Surprised by Hope: The Hope of the Resurrection

surprised3 Here is the text and discussion questions from yesterday's Easter gathering. If you have any questions, comments, insights, questions, etc.. we'd love to hear from you.

So today we come to the conclusion of our 6 week series entitled Surprised by Hope. Today we not only come to the conclusion but we come to the crux of the entire matter. The crux of our entire series, but not only that. The crux of the entire gospel, that of the resurrection of Jesus. Our entire series was based on the fact that the resurrection of Jesus was and is a reality and that a new reality was born on that first Easter morning.

Everything that we covered over the last 5 weeks (The Hope of the World, the Hope of Heaven, the Hope of Jesus second coming, the Hope of salvation, and the Hope of the church rests on our topic of conversation this morning…the Hope of the Resurrection. Without today, everything crumbles to pieces. There is no hope of the world. There is no hope of heaven. There is no hope of Jesus second coming. There is no hope of salvation, and there is no hope of the church, without the hope of the resurrection of Jesus. The Apostle Paul says it this way in 1st Corinthians 15:12-20, But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”

So let’s take a look together at that first Easter morning to see what it means that Jesus was raised to life. Let’s unpack what resurrection is all about, and what it means to have the hope of the resurrection.

To look at that first Easter morning we’ll look at the text found in John 20:1-10. John 20:1-10 says, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.” The first thing that we see, no pun intended, (and I know I’ve said this before) is found in the very first verse of John 20. The fact that John starts the resurrection narrative with these words, “Early on the first day of the week” should make us think of something. It should take us right to the beginning of the Bible where we see creation coming into existence on the 1st day of the week. So apparently John is making the connection that the resurrection of Jesus is connected to the act of the creation. Or should I say recreation. Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of that new life, that new creation, the first grass growing through the concrete of corruption and decay in the old world. That final redemption will be the moment when heaven and earth are joined together at last, in a burst of God’s creative energy for what Easter prototype and source. Jesus death and resurrection began the process of new or re-creation. He went first, than we get to be recreated, and the entire creation itself will be recreated, and be as it once was and as it should be. Everything, including ourselves, the world, everything will be made right again. The Hope of the Resurrection is more than anticipating we will leave this world some day and go to heaven. Rather, it is a bold confidence that God’s Kingdom, presence and power are breaking into our world today and a whole new creation has begun. It’s what we see when we read Colossians 1:20 which spells out what took place by Jesus’ death and resurrection when it says, “and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Resurrection is not an absurd event within the old world but the symbol and starting point of the new world. Jesus of Nazareth, by his death on the cross, and his resurrection ushers in not simply a new religious possibility, not simply a new ethic or a new way of salvation, but a new creation.

So on that first day of the week, the first day of re-creation, we see Mary coming to the Tomb to take care of Jesus’ body, as was the custom. Custom was that you anointed the body of the dead person, but because Jesus died so close to the Sabbath, they had to put him in the tomb without preparing his body. So Mary comes to the Tomb that first Easter morning, with no hope of a resurrected Jesus. No concept of the resurrection. She gets to the tomb and finds that the stone was rolled away. So she takes off and goes to the disciples. What is telling about her response to the disciples, is that she believes someone has taken the body of Jesus. She is Surprised by Hope. Surprised by the Resurrection of Jesus.

So after she tells the disciples, Peter and John take off running to the tomb, because you know you can’t trust the report of a woman. (I’m totally kidding but that is actually how people viewed it in that time. Women couldn’t be used in a court of law as reliable witnesses. Which to me proves the resurrection. Why have a great deal of woman report about the resurrection, if their reports wouldn’t be viewed as reliable. It goes against the common thought of the day.) So John gets there first, because he was younger than Peter, he stops outside the tomb, looks in and sees the strips of linen lying there, but doesn’t go in. Peter gets there finally, and as his personality is very brash, he just goes right into the tomb. He sees the linens lying there, neatly placed and folded and realized that it couldn’t have been a tomb robber, or someone who stole the body away because the linens would have been hastily thrown in place.

Finally after Peter sees these things, John goes in and sees the same things and believes. But what does he believe happened? It couldn’t have been that Jesus was raised from the dead because the text right after it says that John believed says that they still didn’t understand the Scriptures that said Jesus was to rise from the dead. So we need to go back to the context and see what he would believe and we find that more than likely he believed what Mary had told him, that something had happened to the body of Jesus. That someone took it, or moved it. But it wasn’t that Jesus had risen from the dead that first Easter morning. But that is exactly what happened that first Easter morning. Jesus had risen from the dead, conquering sin, death, and evil and setting in motion God’s new creation. And so the resurrection of Jesus is more than a belief that his body was dead and came to life again, though it is definitely that and that is true. It is an awareness that there was a cosmic explosion when Jesus rose again, and the power and the repercussions of this reality echo throughout the ages to our own day and into eternity.

But then what is the meaning of the resurrection for each of us and our world? What difference does it make that Jesus was raised back to life? I believe it is about a new bodily life in this world and for this world. God’s new creation, started on that first Easter Sunday, when Jesus rose from the dead, and we also have a job to do. The resurrection empowers us to live in new ways today, working with Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the act of new creation. Our calling then is to be advance foretastes of that new creation. To be signs and a lived out reality, of what Jesus calls the Kingdom of God, the way that it is when heaven overlaps earth, when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. To live in the power and the hope of the resurrection, that means a new way of being. A way of being fully human, fully the way that God has made us to live, which is in submission to the will of our Lord, King, and Savior Jesus. So when you live this way, hope is what you end up with when you realize that a different worldview is possible which is the same worldview shift that is demanded by the resurrection of Jesus and that worldview shift is the shift that will enable us to transform the world. But let’s spend time unpacking what it means when the rubber hits the road when it comes to the resurrection of Jesus. How does the resurrection of Jesus make a difference in our lives and in the world? What does it mean to live out new creation in our work, neighborhoods, family and the world? That is what we’ll be discussing together.

1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, push back etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and the message? 2. What does it look like to live out, individually and communally, new creation? To be the advance foretaste of that new creation? 3. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what are we going to do about it?