Skip to comments.Two Meanings of His Bodily Resurrection
Posted on 04/21/2006 10:49:31 AM PDT by hiho hiho
Almost ten years ago, while on vacation, Jane and I were worshipping in a church that was, at first, a blessing to us. The associate rector began his sermon on this particular Sunday by referring to the discovery- which made headlines that year- of three boxes of bones at a cemetery in Palestine, bearing the names of Jesus, Mary and Lazarus. His point was that though we dont know whether those were the bones of the Jesus of the New Testament, it wouldnt really matter if they were
..And he went on to say that Easter is more important than whether Jesus physically was raised from the dead. What Easter means instead, he said, is that the spirit of Christ blossoms wherever we go, in that new life that is symbolized by the return every year of flowers and green from the grave of the earth.
Well, I dont know how you feel about that, but what I have to say about it isnt very nice.
In a powerful poem, John Updike summed it up far better than I could. (An excerpt has been copied in the inside of the cover of your Easter bulletin)
..John Updike writes: Make no mistake about it: if He rose at all it was as His body; if the cells dissolution did not reverse, the molecules reknit, the amino acids rekindle, the Church will fall. It was not as the flowers, each soft Spring recurrent; it was not as his Spirit in the mouths and fuddled eyes of the eleven apostles; it was as His Flesh Let us not mock God with metaphor, analogy, sidestepping transcendence; making of the event a parable Let us walk through the door. The stone is rolled back
John Updike, who understood that it does matter if they could come up with the bones of Jesus.
St. Paul surely knew what was at stake. He wrote, If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.
And the church says: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Just briefly this morning, I want to mention two meanings of the actual, factual, physical, objective (how else can we say this?) the corporeal resurrection of Jesus from the dead, two meanings of Easter.
The first meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ has to do with Jesus himself.
If you are a congregation of very normal people, then some of you are wrestling with what to make of Jesus of Nazareth. It was the same in the first century. Jesus asked Peter, Who do people say that I am?...
..People have been asking that question every since. Any serious scholar will concede the fact that he actually lived. At the bottom line the question is: Was he simply another great figure in history, one historical prophet and holy man among many?
Ive always appreciated the C.S. Lewis analogy: Lunatic, Liar or Lord. He reminds us that historically we know that Jesus taught some astonishing things and made some radical claims. At the top of the list, he claimed to be one with God the father; both implicitly and explicitly, he claimed divinity, especially in ascribing to himself the authority to forgive sins
..And as Lewis said, you cant say Jesus was a good man and leave it at that. Either hes a lunatic for saying the things he said, or else a liar for saying the things he said, or else the Lord
..And he goes on the suggest that if the Easter really happened, if Christ really was resurrected from the dead, then Jesus must have been who he said he was, the name which is above every name in heaven or earth or under the earth.
If you are wrestling with the person of Jesus Christ, if youre wrestling with the divinity of Jesus Christ, I pray that youll take it to God in prayer. Walk through the door of the grave and learn Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Savior of the World.
This leads me to the second meaning of the resurrection. The first meaning of the resurrection has to do with Jesus himself. The second meaning of the resurrection has to do with you and me.
Sir Elton John said, When all hope is gone, sad songs say so much. 100% of us are looking for or will be looking, grasping for hope.
On Monday of this week, we buried my father. My mother, elderly and taken back by the emotional ordeal of it all, cannot be too far behind. When I returned to Birmingham, I received a card from an old friend. I quote from the final paragraph: And so dear Frank, my heart goes out to you. Having given up here on earth my father, my mother, a brother, two husbands, two sons and two step-sons, I know how you feel
..Well, I cant say I derived any immediate comfort from her words, but it is realism.
John Newton said, Death is a great devourer. With his iron tongue he calls for thousands at a meal. He has already called all the preceding generations of men and all that are now living are marked as his inevitable prey
..The rock group Kansas captured our helplessness: All your money wont another minute buy. Dust in the wind; everything is dust in the wind; all we are is dust in the wind.
Ah! But Jesus Christ said, I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. And the turned to Martha and said, Do you believe this?..
..Do you believe this? Let us walk through the door of the grave and find it empty.
If Jesus resurrection is true, then it would be the antidote to the finality of death.
If death, however, only brought an end to life, that would be frightening enough. But death is the entrance into another world, a world of accountability and judgment. To die in the Bible is to pass into the presence of God. Gods piercing eyes weighs our worth .(Psalm 11:5). Each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12). And theres not one person here who can stand the scrutiny.
But cant we see also that of first importance, Easter is the affirmation that on Good Friday, Jesus took away the sin and guilt that burden us and separate us from a holy and all-righteous God? Cant we see how the whole biblical doctrine of forgiveness through Jesus sacrificial death on the Cross hinges on the fact that Jesus rose from the dead?
It was only in light of the empty tomb that St. Paul could end the 15th Chapter of Corinthians with these triumphant words, so full of hope and joy, he said: O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord
..You think he said that because he had read some kind of power of positive thinking book? No! You know why he could say that: because he who was dead had risen physically from the dead, a fact upon which the church is built and which brings substantive hope into the world.
Well, Ill leave it with you. I dont know where you are with the empty tomb. I dont mind telling you I was a 34 year-old agnostic in New York City one winter day when I first fell to my knees before the cross in St. Patricks Cathedral, and asked God to tell me the truth about Easter. I would not be standing in this building at this moment; I would not be standing in this pulpit if I did not believe God answered my prayer.
When it comes to Easter, let us not mock God with metaphor. Either it happened or it didnt. The whole of Christianity hinges on it. The stone is rolled back. Prayerfully and humbly walk through the door of the grave and I believe you will make two great discoveries- one, that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings who has come into the world to save the world; and second, that our two great enemies, sin and death, have been swallowed up in victory.
I want to end with a very simple Easter prayer. As we are seated, let us pray: O Father in Heaven, many of us are searching; even on this Easter day, we are honestly searching: Is Christ really risen from the dead? In your own way and in your own time, speak to us afresh that we may know the truth through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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