It’s Not About How Many Times You Fall
Text: Luke 24:1-12
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
It’s not about how many times you fall; but how many times you get back up. Or so they say. It’s a common saying that we’re all familiar with, even to the point of cliché. And it does apply to those who are challenged with something new or difficult: riding a bike, training in a sport, picking up any skill. In those cases, it’s a nice sentiment. It’s good encouragement.
It’s not about how many times you fall; but about how many times you get back up. But it doesn’t always work that way, does it? Tell it to Peter, who denied his Lord three times and then fled weeping bitterly before he ever even tried to confess Him. “It’s not about how many times you deny Jesus; it’s about how many times you confess Him.” But Peter’s record of denials to confessions this week was 3-0. He would have a hard time buying that line.
Or tell it to the women who were at the empty tomb: “It’s not about how many people think you’re lying; it’s about how many believe you’re telling the truth.” But these first witnesses to the resurrection couldn’t even get Jesus’ disciples to believe He had risen. They thought the women were telling an idle tale. Peter ran to the tomb only to check out their story, and even he just went home after he saw it empty.
Or tell that to the Apostles: “It’s not about how many times you get it wrong; it’s about how many times you get it right.” But here they were, gathered together in a locked room out of fear. They believed they had gotten it all wrong. As two of Jesus’ followers would say on the road to Emmaus, “We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” but now He was dead. And now their lives were in danger too, as His followers. They’d gotten it very wrong, with no right answers floating to the surface.
“It’s not about how many times you fall; but how many times you get back up.” But when it’s said to you in your darkest moments, it just doesn’t quite ring true. It might work with the small things—riding a bike, learning a sport, picking up a skill—but it doesn’t help with the big things. Tell it someone who’s just buried their spouse, their loved one who won’t get back up from that casket. Tell it to someone crushed by depression and despair; the instruction to get back up becomes just yet another burden. Tell it to someone who’s had another fight with family over the same old thing. They won’t feel like getting back up to take another round. Tell it to the exhausted, overworked, overstressed, those trying their hardest but not quite getting where they’re trying to go, and it just sounds like a cruel, taunting command. Tell it to the one—perhaps you—who keeps on falling, who keeps on doing what you swore you’d never do again, who keeps tripping into shadows of doubt or grief or shame or fear, who keeps falling and breaking your resolve, breaking your pride, breaking your heart. You know the truth: what doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger—sometimes it just leaves you broken, hurt, weak, and damaged. A terminal diagnosis, aging, afflictions that hang over you, a particular temptation, your personal sins, death. As long as there’s been a humanity, these are the enemies that don’t care how many times we get back up. They’ll win. They’ve beaten every other mortal. We have limited time, energy, resolve, and power. Often, all these enemies have to do is wait it out because there will come a time when we can’t get back up again.
Jesus knows this. He knows this better than anyone. He had accusations launched at Him His entire life. He had family think He had lost His mind. He was betrayed. He was run out of town. He was penniless. He wept at the graves of loved ones. He knows there are times when we just can’t get back up. So He does what we could not. He does what we didn’t even dare to dream was possible. He wins. He gets back up, even after the worst blows, after the worst assaults, the deepest darkness. He gets back up. And it He does it for you, when you could not. He does it for you, when you still cannot. He fights—and He wins—for you. He delivers the fatal blow to your enemies: despair, darkness, division, strife, sin, sorrow, doubt, danger, disease, even death—so that now they are the ones who will never get back up again. They can’t. They’ve been defeated by Jesus, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lion of the tribe of Judah, Savior of the World, who was dead but who now lives forever.
This is what Easter is about. It’s not about how many times you get up again. It’s about this time that Christ gets back up to end all our struggles. Now that He is risen, He must reign until He has put all His enemies—and those are your enemies, those things that dared to threaten you, His beloved—until He has put all His enemies under His feet. Hell’s fierce powers beneath Him lie, and it’s prince, the devil, are stripped of all their power. He rends death’s iron chain; He breaks through your sin and pain. They may have started the fight, but He has ended it.
It’s not about how many times you fall; it’s about this time that Christ got back up. So the angel told the women at the empty tomb: “Why do you seek 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 delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And then the women remembered His words—all of Jesus’ words about His sacrificial death and the promised resurrection and what it would mean for them, His promise of victory and salvation for all who put their faith in Him. And Peter sees the empty tomb and marvels, daring to hope again, hoping against hope that even he could be redeemed. It’s not about how many times you fall, dear Christians; it’s about this time that Christ got back up. So we hear His promise. We see the tokens of His resurrection. It may not be linen shrouds and toppled stones, but we do see the tokens of everlasting life: water and Word in the baptismal font, body and blood at the Communion rail—as real and solid as linen and stone. For this is no idle tale, no once-upon-a-time, no myth. This is Truth. This is Truth made flesh, risen again to defeat every lie, every shadow, every doubt. This is Love, stronger than death, risen and walking among us again.
Yes, there will be times these old enemies will rattle their sabers. Yes, they’ll still threaten and attack. But your enemies’ swords are blunt, beaten dull on the stone rolled away from your tomb. They’re toothless, having their bite and sting removed by Christ. So if you fall—when you fall—look to the One who has gotten back up. Look to the One who has risen. When you fear, look to the One who has defeated your foes. When you weep, look to the One who is creating a new heaven and a new earth, where the former things that afflict you won’t even come to mind. Even the last enemy, death, will be destroyed. Remember how He told you, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He is risen, and he raises you back up along with Him. In the name of Jesus, who is risen and lives forever. Amen.