheating, the good guys were being thrown around the ring like rag dolls, one of the bad guys would put the good guy’s head between the ropes, the other bad guy would get out of the ring and grab a chair and hit the good guy with it. All the while the announcer would be saying things like, “Oh, my goodness!” “This is bad!” “I don’t see how Johnny will get out of this.” Then one of the bad guys would pin the good guy on the floor and the referee would start counting the three count and the announcers would say, “He’s down, he’s out, this is over! There’s no way out of this! No! Wait! He’s up!” And the good guys would miraculously recover and win.
It may seem silly, but “No! Wait! He’s up!” is the first thing I think of every Easter morning. Long after I (mostly) forgot about TV wrestling, I remembered Charlie Harville screaming into the microphone “No! Wait! He’s up!” and the startling and exuberant “terror and amazement” of feeling utter and complete sadness and despair transformed into unexpected joy and hope.
The two Marys came to the tomb expecting to find a dead body that had been unceremoniously shoved into the grave before dark on Friday. They assumed Jesus was dead; no they “knew” Jesus was dead, they had seen him die, they had seen or heard about his trial and torture, they had followed at a distance while he carried his own cross through the city to the place of execution. They knew about all that had happened, and Mary Magdalene had followed the burial detail and knew where he was laid. They had no doubt that Jesus, their Lord and Messiah, was dead.
And with him, all their hopes and dreams for a new day had died also. The bad guys had won. The Devil, the Romans, the religious status quo, those with a vested interest in things staying like they were, the list could goes on and on, down through the ages. For the Marys and the disciples and crowds who shouted Hosanna last Sunday, it was over. It was done. Yes, the bad guys cheated. Yes, the bad guys were cruel and nasty and gleeful as they executed in their evil schemes. And none of that mattered, for they had won.
Evil had won and good was not only down for the count, good had been completely counted out and dismissed for ever. “Oh my goodness. It’s over, it’s hopeless; there’s no way out of this.”
And then the Marys came to the tomb. Instead of having to find someone to roll back the stone, they found it already moved. Can’t you see them looking at one another in surprise and not a little wariness, perhaps wondering what new indignity Jesus, even in death, had been made to suffer.
Tentatively, they enter the tomb and saw a young man, dressed in white, casually sitting there, apparently waiting for them. “They were alarmed,” Mark says. What an understatement! Any one of us would have been scared out of our wits.
And then the young man looked at them and said, “No! Wait! He’s up!” Well, that’s not exactly what he said, but that’s what he meant. He actually said, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised.”
Life gets pretty heavy sometimes, doesn’t it? Personal issues begin to weigh us down. Health concerns for ourselves or a loved one. Death intrudes on all our lives from time to time and we can feel ourselves almost overwhelmed by grief. Finances have been tough for many the last few years and you begin to wonder how many times you can rearrange your money to make it last, to get by. Like the wrestling announcer said, “Oh my Goodness. It’s over, it’s hopeless, there’s no way out of this.” And the Gospel says to us, “No! Wait! He’s Up!”
The state of the world can get alarming. It really doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican (or neither), Fox News of MSNBC; there is plenty going wrong in the world for us to fret about. We can all look at ISIS and Russia and the Ukraine and the rebels in Nigeria and continuing racial unrest in America and the impasse in Washington, and the environment, and, and, and . . . and throw up our hands and echo Charlie Harville “It’s over, it’s hopeless; there’s no way out of this.” And the empty tomb says, “No! Wait! He’s up!”
The message of Easter, the message of the Resurrection of Jesus, is that God never gives up in the battle between good and evil. To those who say that power and violence is the way to live, God answers with the weakness and sacrifice of the cross – a call to live as a servant people humbly caring for others in imitation of Christ. And when the world apparently wins, when evil has the upper hand and beats us down, which it inevitably will– the Gospel calls us to look not only to the cross but to the empty tomb, to remember that on the other side of our cross there is the Christ. With “No! Wait! He’s Up!” in our hearts, we can live each day free of fear as we go out among the dangers of this world to love and serve our Lord by loving and serving our Lord’s beloved children.
“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear . . All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 10:39b, 43
Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed!