First Century Fake News

When the women who had gone to the tomb return to the disciples and shared with them what they had seen and heard they received a less than positive response. This is how Luke tells the story – and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

Luke 24:1-12

When the women who had gone to the tomb return to the disciples and shared with them what they had seen and heard they received a less than positive response. This is how Luke tells the story – and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

This is what you call a first century example of fake news; which as you all know is a lovely new term that has been introduced into the collective vocabulary of our time.

It even has a Wikipedia post, “fake news is a new term used to refer to non-satirical news stories, which have originated online (on social media or fake news websites) or in the traditional news media, have no basis in fact, but are presented as and believed to be factually accurate.[1]

The Greek word Luke uses in his account translated as idle tale could also be translated as nonsense, humbug, that which is totally devoid of anything worthwhile or that very basic word used by many that begins in c and ends in p which I will not use from this pulpit.

Picture this as a fake news headline – Jesus of Nazareth, who Pilate called the King of the Jews and who himself claimed to be the Son of God has been raised from the dead.

What Luke tells us in this reading is that the report of the women is fake news to the 11 disciples and the others who were gathered with them on that first day of the week.

An idle tale indeed. They did not believe what the women were telling them.

It was the women who stood by his cross as he died on that Friday afternoon, wailing and watching and grieving the death of this man they loved and followed. It was the women who went to the tomb.

His death was not fake news to them.

They were witnesses to the crucifixion.

They went to the tomb expecting to find his body.

They saw the stone rolled away.

They went in and did not find the body. Luke tells us they were perplexed. Can you imagine what was going through their minds at this point in time?

They saw the men in dazzling clothes and they heard the question;

“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.

This is the point when it becomes real for the women. They remembered the words of Jesus. Remember how he told you what would happen.

Remembering activates the power of recognition.

Oh yes, now I remember, we say as if a mental light bulb goes on and something we are uncertain about becomes clear.

The women remembered the words of Jesus as they stood outside the empty tomb and it was not fake news to them.

This is the power of Easter, the hope that comes from Jesus who told us exactly what would happen and how the story would end.

As we remember his words what the world calls fake news we call good news.

As we remember his words what the world calls fake we call hope.

As we remember his words what the world calls fake we call faith.

And this Easter faith has the power to move us from death to life.

If you have ever stood on the doorstep of death like the women who went to the tomb of Jesus were standing, then you know that Easter is not fake news.

Every person here this morning has stood at the door of death.

The death of a loved one.

The death of a marriage.

The death of a friendship or any kind of relationship and yes, even the death of dreams, hopes or health. We have all entered that tomb in some form or fashion. Not one of us is immune.

And when we stand there with broken hearts and shattered dreams, we wonder and we ask, is resurrection an idle tale?

Is it fake news? Can life really come out of death?

We wonder, will I feel joy again? Will my life be normal again? Will my children be ok? Will my brokenness be made whole again?

And when the questions become too heavy and the darkness too dark we remember the words of Jesus that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.

We remember that this is not fake news and these words, this hope pulls us forward, the power of the resurrection takes us into a new and different reality.

Today I’m thinking about the Coptic Christian community in Egypt. The Coptic Church is one of the oldest churches in Christendom. Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt to escape the terrorist by the name of Herod. I am remembering the Coptic Christian guide my group had when we visited Egypt in 1996 and what an interesting and beautiful person she was to our group.

Last Sunday, on Palm Sunday Isis terrorists bombed two Coptic Churches during Palm Sunday services. In one church 44 were killed and over 100 injured. In the other bombing 16 were killed and 41 injured.

I’ll bet you those Coptic Christians in Egypt celebrated Easter today. I’ll bet you they still gathered to remember the words of Jesus and to proclaim the news that Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.

It will take more than a terrorist attack to stop them from remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus. Thru their tears and sorrow they will gather and proclaim the good news that the church has been proclaiming for 21 centuries. It is not fake news.

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.

This is not fake news for those who have faith.

It is not fake news to the sick or the dying or the grieving.

It is not fake news for a church that is always being called to go out into a world filled with doubt and despair with the good news that death is not the final world, that life and light and hope will always win.

Remember how he told you.

Yes, we remember and we proclaim – He is Risen, He is risen indeed.

Amen

 

[1] Allcott, Hunt; Gentzkow, Matthew (January 2017). “Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election” (PDF). Stanford UniversityNew York UniversityNational Bureau of Economic Research: 5–6.

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