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The Resurrection of Our Lord

April 18, 2017

Easter Sunday


After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.  His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.  The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.  Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples.  Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

 

Matthew 28:1-10

The Resurrection is the great miracle upon which the whole of Christian faith is founded. Remove the Resurrection and you remove the heart of Christianity.

Despite the all of the years that this message has been proclaimed, we are not tired of its newness or of its radical nature. In fact, if we tired of it, “our faith would be in vain,” since it is the core of the Christian faith. I also cannot help but admire the fact that Jesus chose women to be the first witnesses of his resurrection. This should not be surprising, since reading the Gospels we find numerous clues of their presence and their importance in the communities of the first centuries. Neither the gospels nor the earliest letters have been able to erase the women as faithful disciples and first witnesses of the message.

The Gospels point out the fear that arises in the witnesses of this event; In Mark it is such that women say nothing of what they have seen; In Matthew fear almost kills the guardians and is also recognized in the two Marys while they go to share with the rest of disciples what they witnessed; In Luke it makes them lower their faces in respect as the messenger asks them why they are looking for the one who is alive among the dead; In John it is not so obvious, because what seems to blind Mary Magdalene is not fear but pain (she confuses Jesus with the gardener and asks about the body). I think it is an important fact as a very human sign of embarrassment and emotional breakdown to events that go beyond what we can understand, that do not happen daily and that shows an out of control and divine power. But it is not a fear that produces despair or immobility, but joy and movement. So the Church begins to spread.
Finally, note the fact that there are no witnesses to the resurrection itself, not even when Jesus was coming out from the tomb. There was simply an empty tomb.

Like Jonah in the belly of the great fish, the “three days” of waiting, which come to an end on Saturday night, are a time of darkness and uncertainty. But even there God is not absent from those who believe and hope in his faithful love.
Like Jonah being returned to the fresh air of the shore after those three days in the dark, Jesus is ready to meet his brothers and sisters. In the Gospel, it will not be in the capital of the kingdom, but in Galilee of the Gentiles, the land that had housed the carpenter, his family and his disciples, the land despised by the religious system of his time. There, Jesus announces to the women in his first manifestation after his resurrection that he will find them.
Here it is announced: the empty tomb; the military power (the guards) immobilized (the guards perhaps even faint with fear); extraordinary events like an earthquake and a heavenly messenger sitting on a large stone; And of a Jesus who lives and looks forward to meeting his people.

And we want to recall once more some of the evidence of the resurrection for those who may need it today:

First of all, Jesus’ absence from the tomb: the place of the tomb is well-known. Many theories have been put forward to explain the fact that Jesus’ body was absent from the tomb the first Easter Day, but none of them are very convincing. First, it’s been suggested that Jesus didn’t die on the cross and he recovered in some way in the cool of the tomb. But, if any of you have seen Mel Gibson’s film ‘The Passion’, e.g. you know what it means to undergo a Roman flogging and crucifixion. People didn’t survive that. A stone weighing one and a half tons was put in front of the tomb. In addition, there’s a fascinating piece of evidence.
John, chapter 19, verse 33 ‘But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead. So they did not break his legs’. (breaking legs was to speed up death by crucifixion). Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water’ (Jn 19:33).

It appears that there had been a separation of the clot and the serum, which we now know is good medical evidence that he was dead. But they didn’t have that medical knowledge at the time; they were simply writing it because that’s what happened.
Then people have said, `well, maybe the disciples stole the body, and then they began a rumour that Jesus had been resurrected.’ But leaving aside the fact that the tomb was guarded, it’s psychologically improbable. Here is a depressed, discouraged group of people — look at what they had to go through for their beliefs.
A friend of mine, who’s a scientist, became a Christian because he said he could not believe that the disciples would have been willing to be tortured and die for something that they would have known, if they had taken the body, was not true.

Others have said, `well, maybe the authorities took the body.’ That’s not probable at all, because if they had the body, all they had to do when people were saying, `Jesus is risen from the dead` was to say, `No, he’s not. Here’s the body.’ Look how quickly we were shown the bodies of Saddam Hussein’s sons when they were killed—because they wanted us to know they were dead.
Other people say, `well, maybe robbers stole the body.’ That’s the least likely of all, because — we don’t talk about the `empty’ tomb, because the tomb was not empty. Jesus’ body was absent. When the disciples got to the tomb they found the grave-clothes, which were the only valuable thing, the only thing for robbers to take — they had collapsed like a caterpillar’s cocoon when the butterfly has emerged; and the headpiece that had been around Jesus’ head had been folded up and put in a separate place. And when they saw that, they believed.

The second piece of evidence: First, the absence of Jesus’ body from the tomb. Secondly, his presence with the disciples — he was seen. Sometimes people say, `well, hallucination.’ Well, people do hallucinate, but it is highly unlikely that even two people would have the same hallucination. Jesus appeared on eleven separate occasions, on one occasion to more than 500 people at one time. 500 people could not have the same hallucination. And then look at the nature of the appearances. Hallucinations are subjective; they have no objective reality. It’s kind of like seeing a ghost. But look at these appearances:
‘While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and frightened, thinking that they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and he ate it in their presence’ (Luke 24:36-43).
I knew of a person who became a Christian because of this. He said he could not believe that a ghost would eat broiled fish!

And then the third piece of evidence is the immediate impact. Here were a group of disciples who were discouraged, depressed, fearful, hiding — and something occurred that totally changed them so that they went around telling everybody, `We’ve seen Jesus! Jesus is alive!’ And then you get this historical phenomenon we know about, which is the birth and growth of the Christian church. And it’s an extraordinary, observable fact, because beginning with a group of basically fishermen and tax collectors there is this explosion in 300 years right across the whole known world. It’s a story of a peaceful revolution with no parallel, really, in the history of the world.

The fourth piece of evidence is Christian experience down the ages. Countless millions of people down the ages have experienced the risen Jesus Christ. And it’s people of every civilization, continent, nationality, every economic, social, intellectual background, from all
walks of life: they join in this common experience of the risen Jesus — millions of Christians all around the world today are experiencing this relationship.

From my experience, through reading the New Testament, I came to the conclusion that it’s true. But for years I didn’t decide to really believe — Sometimes people think, `If I become a Christian, my life will be miserable from now on!’ And people try to put it off, many people try to find ways to not become a Christian, or be committed to Christ’s church. But when they say, `Yes,’ at that moment they experience what they were unconsciously searching for all their life. They experience something that gives ultimate meaning and purpose to life — a relationship with Jesus. And for many this is the last place in the world they expect to find it. It is at that moment they really believe with head and heart.
We Christians, we are far from perfect. We mess up, we have many failings; but when we start to experience the love of Jesus Christ and his power, a relationship forms with him that convinces us that he really is alive and we don’t need more scientific evidence.

And this is the most important. If you can believe, you will not need our human standards to confirm that something is true; just as Jesus said to Thomas: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). That evidence is based on a relationship with Jesus Christ; the moment you decide to accept Christ, to believe in Him as God and Lord, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in your life and gives you certainty of faith. Then you begin to read the Bible (God’s word) daily and pray and you can experience the living and real presence of the risen Christ. You must do this for yourself.

Today we invite you to believe in that Christ, if you still need more proof and more evidence. Today you are invited to accept Christ so that the Holy Spirit may dwell in your person and in your life. God wants to be alive in you, in your family and in your church. But for that you have to bow to God and decide to believe in Him and surrender to Him. Amen

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    April 18, 2017 1:37 pm

    Thank you for sending me the Easter sermon it lifted me up! Margret

    Margaret the Joyfull Beader 📿

    >

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