Easter: a post-credit scene for Good Friday episode of crucifixion
By the Rev. Dr. Glenn E. Porter Sr.
My family and I are moviegoers. We were excited about seeing the much-anticipated “Black Panther” movie. Based on the Marvel Comics’ character of the same name, the film features a talented, primarily black cast including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett and Forest Whitaker.
Boseman plays the role of T’Challa, who is also the “Black Panther.” After the death of his father, King T’Chaka, T’Challa returns home to his (fictitious) African nation of Wakanda, assuming his rightful place as the new king. Before he can become comfortable with the crown, T’Challa’s kingship is challenged without warning. A villainous Erik Killmonger, played by Jordan, shows up in Wakanda, declaring confidently, shamelessly and boldly to the tribal leaders: “I want the throne…I’m exercising my blood right.”
We sat in the movie theater for two hours and 15 minutes, riveted and drawn into every action-filled, emotional moment. Undeniably, the film provokes cultural, social and theological discussions, not to mention questions about pay equity for minorities and women in Hollywood.
When the movie was over, the credits rolled and a throng of thrilled moviegoers started heading to the exits. Even in the darkness, you could see the “Wakanda forever” crossed-arms salute.
We remained seated, knowing that Marvel Comics movies generally have a mid- or post-credit scene. In other words, you can’t get up and leave the theater too quickly. While it may appear that the movie is over, it’s not! Something remains to be seen in the scene on the screen.
Easter can be compared to a post-credit scene for the Good Friday episode of crucifixion.
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.”
— Luke 24:1–5
The journey with Jesus comes to a dramatic and unrivaled climax at a stony tomb: “He is not here, but has risen.” Two unidentified men in shining garments share the miraculous and wondrous words with the frightened women who have come to the tomb that Joseph of Arimathea supplied for the burial of Jesus of Nazareth. “He is not here, but has risen.”
In reporting this episode, The Gospel of Luke could have simply conveyed the reality that the body of Jesus is nowhere to be found. However, as one given to detail, Luke quoted the two men at the tomb: “He is not here, but has risen.” The word but — a coordinating conjunction — suggests there’s more to the story. There’s more than meets the eye. That’s what we find in the biblical passage.
After the bloody brutality of crucifixion, Luke offers to Jesus-seekers the background story: “He is not here, but has risen.”
The good news from the graveyard this Easter season is that not only is Jesus not in the tomb, but also he has risen! God, the Father, resurrected God, the Son! The late Dr. Gardner C. Taylor, pastor emeritus of the historic Concord Baptist Church Brooklyn, N.Y., has said of this “third day” episode: “It belongs not to one Sunday of the year; it belongs to the kerygma of the Christian proclaimer always — the third day.”
He has risen! Our journey with Jesus does not end with his physical death and burial in a borrowed tomb. A thousand times, no! Our journey advances to the resurrection. It’s not over.
Don’t give up!
Our church hosted its annual “March Gladness Spring Revival.” Providentially, the first two preachers — Dr. Steven G. Blunt of First Baptist Church, Mahan, Suffolk, Va., and Dr. Patrick H. Jones of Bethany Baptist Church, Montpelier, Va. — both focused on the story of Jesus walking on the water, from Matthew 14:22–33 and Mark 6:45–52, respectively. While the preachers offered their unique homiletical approaches to the narrative, they both addressed the Christian truth that “contrary winds come to cultivate us, and not crush us” and, Christians can find the “personal and powerful presence of God in the midst of our problems.”
Hang on! Regardless of how destructive, discouraging, diabolical, disappointing and dreadful conditions may be, just hold on! No cross, no crown. No battle fought, no victory won. Press on! God will see you through! Our Easter faith reminds us that death does not have the final word.
Jesus has risen!
The Rev. Dr. Glenn E. Porter Sr. is senior pastor at Queen Street Baptist Church, Norfolk, Va.; adjunct professor of Religious Studies at Tidewater Community College; and volunteer chaplain with the City of Norfolk Police Department. He is author of “Journey With Jesus Through Lent” (Judson Press, 2017).