Easter Sunday

Easter-Resurrection-cropped So now is normally the time that we dive into the three things that drive us as a community. The 3 values of mission, discipleship, and community (or in simpler nomenclature OUT, UP, and IN). But I feel that our gatherings today beautifully fulfill these values. You see we were developing community by having breakfast together and being together on this Easter Sunday. We are praying together, looking at Scripture, and doing the work of discipleship. And then right after our gathering we are going to work on blessing college students by putting together Final Survival Kits.

So instead of talking about the IN OUT and UP we are just going to dive right into our text that we’ll be unpacking together, the story that lies at the heart and center of our faith. The crux of the matter if you will. The resurrection of Jesus. We’ll be talking about how the resurrection of Jesus impacts all of life and how his resurrection is more than just for some other place and some other time. It isn’t just about defeating death so that when we die we can have eternal life. I mean the whole point of Easter is that God is going to sort out the whole world, put the whole thing to right once and for all- this world, not just somewhere called heaven- and the resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of that great work.

So let’s look at the version of the Easter story told from the perspective of the good doctor, Luke found in Luke 24:1-12 and see how we might gain some new insight into this story that many of us have heard over and over again.

Luke 24:1-12 says, “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb,  but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee:  ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”  Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles.  But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.  Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.”

The first thing we notice is how Luke starts off this story of the resurrection. He says, “On the first day of the week.” Now if you and I were to write an account of the resurrection we wouldn’t use these words. We would probably just say, “On Sunday”. So there must be some reason behind Luke’s usage of the words “On the first day of the week” instead of just saying “on Sunday” No doubt Luke, along with each and every gospel writer, is pointing to the connection between the creation story/poem in Genesis and the resurrection story. Jesus resurrection is to be seen as the beginning of the new world, the first day of the new week, and what God wants to do not only in Jesus, not only in us, but in all of creation. If Genesis 1 is about creation, than the resurrection story is about recreation. Jesus was re-created first, and then someday the rest of humanity who are in relationship with God will be re-created along with the rest of the created order. What we are witnessing in the resurrection stories is the birth of new creation. The power that has tyrannized the old creation has been broken, defeated and overthrown. God’s Kingdom is now launched and launched in power and glory, on earth as it is in heaven.

So that first Easter Sunday the women head to the tomb to anoint Jesus body, because they weren’t able to do that after his crucifixion. They fully expected to see his body, and anoint it with the spices they had prepared. In fact, in one of the gospels (Mark) we see the women talking about who will roll the stone away. They had no concept of the resurrection. Not that Jesus didn’t tell them about his resurrection. In fact from Luke 9:22 on he told them in various ways. Two of his greatest stories (Luke 15:24, 32 and 16:31) end with strong references to his resurrection. But they couldn’t hear it, let alone understand it. From the beginning, the gospel is good news not at least because it dares to tell us things we didn’t expect, weren’t inclined to believe and couldn’t understand. Did we expect the gospel would be something obvious, something we could have dreamed up ourselves?

So the women get the tomb ready to anoint Jesus body with the spices that they had prepared, but they found the stone was rolled away. And so they went into the tomb to look for the body of Jesus, but it wan’t there. And so when they couldn’t find the body of Jesus, they started wondering, as the text says. Here again we see that the early disciples didn’t have any understanding that Jesus was supposed to be resurrected. As they wondered what had happened, the angels showed up and began to engage the women and to give them an idea of what had transpired. They ask the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead.” And then they explain that even while Jesus was with them, that he had told them that this resurrection would in fact take place. And they women then remembered his words.

Following their encounter with the angels, the women take off and head back to meet up with the other disciples. But instead of immediately jumping on the bandwagon of the resurrection, the disciples look at these women like they had lost their mind.

Think about the beauty, the rawness, the upside down nature of this story. If you and I were going to tell this story, we would definitely change it. That first Easter was filled not with excitement, joy, relief, or gladness. The first Easter was in fact filled with puzzlement, unbelief, perplexity, and being terrified. The opening mood then of Easter morning is one of surprise, astonishment, fear and confusion. Not what we want to read back on to it. To me this makes the story even more true. It is not sugar coated. If Luke had been making this story up a generation of more after the event as some people suggest, not only would he not have had women going first of the tomb (look at the list of Jesus’ early followers and you’ll find many women including the list in verse 10). You see women were not regarded as credible witness in the ancient world). He would have had the apostles believe the story at once, ready to be models of faith and to lead the young church into God’s future. Not so, it seems to them silly fantasy, exactly the sort of thing (they would have thought) that you’d expect from a few women crazy with grief and lack of sleep.

Even though the male disciples thought that they were were speaking nonsense, Peter still got up and headed off to the tomb. He got to the tomb, looked in, saw the grave clothes and linens lying there, and then he left. I find it interesting then what happened after. The text says “he went away wondering to himself what happened.” Peter didn’t have a theology, a framework, or an understanding at that point. He is confused, disoriented, not sure what is happening. Not until he actually encountered the risen Christ, and began hearing about resurrection again from Jesus did he truly understood what Jesus had been telling him all along. Not the picture that we think of when we think of Peter and that first resurrection Sunday.

But that picture is one that I actually relate with and resonate it. How about you? I’m only the other side of the resurrection but I live my life in unbelief, disillusionment, fear, and perplexity. I often find myself working against the re-creation work that Jesus wants to do in me through this resurrection. So we shouldn’t be surprised, then, of how surprised they were on that 1st Easter morning. It wasn’t just lack of faith that had stopped their understanding of what Jesus had said in Galilee about his resurrection.

But the point of the resurrection is that God’s new creation has already begun. It began with Jesus. He went first. And that if you are in Christ, he has begun that work of re-creating you, making you a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). And then he wants to use you and put you to work to make more bits of new creation happen within the world as it still is. And that we still live in the tension of a world that is being re-created but isn’t fully re-created. The world is not what it used to be, or what it will be. But we can know that because of the resurrection of Jesus, all will be made whole, made right, made new. And that because of Jesus resurrection, that shalom has happened, is happening and will happen. And that because of Jesus resurrection, we can not only be made whole, made right, made new but that we can be instruments of new creation (or as Paul says ambassadors). We are empowered to partner with God to remind our world that it isn’t always going to be like this. We, the people of God, are invited to live as though tomorrow’s new creation has already begun. And we know that, according to our resurrection text this morning, it already has.

So where are you seeing the resurrection work of re-creation in your life, in your relationships, and with the world around you? Where is the resurrection of Jesus touching down and breaking into your reality? These are the questions that we’ll be discussing together.

1. What thoughts, questions, ideas, applications, push back, etc.. do you have regarding the Scripture and/or message?

2. Where are you seeing the resurrection work of re-creation in your life, in your relationships, and with the world around you? Where is the resurrection of Jesus touching down and breaking into your reality?

3. Where are you not seeing the resurrection work of re-creating happening in your life, in your relationships, and in the world around you? How might this in breaking of the resurrection happen?

4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?