Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
This week it was my privilege to welcome my great nephew Orion Lee into the world. My poor niece was in labor for around 30 hours, most of that spent waiting. Yesterday she was just a girl in labor; today she is a single mom with a beautiful baby boy. Yesterday she had only herself to worry about and care for. Today she will never spend another moment of her life where she does not worry about her precious son and what he’s doing and where he is and all the million other things that plague parents as long as they have breath.
This is also what happened with the resurrection:
Saturday the disciples and all who followed Jesus were bereft, overcome with grief. The messiah had died. He was in the ground. He was gone.
Sunday morning happened
AND EVERYTHING CHANGED
The resurrection changes everything about everything!
If you follow Jesus and you don’t know that or haven’t heard that or can’t see that – let me tell you some ways in which the resurrection changes everything for you:
First, if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, you wouldn’t be here. Not in this space, not a Christ follower at all: why follow someone whose basic claims seem crazy and ridiculous at face value? We probably wouldn’t ever have even heard of him – why learn about yet another rebel in ancient Rome who didn’t even have the ability to pull together an interesting insurrection? Jesus becomes just another criminal, shamefully crucified by an empire that specialized in squashing insurrection.
But THANKS BE TO GOD! He is risen (wait for it)
And because he is risen indeed, we know of him.
And we know he is really and truly risen for a number of reasons. Because of what he has done in us for sure – but also because the idea of the resurrection as a lie doesn’t work. The disciples truly had nothing to gain – they may be famous now, but they certainly had no following at the beginning. The resurrection is only known to us because it is true. Listen,
Chuck Colson, who was famously part of the Nixon Watergate scandal, became a Christian in prison for the reason that he had just been part of a conspiracy that fell apart and he said:
“I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because 12 men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren't true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the most powerful men in the world-and they couldn't keep a lie for three weeks. You're telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”
Second, because of the resurrection who we are is different: we follow a King whose whole purpose was to show us a kingdom that is different – a kingdom of servants whose sole purpose is to love and proclaim and forgive.
Not sure about this one? Not only did Jesus preach it, he lived it.
On the cross, among his last words: Forgive them, Father.
To those who put him on a cross, both the religious leaders and the politically complicit
To the one who betrayed him – he offers the bread and wine and washed his feet
To the one who denied him – he offers the hand of friendship and kindness
Jesus coming back from the dead is what redefines Lordship and Kingship to resemble humility, servanthood, selfless love. No one who lives today witnessed the resurrection or personally saw the Christ after: but oh, that they would see Jesus in you and I! Oh that our following the Christ who died and yet lives would result in the transformation that pours out and overwhelms with love and joy and peace and hope and self-control!
Jesus tells us before he dies that the way people will recognize us for who we are is because of our love for one another – we are transformed by following and if we are not – are we really following?
Third, and this follows closely on the second – the marginalized, the other, these are to be treated differently because of the resurrection, too. You can see this immediately in who knows of the resurrection first: it is the women – the first preachers were women ordained by the living Christ on Resurrection Sunday – women who cannot testify in court, who are protected only under the auspices of men in that day, who are essentially considered the property of these men, who are set aside if they cannot bear children or aren’t married. The resurrection says that women and men are equally redeemed, equally transformed, equally valued, fully loved. We cannot see it so clearly because of our cultural lens that sees all of that somewhat differently (although in many ways we have not moved too far) but the fact that Jesus gave his message of resurrection to the women was a move to transforming how his followers should see and value the marginalized and oppressed of the world. We are not at liberty as Christ followers to devalue anyone – Jesus has proclaimed loudly as the stone rolled from an empty tomb that the worth of a person is not in their gender or what society says, but in the blood that dripped from a cross and the unwrapped linens from an undead body. The marginalized are welcome at the table, welcome in the company of all followers, welcome every where in every situation – skin color, gender, race, national identity – all of these no longer are to be used to oppress another, instead as our differences are celebrated, our beauty as ONE body of Christ under the banner of the resurrection to be delighted in!
Finally, and this is the whole point – the resurrection redeems the garden. We no longer look to Eden as the garden of our origin, but instead to Gethsemane and the burial garden. Jesus cried out “It is finished!” as he breathed his last, and we know that this means that the victory of the cross is the burial only of our sin. But the victory of the empty tomb is bigger – it is the victory of life over death, of hope over despair, of love over her enemies. Death where is your victory? Death where is your sting? Paul asks and we answer: defeated under the heel of the risen Christ – we have no fear, we do not dread the end of our earthly life – because praise the Risen King – we believe in the resurrection of the dead, and because of the resurrection, we too, will be raised. In fact, our first resurrection comes as we begin the journey of following Christ: we are raised from the death of a sinful life to the life of abundance that is only found in Jesus and the hope he brings us all.
John says at the end of his gospel that all the things that Jesus did are too numerous to tell. If we were to describe all the ways the resurrection changes things, we would be here for a long time. Brandon called sermons this morning stories, and yes this resurrection story is the best story and one that never gets old, because we cannot tell it all: what of hopelessness becoming hope or miracles becoming routine or joy in the face of suffering or more and more and more…
Every sermon in every church on every Sunday is a recap of the resurrection promise: the Christ who died now lives and that changes everything for everyone for all time.
May you follow the Christ of the cross so completely that you, too, are changed by his life, death, and resurrection!
He has risen!
He has risen indeed!