Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah! …
You knew that, didn’t you? Hands up anyone here who didn’t know that today is the day the Church remembers specifically that Jesus was raised to life? Anyone still a bit stunned because you’re hearing this for the first time?
To be honest, if anyone did raise their hand on the screen, I would be surprised … and more than happy to talk with you! The reality is that the message of Jesus’ resurrection is not unknown in this country or the countries of our birth. While spiritual ignorance is growing I do think it is not ignorance that blocks the way to a church chair or pew or to a screen this morning or any other resurrection anniversary (ie. each Sunday). Rather I think that it is apathy on the surface and rebellion underneath that can shrug its shoulders at the message that death has been defeated, the wages of sins have been paid, that life can be lived for eternity, and that no suffering or tears, pain or hardship, grief or sorrow will ever have the last word because they have been swallowed up by Jesus who now has the last word on everything.
Yes, of course, today’s shout and message is fantastical – it always has been – and it still is even when the atmosphere is laced with COVID-19 fear and not just fear but deaths as the daily numbers reveal. We are used to medical feats of resuscitations, transplants, and the extension of life available and to be confronted with a new virus for which we do not have antibodies, medicines, or vaccinations brings death back into focus more than we moderns like to admit and to have a large section of society cry out about a resurrection is not just fantastical – it can be in poor taste to many in society. But the Church hasn’t stopped shouting out no matter the ‘death atmosphere’ around.
Yes, the resurrection of Jesus is the defeat of death to keep its clutches on anyone any more – its sting, claws, jaws, talons, whatever are broken and cannot hold those whom Christ holds. When the message was first heard, people shook their heads in disbelief. It is too far fetched they said – in Jerusalem, in Corinth, in Athens, in Caesarea – and yet more and more people, in that first century, also claimed that this news was true, the final part of the Jesus’ story that made sense, and mysteriously these people spoke of Jesus in the present tense as their God and Lord who was with them always. Paul put the cards on the table, so to speak, with the Corinthians who didn’t believe in the resurrection – any resurrection – when he said that if there is no resurrection then all is lost because Christianity is not just deluded or worth considering because it has some nice bits of morality but it is simply false, a lie, futile, and those stupid enough to believe it should be most pitied … IF there is no resurrection.
What do you say? Why are you here?
The Church today is still saying this amazing message to the world: Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! (Hallelujah!) We explain and defend and proclaim this message to a world that doesn’t want convincing as much as it needs converting. It is not a matter of evidence or lack thereof about the resurrection that is the true stumbling block today. Time after time, those who try and disprove the resurrection fail. Some are converted, like Saul to Paul, into believers of the resurrection! Lew Wallace wanted to expose the myth of Christianity, researched everything, and ended up writing ‘Ben Hur’. Frank Morrison ended up writing a defence of the resurrection – certainly not his original intention – in ‘Who moved the stone?’. The evidence – empty tomb, Jesus’ death, guarded tomb, disciples dejected, the women’s arrival on Sunday to continue the burial rather than act as cheer squad to the resurrection, the grave cloths in the tomb, the disciples’ change
from timidity to fearless certainty, the shortness of time from empty tomb to proclamation just 50 days (not 50 years), and above all the consistent message of meeting the risen Jesus – remains overwhelming still today.
Squabbling or debating the evidence tends to be more a ruse to dodge the uncomfortable truth that Jesus is alive – that God counted his life as full payment for the sins of the world – which means that everyone at some stage will have to face this Jesus – come before him – and what then? We are here this morning because we know the ‘what then’ – what living with Jesus is all about – that Jesus loves us, rescues us, and gives us new life with him – a life that is marked by service – his service towards us – think each Sunday how he comes to us through words, water, bread and wine and continues to serve us – and our service to him which is seen in how we live towards those around us – helping, caring, obedient, faithful, honest, trustworthy, humble, repentant. This is where the world shakes its head and says ‘Not for me – I’m not a servant – I want to be boss of my life – I want life on my terms – not on this Jesus’ terms – no matter who he is or what he’s done’. This fear and rebellion are both strong and subtle and generate the resistance to the resurrection.
As always, for us and for all people, it is only Jesus – alive – calling – declaring – through the message of his death and resurrection – who can reach past all barriers – fear, rebellion, sin, shame, grief, anger – and call us to life with him – a life that will never end.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!
- 1 Corinthians 15:13 - 19