Men in White and the Power of Remembering

Easter Sunday: Luke 24:1-12


One of my favorite movies from my teen years was the comedy Men in BlackTommy Lee Jones and Will Smith play two undercover agents of the Men in Black, who monitor intergalactic immigration and regulate visits from alien life forms to Planet Earth. Of course, it is all top secret – the public would panic if they knew aliens were living among them! So the Men In Black have a special device called a Neuralyzer, which with one flash, wipes the memory of anyone who might have stumbled into witnessing top secret information.
Perhaps it just a sign of desperation in needing to preach my first Easter sermon to you all. But Men In Black is where my mind went as I considered Luke’s rendition of the resurrection story. When the women disciples came to the tomb at daybreak to anoint Jesus’ dead body, they met Men in White. Other gospel writers identify these messengers as angels, but in Luke they are described like the Transfiguration story, when the greats of the faith, Moses and Elijah, appeared on the mountaintop with Jesus.

Dressed in dazzling white and shining like the sun, Jesus and his heavenly companions discuss his end game, Jesus’ eventual death and resurrection. Now at the resurrection, Men in White are back again. They are opposite of the Men in Black: Instead of holding up the Neuralyzer to make people forget, they point to the empty tomb, and tell the women to Remember.

    • 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.


There is some irony in the words of these Men in White. The women had, of course, come to remember. 

    • They came to the tomb, which by definition is the place of remembrance of the beloved dead. 
    • They came to remember Jesus’ physical body, to anoint him with spices and oil. 
    • They came to grieve and remember his life and express their love for him.

Of all the disciples, these women remembered Jesus. Though they were heart broken and feared for their lives, they showed up. They were prepared to do what was necessary and carry on. They remembered.


But remembering in this case meant more than grieving or picking up the pieces. It also meant opening themselves to a previously unthinkable reality. Jesus had discussed his betrayal, suffering, and death with his disciples on multiple occasions. He had said that he would rise again after three days. But somehow these words did not sink in at the time. Perhaps it did not make sense, or they thought Jesus was speaking in metaphor. But honestly, how could they believe it? Resurrection means the laws of nature are fundamentally changed a one-way process turned back on itself. If I were at the tomb that morning, I would have been like the women – perplexed and afraid.


But remembering literally means to put the pieces back together —  re-membering.

Remembering helped the women to understand their experience.

Luke says,

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb,

They told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

The process of remembering connected the dots for them, and continued as they shared their experience with others.


Has that ever happened to you? When someone reminded you of something you once heard, but didn’t grasp, then all of a sudden it makes sense? The ah-ha moment of discovery and insight involves looking at your experience and connecting it to the past. Talking about it with others helps to put the pieces together. Ultimately, remembering points a way to the future.


It seems to me that we are all a bit like the women at the tomb, struggling to figure it all out. It can be hard to recognize God’s activity in world events. It can be difficult see what God is doing in the mess of our personal lives. But if we look back on our collective history, if we mine our faith stories, we see evidence of the audacious claim that God DOES intervene in human lives.

    • God freed the people of Israel from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.
    • God brought those scattered by war back to their own land.
    • God sent Jesus to teach a way of forgiveness and courageous love that frees people from the past and opens a new future of connection and healing.
    • God has acted in human history, and change is possible.


Likewise, if we look into our personal stories, we see a pattern of grace emerge.

    • A helping hand at just the right time
    • Tender mercy that was undeserved
    • Opportunities to make a difference, materializing out of thin air
    • Unexpected recovery

Yes, there are many places in our lives that still cry out for restoration and healing, and yet the pattern is undeniable.

    • God acts.
    • God gives new life.
    • God makes beginnings out of endings.


That’s the power of the resurrection. It’s not just an end-of-life thing. The power that brought Jesus back from the grave is the same power that gives us hope and sustenance in the now. As we pray for an end to war in Ukraine; as we absorb the changes wrought by a pandemic that has altered our habits and health; as we remember the nearly a million people lost in our country due to COVID, we are like the women at the tomb. We are at times perplexed and fearful; it is an uncertain world. But like the women, we are invited to remember what God has done already, telling the stories of our collective faith and personal witness, and trusting that God will act for us and for the world God loves.


It is Easter; it is the day of our Lord’s resurrection. The message of the Men In White to remember is for us, along with the women at the tomb, and all the witnesses of the resurrection, with the generations that came before and those yet to come. Let us remember with courage and hope that in Christ, God has overcome death and the grave. Let us tell others God has acted.

Christ is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

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