“Resurrection Changes Everything”
A Sermon: First Sunday after Easter
Luke 23:50-56 & 24:1-12
Resurrection changes everything!
Resurrection grabs the attention like nothing else.
Resuscitation is possibly good news for a brief time;
Resurrection is Good News for eternity.
Resuscitation may bring us back to humanity temporarily;
Resurrection brings us to God for ever.
Resurrection is not resuscitation.
Resurrection is not renovation, regeneration or regurgitation.
Christians are recipients of resurrection:
We know the actual word, probably too well;
We read the Scriptures, probably too quicky;
And we benefit from resurrection, probably (mostly), too carelessly.
Resurrection changes everything!
When Jesus was buried, the very rich Joseph of Arimathia, offered his own personal tomb – as extravagant a gesture as the Mary washing Jesus’ feet with perfume (John 12:1-3).
Joseph probably got a lot of grief from this gesture.
The Jewish rebel without a cause was dead, his disciples long gone, a few teary women hung around but essentially, who cares?
The poor misguided rebel is dead. Why bother with prolonging the inevitable – he’s not coming back. Jesus has gone away – for good!
What king rides a donkey?
What king is crowned with thorns?
What king has a cross for a throne?
What king cannot even save himself?
No. King Jesus is dead. His movement is finished. All friends gone.
The establishment have manipulated the mob.
The mob have got their wish.
Crucify him; Crucify him.
And in this regard, crucifixion is like being born:
Not one person who is born can escape dying.
Likewise, not one person who is crucified can escape dying.
But Joseph of Arimathea, like the blind man (Mark 8:22-26) sees something else, and like Peter (Mark 8:29), suspects something else: Maybe this Jesus is the Son of God.
Maybe his donkey was a kingly chariot.
Maybe his mock crown was his real crown.
Maybe his cross was his throne.
Maybe in not saving himself, he’s saved the whole world….maybe….?
Maybe Joseph believed Jesus when he repeatedly said he would be handed over, killed and three days later rise (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33). Jesus was famous for not always speaking clearly or obviously (Mark 4:13), maybe this was as clear and obvious as he got?
Maybe after being granted access to the body to bury Jesus, Pilate shouted back at Joseph:
“You’re wasting your tomb on this man Joseph; you’ll have to buy another one; It’s gonna cost you….”
I can imagine Joseph muttering as he left, “No I’m not, because he said he only needed it for the weekend…..”
Resurrection changes everything!
23:55 the women see the tomb and how his body was laid.
24:1 the women went to the tomb with the ointment and spices.
Not only does the resurrection establish the actual truth of Christianity, but I tell you, if it was a made up story, concocted by Palestinian peasants to scare the Romans and comfort their pals, there is no way this account of women going to the tomb as the first witnesses, would be in it.
Peter’s denial (Luke 22:54-62), Thomas’ doubt (John 20:24-25), James and John’s hypocrisy (Mark 10:35:45), the disciples overall ignorance and disbelief is quite a lot of evidence. If you were to write a made up story about a false Messiah, you at least make it seemless, you advance your own cause, you do not write it as it was: namely Jesus rode atop one ass, but 12 asses followed him!
The Gospels, if fabricated would not be as we have them.
And if fabricated, they certainly would not have the first witnesses of the resurrection being “women” – I mean, no self-respecting first century Jewish court allowed female witnesses; no-one believed their testimony (why do you think the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) was brought to Jesus and not the man?), because whatever the woman said would not have been believed.
She was a dead woman walking……until….
….until Jesus, the defender of the defenceless, the forgiver of sin…raises the woman up, exposes the hypocrisy of her accusers, and sends her away, forgiven, restored, with dignity and hope.
It is no surprise to me that Jesus would, in his sovereign control of all people and history (even when “dead”), let women come to the tomb first. Rather than sending them away, he draws them near, forgiven, restored, with dignity and hope.
But just as the woman caught in adultery was not expecting mercy, so the women here were not expecting resurrection – who can blame them?
But as I said, resurrection establishes the truth of Christ and thus Christianity.
Everything that goes before depends on resurrection,
Therefore everything that comes after depends on resurrection.
Resurrection is the certainty of hope that the real world of the Kingdom of God has broken into this sinful world of the living dead.
Resurrection is the two touches of Christ for the blind man to see, just as it takes the two acts of a Cross and resurrection to save.
Resurrection is to speak the truth with Peter when we say, “You are the Christ, the Son of God”.
Resurrection is to walk out of the tomb with Lazarus.
Resurrection is impossible with man, but possible only with God.
Resurrection is the camel going through the eye of the needle.
Resurrection is a lost son returning to his loving father.
Resurrection is turning water into wine, fish into a feast and stories into salvation.
Resurrection is turning the other cheek.
Resurrection is forgiving 70×7 and then some…
Resurrection is living with Jesus through baptism and into the wilderness.
Resurrection is refusing to turn the stones to bread and so self-feed.
Resurrection is refusing to falsely receive the adoration of people and nations and so self-exalt.
Resurrection is refusing to “jump off the temple mount” or any other way we test God, and so manipulate and control God.
Resurrection is not possible without a Cross.
Resurrection is not possible without a death,
And neither is resurrection possible without love and saving grace.
Resurrection is a divine act;
Resurrection changes everything.
So the women (disciples) bring their spices in grief and unbelief (Luk 24:1).
The men (disciples) were presumably contemplating their confused navels.
But two angels (who looked like men – nice one Dr Luke) appeared (Luke 24:4)!
The women were terrified.
If we saw an angel right now, we’d also be terrified.
Forget stupid Cupid and his childish bow and arrow.
And think: what would terrify you to your marrow?
But think carefully – not a terror of the horror film, or some other graceless gore.
But a terror of holiness; holiness from another place (like Isaiah 6; Revelation 1:17; Luke 24:5)).
A place of grace, and a place of proclamation:
No small talk but big-talk, Gospel talk, Kingdom talk.
“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” To which I wanted to answer in defense of the women, “We thought we were seeking the dead among the dead!”
The angels didn’t wait for an answer: “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee” . . . . . .”Remember what? All of it…all three years of ministry and teaching and …miracles..?”
“The Son of Man (Jesus called Himself that) must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified (we know we saw it all), and on the third day be raised again (ohhhhh so that’s what this means).”
V8 “Then they remembered his words.”
Or we could say, “Then they were awakened to his words.” They were….resurrected in faith.
Just speaking the truth, or even repeating the truth, does not always mean people will hear the truth or respond to the truth or believe the truth.
As human beings, most of the time we hear what we want to hear. The parameters of our own fixed worldview are so fixed in titanium encased concrete, that we don’t hear, and therefore can’t believe.
That’s why Christians must immerse themselves into the Word of the Bible, to slowly chip away the kingdom of this world that has its fatal titanium claws around us, so that the Kingdom of God can slowly but surely set to its resurrection work.
And that’s also why preaching in the Church has always (mostly) been a hugely important element, a sacramental act, a way that the Gospel prolongs and extends itself to every congregation in every generation.
Jesus has been speaking for years, and only years later do we often “remember his words” and so be raised to life again. Our titanium fixed worldviews (or “plausibility structures”) can only be exposed, undone, smashed, by the One who rolled that stone away: “The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him” (Matthew 21:44).
But the resurrection story continues, so the women (v9) went straight back to the disciples and told them. But of course, the titanium fixed worldview of the disciples that automatically discounted a woman’s evidence proved even stronger and so “they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (ESV “idle tale”)!
The disciples, (the men!), were still in a pre-resurrection state. They could not see. They may have been Lazarus out of the tomb at the command of Jesus, but they had not yet been unwrapped from their deathly pajamas.
But then, v12, as though making connections in a dot-to-dot puzzle, the ESV captures the actual point much better, it says, “Peter rose…..”
You bet Peter rose. Because when Jesus calls a man or a woman, they rise (Mark 10:49). They rise from the fog of unbelief, the fog of denial, the fog of sin, the fog that keeps us blind to the truth of Jesus.
Of course Peter rose. He has believed; He presently believes; He wants to believe; He will believe; and so he rises; in more ways than one, of course he rises, because he is about to run to the site of Jesus’ resurrection and confirm the reality of his own.
He rises. He runs. He sees. He wonders.
It is true, as P. T. Forsyth once said, that “The act of grace can never be conveyed by [people] on whom it does not act.”
In other words, beloved, only those who have heard, risen, run, seen, wondered and believed, can live or proclaim this resurrection. Only those who have been resurrected themselves can announce the Good News of the Gospel: The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Christianity without resurrected followers is not Christianity:
You can keep that.
A Church without resurrected Christ-worshippers is not a Church.
You can keep that too.
Give me lightening, fright, mystery, remembrance, proclamation, belief, possibility, hope, power, impossibility, desperation and wonder any day of the week.
Resurrection changes everything!
NB. The first Sunday after Easter is called several things depending on which tradition one follows. I first discovered Karl Barth’s title for it: ‘Quasimodogeniti’ which is a rather dramatic way of saying ‘new born babe Sunday’ which is quite appropriate for a post-Easter season, taken from 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk that by it you may also grow up into salvation.” Another title for this first Sunday after Easter is ‘Low Sunday’ when the Easter crowd is traditionally diminished in number. But preachers, do not let that sermon of yours be diminished in power and proclamation. Give me one resurrected convert any day rather than a thousand dead pew warmers!!