Our risen Lord
210404 Easter Day Acts 10:34-43, 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Mark 16:1-8
+ In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
From earliest times Christians have celebrated Easter and the fifty days immediately following it as a season of thanksgiving and joy. From the Paschal sacrifice love has emerged with victory. During the next forty days Jesus is with his disciples, appearing to them miraculously, to finish his teaching which was interrupted by his trial, death, and burial. Then Jesus ascended bodily into the ether recorded in the first chapter of the book of Acts of the Apostles. After ten days of silent waiting the Holy Spirit appears in fiery splendour.
The stories of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, as we would expect from different eyewitnesses, show significant differences in the details.
In Mark’s story we hear of the resurrection by implication and a matter-of-fact message from a celestial young man telling the women to be sure to tell Peter as well as the disciples, that Jesus would see them in Galilee as he had promised. Then the story ends abruptly with the women fleeing in terror and not saying anything to anyone. Mark says that one angel met the women at the tomb while Luke mentions two angels.
These accounts are not contradictory. Each Gospel writer chose to highlight different details as he explained the same story. Just as eyewitnesses to a news story each may highlight a different aspect of that event, Mark probably only emphasised the angel who spoke. But Mark did mention Jesus’ message to Peter which is interpreted as showing that in spite of Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus, he was not disowned or deserted by Jesus. The unique emphasis of each gospel indicates that the four accounts were written independently and give us confidence that all are true and reliable. But Mark makes it clear that Jesus will be seen by the disciples in Galilee. The tomb is empty. Jesus is not where he was buried because he is risen. Mark does not worry about proving that the resurrection happened; it is something assumed. Mark is trying to point our attention to the future and final appearance of Jesus. We will not see Jesus again until his Parousia, until the often spoken about second coming of Christ.
In the other eyewitness stories, Jesus is not recognized at first. Mary Magdalene mistakes him for the gardener. The disciples in Jerusalem mistake him for a ghost. The disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize him only in retrospect of a familiar act of breaking bread, after he had vanished. The disciples by the Sea of Tiberias are only able to recognise him by his abundant gift only after he has miraculously provided fish to fill their nets.
Why is this so? How is it that this amazing teacher who was followed by many and now raised from the dead is not recognized? As we hear the accounts of Jesus’ appearance we begin to understand. The disciples are stuck in their grief, they are stuck in the past. Much of what Jesus taught before his death went right over the disciples’ heads. They did not understand the significance of what they were being told. It was only later that they went back to the ancient scriptures and searched them for clues as to who Jesus really was and began to write their findings in the light of their lived experiences. The resurrected Jesus was not Jesus returning from the dead to resume his life on earth as it was before. The whole demeanour of Jesus was something different. He appeared and reappeared apparently passing through walls of buildings with a different sort of body but was still able to eat and drink with the disciples. His resurrection could be thought of as the innocent victim taken to the next life in a supernatural body by the love of God, in the kingdom of heaven to provide a clue to the future for all of us.
The first reading from Acts 10 is Peter’s brief and powerful sermon which contains a concise statement of the gospel. Jesus’ perfect life of servanthood, his death on the cross, his resurrection, was personally witnessed and experienced by Peter. Peter testifies to Jesus’ fulfilment of the Scriptures and the necessity of personal faith in him.
The second reading, Paul’s letter to the people of Corinth is an account of the witnesses to the resurrected Christ, those who had seen him, and ate and drank with him.
In the Mark Gospel reading, the white robed young man tells us Jesus has been raised. What does this mean for us in our time?
Jesus kept his promise to rise from the dead so we can believe he will keep all his other promises.
The resurrection ensures that the ruler of God’s eternal kingdom will be the living Christ, not just an idea, a hope, or a dream.
Christ’s resurrection gives us the assurance that we also will be resurrected.
The Power of God that brought Christ’s body back from the dead is available to us to bring our morally and spiritually dead selves back to life so that we can change and grow.
The resurrection provides the substance of the church’s witness to the world. We do not merely tell lessons from the life of a good Teacher we proclaim the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What really matters is the life of Jesus, before and after his resurrection and how we model our lives on his life. What matters is how we draw on faith to provide us with the transformative power to live the authentic and revolutionary life we are called to live. We may even find ourselves living in the kingdom of God, as Kingdom People in a society which is equitable, safe, compassionate, and just and we would live on a planet that was sustainable with no loss of species or climate change.
Could it be that we may be eyewitnesses to the resurrection of all creation?
The Reverend Canon Camellia Flanagan TSSF