He is not here, he’s alive!
Robert Capon on the urgency of our resurrection proclamation.
I made the comment during my Easter sermon yesterday that this holiday, like Christmas — or Advent for you liturgical folk — is one of the rare occasions where nearly every sanctuary reverberates with the same basic message. Pastors of all stripes and denominations and theological proclivities were, in all likelihood, declaring the same thing yesterday morning — namely, the fact that Jesus is alive. I find that to be a remarkable phenomenon, one which allows us to see the veritable indispensability and universality of such a proclamation. The general tendency, though, is to reduce our Easter sermons to nothing more than theologically and historically informed lectures which go to great lengths to prove that the resurrection is, in fact, true.
Spring rolls around and suddenly preachers can be found donning their fedoras as they embark on another archaeological-homiletical quest to verify the authenticity of Jesus’s resurrection. There’s space and necessity for such sermons, to be sure. It’s always good to be reminded of the evidences of this Easter holiday. But, of far more importance and significance, is the posture of the preacher as a herald or courier. Rather than entering the pulpit like some successful archaeologist returning from a dig, we’re better off simply standing there “as the latest in a long line of runners” who barge into the room with the urgent news, “The grave is open! The tomb’s empty! He’s alive!” Such is what Robert Capon expresses in this passage from his book The Mystery of Christ:
When I go into the pulpit on Easter Day, for example, I do not go as an expert on the scientific or theological possibilities of resurrection. If I do my job correctly, I do not stand up there and tell the congregation that I have studied the subject and come to this, that, or the other conclusion about it. Instead, I arrive in the pulpit as the latest in a long line of runners, and I tell them very simply, but very authoritatively, “Peter saw him risen . . . (pant, pant, pant) . . . and he told me to tell you.” Do you see? When I preach the Good News, I am first of all an apostle, not a theologian or any other kind of learned person. (19)
The resonance of Easter is often found in the passionate urgency with which we declare its news. The lessons and theological underpinnings of this day are vital in their own right, to be sure. But they pale in comparison to the simplicity of the proclamation, “He is not here, for he has risen” (Matt. 28:6). Easter doesn’t need your ingenuity, preacher. We need not try to impress with our cute and elaborate presentations on the proofs of his rising. Instead, we need only take up the charge to “go and tell” (Matt. 28:7, 10, 18–20).
Grace and peace to you, and Happy Easter!
Robert Capon, The Mystery of Christ . . . and Why We Don’t Get It (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993).