The Resurrection of the Lord, Year B
4 April 2021
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
On Good Friday, shortly after our service, I received a call from CNKW about whether I would be available for a short interview in the afternoon. The call was brief, and I was told that the conversation was to be about the significance of Easter.
However, the way the interview unfolded was a lot more about what it meant to have to celebrate Easter online rather than in person, and only then was the question thrown in about why Easter is of such great importance for Christians.
I think I did OK but I think that I could have done better on the significance of Easter, and I know what I would have said. And yet I also realize that I do most of my speaking about the Christian story to those who know the story and that I need more practice in speaking about my faith to those who don’t inhabit our story.
Thinking about the interview now, I wonder whether we are so used to accepting and believing the resurrection that we are perhaps not always sure what it means, beyond the personal meaning it has for us: Jesus is the first born of the dead and God promises us new and eternal life through him. Perhaps a bit like a happy ending to a sad story.
Now, I will admit that I have never had difficulty believing the resurrection, not in the way that I would find it incredulous. That’s not because I live in a fairy tale universe but because I live my life in awe of the miracles around me in the way that Einstein once said that there are two ways to live one’s life, either as if everything was a miracle or as if nothing was. And this, coming from Einstein, makes it pretty clear that having a sense of reverence and awe for the universe and seeing it imbued with the Spirit of God is not in contradiction to science but in harmony with it.
However, one of the most basic and yet profound miracles is that I am loved and that I have the capacity to love.
And yet I wonder if we know what to do with the resurrection beyond the comfort it gives us about the lives of those we love and about our own life.
One way that I have always looked at the resurrection is that it makes our lives meaningful. Not in the sense that I have to earn my salvation but in the sense that no sparrow would die without God taking notice and that God has counted the hairs on my head.
Everything here is important because God created the universe and you and me, and God has not abandoned the world. That is how I have always looked at the resurrection. Eternity lends importance to time.
Now, that is all good news and should make us happy. But why do all the Gospels speak of the fear and terror that gripped those who found the grave empty? Surely this has nothing to do with going to the cemetery while it was still dark and having read too many spooky stories? I mean, maybe they had read too many spooky stories but I don’t believe that that is what the Gospels want to emphasize.
Mark tells us that they are greeted with the words not to be afraid, and that at the end of the encounter with this messenger, they fled from the tomb because terror and amazement had seized them and they said nothing to any one because they were afraid.
What was it they had been told?
“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”
They had received profoundly good news. Jesus had been raised. Why did they not rejoice?
The answer we find in the Gospel of Mark is that they will meet Jesus in Galilee. The end of Mark’s Gospel points back to the beginning. In Galilee is where it all began.
Remember that the male disciples all dispersed, they left Jesus in the hour of his greatest need, and Peter denied that he knew Jesus. They did so because they were afraid that as those associated with Jesus the authorities might come for them, too, which is why later they were found behind locked doors.
To go and meet Jesus in Galilee means two things.
The first one is the frightening one. The story is not over. They are again called into discipleship. They are now to inhabit Jesus’ story. And at this point they can hardly say that they do not understand the risk to their lives and reputations. Meeting Jesus in Galilee does not mean the end of their mission but the beginning. And following Jesus meant that if they lived their faith authentically, they too would be in trouble with the authorities, which is a hard thing for us law-abiding citizens to hear.
However, meeting Jesus in Galilee is also comforting. The story is not over. Jesus is alive and will meet them. They are to be together again, gather from their hiding places, and they are given a second chance at discipleship.
And so for us the resurrection means that we will meet Jesus in Richmond, and Delta, and Surrey, and Burnaby, and Vancouver. It means that in those places and in our time we are to embody God’s kingdom, to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour. (Luke 4)
This is antithetical to the way our world is organized. But that is resurrection, and that is our calling.
Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia.