Acts 10: 34 – 43
1 Corinthians 15: 19 – 26
Luke 24: 1 – 12
O, the resurrection! It’s the stumbling block that trips many a person, both those seeking earnestly for God, and those holding God at a distance.
St Paul, on a number of occasions, mischievously used the resurrection like a hand-grenade tossed into a group of arguing people. It was sure to create a disturbance, especially if those opposing him were Sadducees and Pharisees. The Pharisees believed in the concept of resurrection while the Sadducees did not.
There were times when Paul was speaking (as happened on his first visit to Athens) when all listened to his words; until he mentioned the resurrection. To quote Acts 17: 32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” It was a way of saying, “Now you’ve gone too far. This is out of our sphere of what we think religion is about. We think you’re talking rubbish. See ya.”
And yet Christians have never moved on this. Along with the teachings and crucifixion of Jesus it is the central tenet of the faith. The reason for this is that there were so many witnesses to the resurrection. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15, over five hundred people saw the resurrected Jesus on one occasion.
Famous amongst resurrection sceptics was lawyer Frank Morrison who set out to disprove it and in the process of sifting the evidence, discovered it was all too likely to have happened. He wrote his book Who Moved the Stone? following that experience.
The idea of the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of all people at the end of time when God finally winds up things on earth, so convinces Paul that he links the two events. In other words the one is dependent upon the other. He tells the church in Corinth, If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15: 9)
The subtle influence of secularism has caused some church-goers to drift into thinking that the resurrection was something symbolic. The Scriptural witness does not allow for this. It makes it clear that the resurrection is literal and physical.
Dr Jordan Peterson, that brilliant Canadian psychologist, is quite amusing when it comes to the resurrection. I’ve watched him in many a You Tube clip wriggling out of answering the question because he doesn’t want to get off side with Christians. His Jungian views simply don’t allow for it.
When you acknowledge the resurrection of Jesus you acknowledge that he is God and Lord. That changes everything. You are no longer the boss of your own life. You are faced with accepting Christ for who he said he was.
As C.S. Lewis famously said, and I paraphrase him, He can only be one of three things: mad, a liar or who he said he was. His life and the lives of his followers exclude the first two possibilities, so he must be who he said he was.
Jesus was not simply a good teacher or a good example. He was the Son of God and that is what we celebrate at Easter – and the implications of all that.
- We celebrate that in the resurrection he has defeated sin and its twin brother death. It signals that we too shall one day continue to live.
- We celebrate that in the resurrection, God is sending out a signal: he will restore the glory of the universe that we have so spectacularly abused.
- We celebrate that because of the resurrection, all that God has promised (all the hope held out for humankind in Scripture) will be fulfilled. That God’s love will triumph over everything negative and hate-filled.
The resurrection of Jesus is more than revivification, more than a simple coming to life again. Paul speaks of resurrection bodies. Glorious bodies where we will be recognised as ourselves but much, much better.
The resurrection of Jesus is in boxing terms, a telescoped punch. It gives a signal of more to come – and what is to come is wonderful, glorious. It is what God hoped for us all before sin entered the world.
In conclusion: Peter, in our reading from The Acts of the Apostles, testifies to witnessing the resurrected Jesus and then goes straight on to saying this: 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’
The resurrection places upon us all an obligation: to be witnesses.
It is our joy to identify, own and share the good news.
May each of us gathered here today take that on board and seek the help of God to fulfil that expectation.
I’d like to end with an Easter Poem passed on to me by our friends at the St Augustine’s Mission Venture
An Easter Prayer
…On our own, we conclude:
that there is not enough to go around
we are going to run short
we should seize the day…
seize the goods…
seize our neighbor’s goods
because there is not enough to go around
and in the midst of our perceived deficit;
You come giving bread in the wilderness
You come giving children at the 11th hour
You come giving homes to the exiles
You come giving futures to the shut-down
You come giving Easter joy to the dead
You come … fleshed … in Jesus
And we watch while
the blind receive their sight
the lame walk
the lepers are cleansed
the deaf hear
the dead are raised
the poor dance and sing.
We watch … and we take
food we did not grow and
life we did not invent and
future that is gift and gift and gift and
families and neighbors who sustain us
when we do not deserve it.
It dawns on us, late rather than soon, that
You give food in due season
you open your hand
and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
By your giving,
break our cycles of imagined scarcity
override our presumed deficits
quiet our anxieties of lack
transform our perceptual field to see
the abundance…mercy upon mercy
blessing upon blessing.
Sink your generosity deep into our lives
that your much-ness may expose our false lack
that endlessly receiving, we may endlessly give,
so that the world may be made Easter new,
without greedy lack, but only wonder
without coercive need, but only love
without destructive greed, but only praise
without aggression and evasiveness…
all things Easter new…
all around us, toward us and by us
all things Easter new.
Finish your creation…
in wonder, love and praise. Amen.