The Journey: All Glory, Laud, & Leiros
April 1, 2018
One of my favorite book series as a child was ‘The Chronicles of Narnia.’
In the second book, Prince Caspian, Lucy awakes from a deep sleep and follows a familiar voice into the forest. There she is reunited with Aslan, the great lion. Aslan tells Lucy, “go back to the others now, and wake them up; and tell them you have seen me again; and that you must all get up at once and follow me.”
Lucy asks Aslan, “Will the others see you too?” “Certainly not at first,” said Aslan. “Later on, it depends.” “But they won’t believe me!” said Lucy.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Aslan.
Lucy goes back to her brothers and sister, determined to wake them up and get them follow a creature they could not see…
Needless to say…it was not an easy task…
Relying on the word of another is hard! We want to see for ourselves!
After all, we are cynical people by nature, and leaning on merely heresy is difficult.
Especially when its an incredible word…
…credo means “I believe” so ‘incredible’ really means unbelievable.
And that’s what the women and disciples thought about Jesus no longer being in the tomb. They were dumbfounded…amazed…it was incredible…almost unbelievable.
The women had gone to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus.
But when they arrive at the tomb, something amazing has happened…the stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty…and two men appear in dazzling white clothes.
The women are terrified, of course, but then the angels proceed to do the appropriate Sunday school lesson with them, reminding them of all Jesus had told them.
And we get the sense that the women collectively said, “Ohhhh, that’s right, we remember now!” And they run back to the apostles to tell them…
Notice that the women didn’t first share this news with strangers - they didn’t stop at the literal local watering hole…
They told the people who were in the best position to believe their testimony. They had lived with Jesus and heard his words. The women had reason to expect that the disciples, their brothers in faith, would at least try to believe their story.
But alas, I am sorry to report the disciples were not as receptive to this news as we might have hoped. In fact, they are less than supportive.
Verse 11 says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
An Idle tale…nonsense…that’s how our Bibles most commonly translate the disciple’s reaction. But it’s actually a little more colorful than that…
The moment after the women come into the room and bring this amazing news…the disciples completely forget their disciple manners and resort to the subtle cadences of a frat house.
Anna Carter Florence, one of my favorite preachers, has written about their reaction and the specific word they used to respond to the women…’leiros.’
She writes, “Our Bibles translate it as ‘idle tale' or ‘nonsense' but the Greek word actually means ‘trash, garbage, or bull.’ It is a locker room word…a wet towel whipping through a chorus of jeers…and until high school boys start accusing each other of being ‘full of idle tales,’ a more faithful translation would probably be, “these things seemed to them to be bleepity-bleep…and they didn’t believe it.”
Leiros does not appear anywhere else in the New Testament – nowhere does this foul word occur…except on Easter morning.
It’s the very first reaction to these first female evangelists…it’s the initial response after the good news is shared for the first time.
When the women announce “Christ is Risen”…the disciples do not jump up and exclaim, “He is Risen Indeed!” Instead the women exclaim that Christ is Risen and the disciples shout back “Leiros! We don’t believe you.”
It was too unbelievable to be believed. As if something has to be believable to be true.
But you get the feeling that in the disciples mind…it did. There was little room for mystery and surprise…and littler room still for the testimony of a group of women.
To them, it was all leiros.
Florence continues, “The logic of leiros is that our testimony will be heard as a lot of nonsense, perhaps even from some who are close to us. The gospel has always been met with ridicule, right from the very first time it was preached. It has always sounded like a lot of leiros. It has always been more than the church can handle, even when it is the very thing the church prays for; not even the disciples, as much as they loved Jesus, could take the good news. Instead, they flung it back in the women’s faces.”
It was too unbelievable to be believed.
But let’s not be too hard on the disciples – because it’s not hard to guess why they might have resisted the women’s story.
First of all, they had watched Jesus die. Even those who were in hiding had heard accounts…of the trial before Pilate, the walk to the cross, and finally the crucifixion. Jesus was dead.
