“Easter: Time Out of Time”

April 17, 2022

Luke 24:1–12

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Every year the date of Easter moves. Different than Christmas, which always falls on December 25, no matter the day of the week, Easter moves anywhere between March 21 and April 25 thanks to a calculation called computus (Latin for ‘computation’).

The date is set this way. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox on or around March 20. Determining this date involves complexities of an algorithm because of the desire to associate the date of Easter with the date of the Jewish feast of Passover which, Christians believe, is when Jesus was crucified.

It has not always been this way. Originally the Pope announced the date of Easter. But by the 3rd century communication within the Roman Empire had deteriorated to the point that clergy began to determine the date for themselves. By the 8th century the practice of computus began as the standard process of dating Easter.

Time has always been important in the biblical story. There are hundreds of references to time. On the first day. At early dawn. When the time had been fulfilled. This sensitivity to time along with the dating of Easter with all its acrobatics, is simply to say that our redemption takes place in time. Unlike the gods of mythology, Jesus lived among us in time and history. He was born. He grew up. He proclaimed news of God’s reign, and he died. It is recorded in scripture for all to read. It is part of salvation history.

And as the Gospel of Luke tells us, on a certain first day of the week “specifically at early dawn” Jesus’ empty tomb was discovered, and the proclamation of his Resurrection began as the women made their way back to the eleven and told them what they had seen and heard. That proclamation continues to this day.

Thus, it is no surprise that over centuries the Church has been so precise and meticulous about the timing of such an important feast. But as esoteric as the computation is for establishing Easter Day, it is only part of the story. For not only is Easter a special time, but it is also quite literally special time. It is time out of time, time like no other.

The Resurrection is something completely unique and unparalleled. Here is how one New Testament scholar explains the Easter event: “We do not understand it and indeed cannot. It never happened before, and it has never happened again. What we have learned from ordinary existence is no help when we come up against the absolutely unique happening. It is in the full and literal sense a mystery. It occurred beyond the boundary line of our existence.”[1]

The Resurrection in other words, while a part of our history, nevertheless occurs beyond our experience and senses. Other scholars explain the resurrection as the bursting forth into time of eternity itself. It is as if all eternity were concentrated into this moment when Jesus overcomes death and the grave, and the eternal sweeps away the temporal. Yet, if the resurrection is unique in our experience, it is essential to our existence as Christians.

There is no witness to the resurrection. No one knows just when it happened or how. There was no emergency call. No breaking news story. No leads. No body. The tomb is open and empty, abandoned except by a couple of angelic figures and a few devoted, grief-stricken women. For something at the very heart of our faith, this remains pretty slim pickings. Where was ABC News? Where was Fox News or, if you prefer, PBS Newshour? An embedded reporter or two would have been nice.

But of course, we do not get any of it. There is quite literally nothing to this story. An empty tomb. Our great Christian symbol of life and hope is found in something missing, something not there, a displacement. If Agatha Christi were writing of this event, she would have titled it “The Case of the Missing Body.” But the resurrection of Jesus is far beyond anything Agatha Christie ever imagined.

For this empty tomb is full of meaning. From this space hewn in rock, we Christians base all of our faith and hope for this world and the world to come. At this empty tomb we find the Christ of eternity alive in the here and now. From this chasm, a symbol of death and defeat, comes forth victory and life itself. Jesus’ tomb is the earthen crevice through which God’s love pours out upon our weary world of sin and death.

We do not know how this is so. But then there are a lot of things we do not know. How life began in some cosmic ocean billions of years ago, for example. Or how our parents fell in love. Just as our lives today are in some real sense mysteries we shall never fathom, so is the resurrection for us a sharing in the mystery of God’s own life. Or to be more faithful, it is a sharing by God in our lives.

Time is on our side. Our life and our world mean something. They are not random events, and we are not lost among the dust and trash heap of history, footnotes in a book of no meaning or consequence. In this single event, the resurrection, everything is changed for all time. We live now in Christ forever. In Baptism, we have been raised with him, and death no longer has a grip on us. We seek now, as Paul says, “the things that are above, where Christ is.” (Colossians 3:1)

As Christians, we do not see and then believe. We believe in order to see. And what we see in the resurrection is our lives transformed. Let the entire world see and know, that out of death comes life, and things which had grown old are being made new. Christ’s resurrection is finally the most real thing there is or ever was or ever will be.

[1] Rev Holt Graham Episcopalian priest and teacher in an address at United Theological Seminary, New Brighton, MN.



Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.

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Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.