Testify: The Resurrection of Our Lord
READ: Luke 24.1-12
In the grand scheme of things, 2,000 years doesn’t seem that long ago. On this, very Easter morning, we are standing on the planet Earth, which is 4 1/2 billion years old, and 2,000 years seems like the most minute of fractions. But even for those who believe the earth is only about 8,000 years old, again, 2000 years ago really doesn’t seem all that long ago. The civilizations of Ancient Greece and Rome yielded some of the most significant literature and poetry and philosophy and art that is not only still intact, but relevant to our daily lives. The science and math and language and theory are some of the foundations of at least our Western thinking even to this day. It’s not material locked up in a museum or stored away in some archives as the work of a once-dominant ancient civilization; instead, much of our language and knowledge has its roots right there in the hellenistic world — which included all of Judea in that time frame. 2000 years ago, God came to earth as a baby in a marginalized world. And that baby grew to be a teacher. Then a prophet. Then the Christ, the Messiah. 2000 short years ago, was when God decided to reconcile us to himself. To find a way that we could live together his holy presence and eternal glory. In the scheme of things, 2000 years ago, while we can’t consider it “modern times,” wasn’t exactly prehistoric either. It was a time of modern thinkers. Intelligent people. Established cultures that still stand today. Why, then, do we need to be reminded that the one who became sin who knew no sin suffered, died, was buried, and raised from the dead three days later? As if it was some sort of fairy tale or legend. It wasn’t. Even the Historical Jesus affirms much of this. Even outside of Israel, the significant events of Jesus’s life were recorded, spoken of, followed, and accepted. And not just in faith. There were many witnesses to these accounts. The book of Acts tells us that hundreds of people saw Jesus after he was resurrected. Verse 9 in today’s reading in Luke tells us that the women reported all these things to the 11 (disciples) and all the others. Those others, we find in Acts 1.13-15, is about 120 people total. In that time and for hundreds of years later, people went to their deaths defending the faith. Still happens today, unfortunately. The entire world has been shaped by this one event: Wars have been fought, nations have been created, and people have endured and even proliferated in the name of Jesus Christ. And what’s more, our beloved Trinity Church is witnessing the most people it will see during the year, rivaling Christmas Eve. And most likely everyone here and the estimated 2.18 billion people — about a third of the world’s population today — call themselves “Christians.” And with that title, they believe, like we do today, that there is life after death in the full presence of our Creator God. And if that’s all true — and it is — then why do we need a reminder to live and love as Christ calls us to? We believe everything else, do we not? We even believe Christ died for our sins! And we believe Christ rose from the dead! Why wouldn’t we ever believe Christ meant what he said when he said: “Follow me?” “Love one another as I first have loved you?” And that we must become “his body”? Because the question in front of us this Easter morning is simply this: Do we live our lives as if Christ’s resurrection was real? 2000/120 Well, take comfort: We’re in good company. You see, on that Easter morning 2,000 years ago, no one believed it either. Luke tells us the women were up early that morning, going to tend to the tomb. They were in mourning and diligently keeping busy with the fragrant spices they had prepared for Jesus’s tomb. But when they arrived, they couldn’t believe what they had found. The stone was rolled away, and Jesus’s body was gone. —> What had they forgotten that Jesus told them while he was still alive? Two men — like angels — have to remind them (beginning Verse 6): “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, that the Human One must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Then they remembered his words. “ The women took off back to the others — 120 of them, including the disciples. They told them what they saw. And they didn’t believe! Peter himself runs off to the tomb. He looks inside, and sees only the linen cloth. And he returns home, “wondering what had happened.” (Verse 12). —> What had they forgotten that Jesus told them while he was still alive? Prophecy All that Jesus had told them. Taught them. The prophecies all had come true for them to witness it. On this morning, it all comes together. And no one gets it immediately. I wonder if Peter is thinking about Jesus’s question to the disciples that Luke records in Chapter 9: “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers: “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus tells them of his coming suffering, death, and resurrection. I wonder if the disciples are thinking about how Jesus healed a child and hands him back to his father. Luke also records that a few verses later. And when this happens, and everyone is amazed at what Jesus can do, he tells them that he will be betrayed and killed. And even later, making their way into Jerusalem, Jesus tells the disciples: “Look, we’re going up to Jerusalem, and everything written about the Human One by the prophets will be accomplished. He will be handed over to the Gentiles (the Romans). He will be ridiculed, mistreated, and spit on. After torturing him, they will kill him. “ ### We walked this road with Jesus through the season of Lent. We entered the gates of Jerusalem with the triumphal shouts “Hosanna in the highest!” We listened to the words as he sat at the table with both his friends and his betrayer. We stood in dark shadow of the cross and watched them destroy the Human One. It all happened just as the prophets and Christ said it would. The disciples don’t have an issue with any of that. But the last word that Jesus tells them in that passage was this: “On the third day, he will rise up.” And now, counting Friday, Saturday and Sunday, why doesn’t it hit them that this is the Third Day? That the tomb is empty because everything the prophets said came true. Everything Jesus said came true. And ever part of God’s will occurred exactly as planned. If they — who once were standing right there in front of Jesus and now are standing right there looking into an empty tomb — if they couldn’t believe it back them, how can we 2000 years later? —> What had we forgotten that Jesus told us? Convinced or convicted? We don’t need to be convinced; we need to be is convicted. And conviction takes surrender. Not just in faith. But also in the truth. Look around you this morning. Not just here in this church, but around the world, in churches just like this one at this very hour, where some 2 billion-plus people are shouting those words: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” Recalling this amazing event that completely transformed the world. Not just our generations. But the hundreds of generations before us. And the millions of generations following us. All those on earth, under earth and in heaven will proclaim his holy name! We remember this! We remember the promise on this most holy morning! A promise to us that was kept, and a promise for us to keep. Jesus is the Messiah! Jesus is God! Jesus is Risen! Promise kept The promise kept is that when Jesus drew his last breath on the cross and died, and the veil was torn in the temple separating the divine from the human, we were finally reconciled to God. We were no longer separated because of our sins. The sins of our perfect disobedience were paid for forever by Christ’s perfect obedience. And we would now live eternally in the presence of God if we chose to. That was the promise kept. But the promise that we were given to keep is this: That we become the body of Christ. We become Christ in this world. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and by the hand of God through the sacrifice of God’s only Son, we become Christ in this world. Testify What that means is that Easter morning — the Resurrection of our Lord — isn’t some legend. And it’s not some festival or holiday to remember a time long, long ago. But it’s an ever evolving, ever revealing, and ever-giving action of love and grace and humility and mercy. It is a gift that was given long before the Incarnation, long before Jesus was born, long before the suffering, death and even the resurrection. It was a gift given even before the covenant “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” No, it was God’s plan for us before all time and before all creation. That is a fact. We can take in faith. We can practice it once a year on Easter Sunday. Or we can live out the promise in our lives each and every day as the only possible response to God’s incredible love and mercy and grace. And we can be Christ in the world. Physically. We can give of ourselves. We can help others. We can live like Easter People— * People who know and understand that the world was changed for good 2000 years ago; * People who know that their lives endure forever because God’s love endures forever; * People who know they were rescued from death and have new and eternal life in the company of God and all the faithful in the world, now and always; * People who think 2000 years ago was a blink of they eye, simply because we see, feel, breath, hear, touch and sense Christ in our lives each and every day. We are Easter People because Christ is risen: He is risen indeed!