They were cowering in a locked room trying to figure out where and when everything had gone so wrong. And we can imagine the guilt and shame they must have been feeling.
Perhaps they were thinking about their last encounter with Jesus. Poor Peter…I wonder if the cock crow was still ringing in his ears.
And so not only was this news unbelievable…but perhaps there was some dread and fear involved as well. Jesus is resurrected? He’s back? Leiros!
But look what happens in the next verse…Peter…the one who had the biggest reason to hide, ran to the tomb to see for himself.
He didn’t have the same experience as the women – he didn’t see the two men in their dazzling Easter best. Testimony does not come with a rewind button…it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll have the same experience as someone else.
But testimony sets something in motion… the impulse to go and see for ourselves—and Peter does.
He goes…and sees that the women were telling the truth. He sees the empty tomb and the linen cloths on the ground. He sees enough to know that something big has happened. And so Peter makes his way back to the community ”marveling at what had happened.”
Eventually we know he will do more than wonder.
But how would he ever have gone to the tomb by himself…if the women had not risked rejection and testified to the living Christ?
Jorgen Moltmann said, “Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.”
The good news of the Easter story is that its for everyone: the preacher, the seeker, and the cynic.
All of us are called to preach…to share the ways in which we’ve encountered Christ…to testify to the resurrection. No matter the response.
And it takes courage to share our story…the fear rejection is palpable.
Especially when everything around us seems to scream ‘Leiros’ back at us…
The initial reaction might be “nonsense”…but nonsense leads to seeking…and seeking to wonder…and on and on.
All of us are called to seek… to seek after God with our questions…big and small…to go to the tomb ourselves because it seems too unbelievable to be believed…
And then there’s the cynic.
I am grateful for the disciples all too human response.
I’ll be honest…I’m a much better person on my second try.
My initial reactions, responses, rebuttals…especially to anything I’m skeptical or scared of…are rarely charitable.
The Gospel according to the Veggie Tales refers to this in a song aptly dubbed, “Our God is a God of second chances.”
And here they are, captains of the Second Chance Squad: Jesus’ disciples.
I feel a little sorry for them: their initial reactions were recorded…and are still being talked about 2,000 years later!
Yes, the disciples doubted and scoffed, questioned and argued, worried, and downright swore…
But they would get a second chance…and take the testimony from the women out into the world…
The cynics became the preachers…
They were met with cynics of their own…and had plenty of leiros thrown back at them.
We preach…we seek…we scoff…often all at the same time.
It’s good to be reminded, on today of all days, that the power and love of God is not thwarted by shaky belief or indignant outbursts.
The power of the resurrection is not dependent on the response to it!
And neither is the power of testimony…
The women shared what they saw, what they knew to be true… that they believed the unbelievable.
That Christ is Risen!
This is the truth no matter what is echoed back… Even if response is Leiros.
Because Leiros so often leads to Laud and Honor…
Easter is incredible…unbelievable…beyond our understanding…Christ was dead, and now he is alive.
But it’s no idle tale…it’s not nonsense…and it’s certainly not leiros.
And so Lucy goes back to her sleeping siblings and attempts to wake them up. “Wake up…its Aslan…we must follow him!” Her testimony is met with groans and reluctance. But eventually they get up.
They stumble behind her in the dark, unable to see the great lion that Lucy so clearly sees. But slowly, they begin to see a faint shadow. The shadow grows darker and darker until finally the great lion turns and faces them.
Lucy’s oldest brother, Peter says, “Oh Aslan, I’m so glad. And I’m so sorry. I’ve been leading them wrong ever since we started.”
Aslan responds, “My dear son.” And turning to all of them he says, “The moon is setting. Look behind you…there is the dawn beginning.”
Today, the dawn has begun for you, for me, and for the whole world.
And so may we testify boldly to the Risen Christ...and clamber over all the leiros in our life and seek him with wonder.
Christ is Risen!