“Bovine excrement!” Yes, you heard me right. That would be my translation of Luke 24:11. That’s exactly what the disciples said when the women showed up with a crazy message about an empty tomb and angelic messengers.
Of course, none of our Bible translations would render it that way. No, in an attempt to avoid offending our delicate sensibilities, we soften it to “these words seemed to them an idle tale” — or nonsense, or silly talk, or empty words, or a fairy tale.
It’s the only place in the New Testament that this particular Greek word appears. As much as we may try to gloss over it, this is a pretty vulgar term. But I think that utter shock is exactly what Luke was trying to evoke here. The women’s message seemed too crazy to be taken seriously — too far outside of the bounds of what one might consider remotely plausible.
Easter is such a challenge to many of us because it rubs up against our logical expectations for how the world works. Resurrection is not the logical conclusion one arrives at when we are confronted with the fact of an empty tomb. Despite Jesus’ predictions, it arrived at the disciples’ doorstep unexpectedly.
Frankly, it wasn’t the women’s first thought either. In John’s Gospel we read Mary’s statement to the man she thought to be the gardener, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Yes, the Easter story is crazy, but it is the best kind of crazy you could imagine. As the Apostle Paul put it: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise” (1 Corinthians 1:27).
This kind of crazy talk has been the bedrock of Christian testimony for two thousand years. God has done the impossible. God has made a way where there seemed to be no way. This is how our testimony regarding the resurrection typically happens.
“I know it’s crazy, but her body was completely eaten up with tumors and now she is completely cancer free. Christ is risen!”
“I know it’s wacky, but after decades of addiction, he has traded in the bottle for sobriety and a new life. Christ is risen!”
“I know you’re going to think that this is hogwash, but after using his fists to solve problem after problem, he has decided to use them to bind up the wounds of others. Christ is risen!”
As my friend, Brian put it: “It’s a tall tale, but every time we assume the absurd, insist on the impossible, and defy what’s dismissible, He is risen!”
At the end of the day, the responsibility of Christians isn’t really to explain the resurrection anyway. Instead, we are called to proclaim the resurrection. We are called to give witness to what we have seen and heard. That which we know to be true. That which has the power to upend the world and fill us with hope.
And that, my friends, is no bull.