Hello SVC Community,
I have heard from some that it is very difficult to comb through so much information and try to glean only the nuggets that matter to one’s own situation. So, I will preface today’s message with the disclaimer that this is not an announcement and contains no prevalent school information. It is simply a reflection on Luke’s account of the Resurrection.
That being said, given that this is the most important weekend of the entire liturgical calendar, I cannot think of anything more important to talk about!
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. 11 But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. 12 Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
There are a couple ways we could go with this. We could assess the authenticity of this account. We could argue for the evidence of the Resurrection. We could even look at the myths used by Jesus’ opponents to explain the empty tomb (my favorite is the “Jesus has a twin brother” myth).
But today, what I want to look at is maybe the most pressing question of our faith: Why did Jesus have to rise from the dead?
The standard Sunday school version of the Resurrection story is that by rising from the dead, Jesus proved, once and for all, that He was divine and that He held power over death. Therefore, we should put our faith and our confidence in Him because He is more powerful than everything. He “conquered” sin and death so He is worthy of my praise. All of this is definitely true, but it is only part of the story.
The thing is…I already had faith in Jesus. I already believed in Him. At least for me, He had nothing left to prove. I already believed that His kingdom was real. He controls the weather for crying out loud. He raises people from the dead. He casts out demons. He heals the sick and the blind. He already had me. He already convinced me. If I believe that Luke’s story is true, I don’t need the Resurrection to prove that Jesus is who He said He was. He has already shown me that He is divine. He has already earned my trust. So, if the Resurrection is just a cosmic rubber stamp or a key witness in an already-closed case, it is not essential.
So what is the point? Why is the Resurrection so important?
The Resurrection is the ultimate symbol of hope. Death is the one thing that is true for everyone. Nobody escapes it. It is a sure thing. It is always true.
But didn’t Jesus spend His whole ministry telling us that there are a lot of things that are “always true” that we have completely backwards. For example, wasn’t it “always true” that the person with the most money was the happiest? Wasn’t it “always true” that our enemies should be punished and destroyed? Wasn’t it “always true” that gentiles were excluded from God’s promises? And, most importantly, wasn’t it “always true” that man could somehow earn his way into God’s favor with the right prayers, rituals, and sacrifices?
You get the idea. Jesus’ entire ministry was spent debunking everything that was “always true.” The Resurrection is the final example…the ultimate shunning of the patterns of this world. Jesus took death, the most certain thing for every single human being, and showed that it is no longer true for us.
Most of us get this on the surface but we equate Jesus’ Resurrection to our eventual resurrection in the new heaven and the new earth or to eternal life in heaven. We see Jesus’ Resurrection as a preview of what will happen to all of us someday…in eternity…way off in the future or in some other dimension. But remember that Jesus’ message is not just about someday. It is about the revelation of his kingdom…right here and right now. Eternal life is not something that will happen to us in the future. It starts now. We can get a taste of a new kingdom if we start to live like Jesus now.
This story is not just about Jesus dying and rising from the dead. It is about us dying to this world and being resurrected into something new. The Apostle Paul uses this imagery all over the place. In Colossians 3:5, he tells us that we have been raised with Christ and should, therefore, think differently than the world. In Romans 8:13 he tells us that if we live like the world we will die, but if we put to death our worldly desires, we will live.
But, if we don’t get this … if we reduce the Resurrection to something that happens to us someday, we miss the whole point of Jesus’ ministry. Every day that we live, we have an opportunity to put the ways of Christ into action and to kill the patterns of this world. We are called to live as symbols of Jesus’ kingdom every single day.
But here is the thing…I stink at it. I am a sinner and I continually fall into the patterns of this world. I lose hope that the way of Christ actually works and I try to do it my own way. Plus, when I don’t see results, I have a hard time believing that Jesus actually knew what He was talking about. When I love my enemy, and he doesn’t forgive me, I write him off. When I try to accept others and they take advantage of me, I stop accepting people. I know the ways of Christ, but I also know that you sometimes have to be ruthless, competitive, and cutthroat. That’s the way of the world. And I fall into it every day.
You see, I am fine with living a resurrected life, as long as it still gets me a piece of this earthly kingdom. But that is where I miss the point of the story. The Resurrection gives us hope that there is good on the other side of evil and peace on the other side of pain. But there is no promise that if I love my enemy, he will be miraculously transformed. The promise is that I will be transformed. I will find life in forgiveness. I will find peace. I will find rest in the service of others. Just as Jesus came into a resurrected state, I will be resurrected into something new if I try to live like him.
Do you want to be great? Be a servant. Do you want to succeed? Help others succeed. Do you want to see God? Love your neighbor.
It doesn’t make sense. It is opposite of everything that the world teaches. But, that is how we will experience resurrection. The Resurrection is the final example of this upside down kingdom. Just like everything else about Him, it is completely backwards. Life ends with death. We all know this. We all expect this. But Jesus calls us to so many other postures that don’t make sense in our own understanding of reality. The Resurrection is Jesus’ final statement. If we live like Him, love wins over hate, service wins over power, submission wins over authority, and life wins over death.
Have a blessed Easter,
Head of School