Tag Archives: Easter

Resurrection

You don’t need modern science to tell you that dead people stay dead.  True, in my lifetime there have been changes of definition – we used to talk of heartbeat or breathing, and now both can be replaced by machines for a time.  But if you resuscitate a dying person, you still have to deal with the reason why they were dying in the first place.

So, when Matthew tells us of Easter Morning (Matthew 28:1-10), he is not saying that the crucified and buried Jesus has been resuscitated.  He is very carefully saying (as Luke says in Acts 10:40) that Jesus has been raised from the dead.  He is the same, and not the same.  Recognisably the same person, his body seems to work under different rules, and is clearly not weak and failing.

We’d love to know more.  What exactly is involved? How does this happen?  And we are not told.  Perhaps it would be beyond us.  We are given reasons to believe, but no explanation of the mechanism.  Matthew is careful to lay out reasons: Jesus had warned his disciples, there was prophecy, the tomb is empty – despite the guard, and the difficulty that causes the authorities.  Perhaps most important, I cannot think disciples lived new lives, and went to their deaths, for a lie.

Matthew is keen to explain that the risen Jesus continues the relationship with his disciples that has been the most important part of their discipleship.  As time went on during his ministry, they didn’t learn a system, progressing from elementary to standard and advanced.  They got to know him, what he was like, what he thought important, how he used the power and gifts of God.  That would continue.  It might not be an easy beginning: all had made mistakes earlier, but now, they had to come to terms with the fact that at Jesus betrayal and trial and death, they had all failed – seriously.  Re-forming that relationship with Jesus would be difficult, but vital.

That is one of the important things about Easter for us.  Like those disciples, we face the challenge of building a new life.  Even if we have been Christian for decades, it is always a new life, resisting the easy slipping back into the habits and ways of the surrounding world.  Can we live in the way he still lives, following his lead, keeping close?  It always has been a challenge, and still is.  We don’t have to make the journey to Galilee, but seeing Jesus, and what he is doing, is very much part of our Easter agenda.

Constructive Doubt (Thomas)

This Sunday we remember Thomas, reading of his doubt in John 20:24-31. Thomas is also remembered as the traditional founder of the Church in SW India, as a disciple of great loyalty (John 11:16), and one who could speak out and gain an explanation others probably also needed (John 14:5).
John 20:24ff teaches us a good deal about the proper place of doubt. Thomas missed Jesus at Easter, and wants evidence. It says something for the disciples’ relationships that he was still with them a week later, when Jesus again appears. Jesus is not angry at Thomas, but offers his battered body as proof. Verse 27 refers to doubt (or disbelief or faithlessness, according to translation), suggesting that it is not the opposite of faith, at least for those of Thomas personality. We need to allow questions and doubt, (not cynically and unendingly, but) to reach a more firmly grounded faith.
We don’t know if Thomas accepted that invitation to probe, but whether it is the wounds, or Jesus knowledge of his words, the reaction is remarkable. “My Lord and my God!” It seems that going through his doubt has brought him further than those who did not share that experience. His words are an embarrassment to those who cannot accept Jesus deity, but also to those who have no intention of being ruled, or living as disciples committed to obedience to a master.
Jesus’ reaction contrasts those who “see” him and those who will not. This is a reference to those who shared his company on earth, but perhaps also to those who “saw” his identity as Messiah, and as “God with us”. We may not live in the first century, but will find it easier to trust and follow as we recognise Jesus identity, and place in God’s plans for the universe and for us.
John ends his chapter recording the purpose of his writing – to bring readers to believe in Jesus and find life. The miracles he refers to in verse 30 are those of Jesus ministry, but should we include additionally the miracle of life given through faith in him?

Easter summary (Easter 6c)

Coming near the end of the Easter season, we might ask what we have learned.  John 14:23-29 tells us Jesus words “those who love me will keep my word” (keep my commands in other translations) which raises the question of why we would want to.

Jesus also claims “I do as the Father has commanded me” John 14:31.  There is a clue.

I think the Easter season gives us time to absorb two big ideas.  The first is life beyond what is seen.  Against the constant temptation to limit our interest to what we can see, what is available now, the Resurrection widens our horizons and greatly increases the scale of reality.  Yes, we shall have to give an account of our use or abuse of all God’s gifts – but just as we learn to look at God’s gifts rather than our own abilities, so we grapple with eternity rather than 70 years life, more or less.  The universe is bigger and better than we think.

The second big idea, not denying that the Resurrection of Jesus has all sorts of things to say to us, is simply: “Jesus was right!”.  God endorses, in the strongest way possible, his teaching, his life, his sacrificial death.  At all the points where we might have wondered “Is that the right way?”, “Is God really like that?” or just “You must be joking!”, God says again “This is my Son, listen to him“, as he had at the Transfiguration, and in part at Jesus baptism (Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, quoting Psalm 2:7).  Jesus spells it out to Phillip, when asked “Show us the Father“, he says in effect, “I have” – and in the Resurrection, the Father agrees.

Of course, that is not the end of the story.  We shall have to learn to live with it, and with the Holy Spirit (watch this space  . . ).  It will take much of the rest of the (Church) year to look at details and specifics, but Easter has set the scene:  Life is bigger and has more potential than you thought, and Jesus is right!