Makes You Wonder Resources
The Resurrection We Had To Have
When We Don’t Believe In A Resurrection
Talk given by Ian Robinson
Acts 2:14a, 22-33, John 20:19-31
What Christians believe about life after death, and what we practise as our life before death, are both determined by the Resurrection of Jesus. So, what was it?
The Anglican Dean and many others who get easily on the media, hold that the Resurrection was not physical. They would hold that Jesus’ bones are still somewhere but that it doesn’t really matter. The only historical fact is that some sort of a dawning realization came upon the disciples, which told them that Jesus was “still alive” in them in some legacy of teaching or special kind of love. Yes, that legacy is still alive, but this is bargain priced Christianity.
You will be able to tell today why I will never rise to popularity in the media. I actually believe that, opposite to the Dean, a very deep nothing came slowly over the disciples. The evidence is that they were deathly afraid and locked away within the city that was the source of their fear. Their recent track record with Judas suggests they couldn’t trust each other either. Some sudden, unexpected event forced its way in upon them. And it was not the empty tomb alone that convinced them and changed them utterly. Rumours of grave-robbing ran hot. The empty tomb, with nothing in it, had actually signalled to them that they were next – they thought the body had been taken by authorities, a spiteful act of final extermination even of Jesus’ memory, including them. Whatever birthed Christianity was two other things.
Jesus came and stood 20.19a
a. Doors locked for Fear of arrest and crucifixion by Jews=Jerusalem officials
b. Peace be with you. Hands and side
The first thing that changed them was the several appearances of the risen Jesus, each of which was barely comprehended at any one time. His appearance and physicality had to some undefined and undescribed degree transformed into a new body. Paul (Rom 8.9-11) tells us that this is the model that we will drive around in on the day of our own resurrection. Not a ghost or a memory or a realization, but a touchable, eating, walking man with a nail-scored hands and a pierced side. It was a case of – ‘well, here he is, make of it what you can’. We know its never happened to anyone else before or since, but its only narrow minded to assume that it is not possible even for God to do it if God has a reason. Like them, today we are faced with the intellectual possibility, the historical probability and the evidence of witnesses that a risen Jesus authenticated his risen life and the meaning of it all by gentle personal relational repeated greetings. ‘here he is, make of it what you can’
The second thing that blew them away happened next.
Jesus breathed on them 20.19b-23
a. Peace be with you. Father sends you
b. Receive the Holy Spirit.
c. Forgive or not.
We are sent and we are empowered. In fact, Christian leaders through the ages all agree that we are never sent to do anything except that we will be empowered by the Holy Spirit. So, the receiving of the Holy Spirit is normal and essential to the progress of the new life on earth. I don’t know how much Jesus was like a charismatic, and it really doesn’t matter. Here it is – Like God at Creation breathing life into the first humans, Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit into the new humanity, the new Creation, the Kingdom of God, the heaven-on-earthlings, the pioneers of the new heaven and the new earth that Jesus has inaugurated. No wonder they emerged from hiding with a power and a purpose. This story is its foundation stone. And there is more than an oomph here, there is definition of the four sides of the foundation stone :
PEACE: Jesus gently acknowledges our fear, and offers us Peace.
SENT: Jesus sends us into the world with the good news anyway.
It is normal and necessary to receive the Holy Spirit – this faith is not a memory or a tradition or an organised religion, it is organically ALIVE.
Integral to it all, eternal life is built upon forgiveness or non-forgiveness, SO our hurts and fears are either a roadblock against God’s love or a pathway through to greater love TODAY.
The 1C evidence of the church’s immediate explosive growth to east west north and south demonstrates that something happened to them which enabled them to face death, gave them boldness, gave them a role status in the world on the same level as the first Creation, and dared to have every language group in its vision statement. So if it wasn’t the resurrection of Jesus it had to be something exactly like it. That’s a joke, if you will. Take Thomas for example.
Thomas is one who was sent. 20.24-29
a. Demands his own direct evidence
b. ‘My Lord and My God’ belief in Jesus.
c. Apostle to India. Those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Thomas’ behaviour, his so-called ‘doubt’ shows that they were not all ‘caught up together ‘ in a wave of renewed hope and insane optimism which they then represented as a resurrection. This and other stories show that they didn’t believe each other at all. It also emphasises the very physicality of what the disciples were meeting in these appearances. It also results in the strongest statement fo faith of any of the apostles – My Lord and My God – and that from a good Jewish boy who shouldn’t think such things. Thomas was sent- in western historical sources he was last heard of in India, planting the Mar Toma church throughout India, which exists today only in the south due to the Hindu conquests in the north and centre (just as Egypt and North Africa was all Christian before the Moslem invasion).
No wonder, with a man of such great faith, I named my first born Thomas. Our Indian church family were among those that Thomas remembered from the words of Jesus that night – ‘those that have not seen and yet have believed’.
And from the lives of the other apostles, so am I. Like a skipping stone across history and planet, the gospel came to me. And I am sent, like Thomas was sent by Jesus and like Jesus was sent by God. No matter how hard it is, or how forgotten I may be, the gospel will not stop with me.
The First Epilogue to the Gospel v30-31
Because Jesus in his death was both human and divine, we know that it is God who saves us, and who saves us completely. Anything else is a small salvation, and our walk with God, our friendship with the Holy Spirit, the exquisite presence of God in our life through suffering and pleasure, all these say that we have a very great salvation. So, that’s what the church has argued from its experience for millenia.
But we have lost the thread of our eternal life by imagining that after death we become some sort of disembodied spirit floating in heaven somehow. Indeed, heaven is usually spoken of as something ‘after you die’. That explanation will do for infants, possibly. But the fact that Jesus was both spirit and flesh after his resurrection means two things. First, we can look forward to the same sort of embodied eternity when he returns on the day he has set when he will sort out this mess. Secondly, eternal life begins now in the flesh. Live the Kingdom of God today. Forgive today. Be forgiven now. Do God’s justice now. Love his creation now. As we love now, so we will forever. Receive the Holy Spirit. Be holy. Live God’s purpose. Know God’s thoughts. This is a wonderfully great salvation. Nothing can compare with Him, our Risen Lord and Living God.
BENEDICTION based on 1 Peter 1:3-9
What a God we have –
This Father of our Master Jesus.
Because Jesus was raised from the dead,
We’ve been given a brand-new life.
What a God we have.
We have everything to live for,
including a future in heaven –
and the future starts now!
What a God who holds us.
How good it is to be His.
We never saw him, yet we love him.
We still don’t see him, yet we trust him
– with laughter and singing.
Because we keep on believing,
we’ll get what we’re looking forward to :
What a God!