“Resurrection Faith”

Luke 24:1-12

April 11, 2004

 

Sorrow has become joy.  Darkness has become light.  Death has become life.  Cross has become Resurrection.  This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us be glad and rejoice in it. 

Today we celebrate the foundational event of our faith, an event so wonderful, so amazing, so incredible, that the actual moment of the event itself still remains a mystery not intended for human eyes.  Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, when God raised Jesus from the dead, vindicated his life, ministry and mission, triumphed over evil, and defeated death in one brilliant moment of divine glory and power. 

          The resurrection is the shining moment of God’s drama of redemption, the linchpin that holds the past and the future together.  It is the resurrection that stands as the single greatest testimony to God’s fundamental act of divine intervention in the world and for the world.  Once again God has taken up the work of creation in such a way that this day for us, can only truly be spoken of as the eighth day of creation. 

This is the conviction of the Christian faith and the confession of those faithful witnesses who have gone before us, Those, who have passed on to us from generation to generation that Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins and three days later was raised from the dead so that we may have eternal life. 

So, on this day, we come together to do more than just celebrate, we come to together to join our voices to the chorus of voices of the great cloud of witnesses in every time and place in the proclamation of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Christ is risen.  Christ is risen indeed. 

But there is more to the Easter message than just what we have come to believe and confess about the meaning of this particular day for us.  In the early morning hours on that first Easter Sunday, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, went to the tomb expecting only one thing – to find Jesus dead in the tomb.  They had seen Jesus die on the cross.  They had watched from afar as Joseph of Arimathea took down Jesus’ lifeless body from the cross, wrap in a linen cloth, and lay him in a rock-hewn tomb.  For them, the journey was over.  The story of Jesus’ life and ministry had came to an untimely, abrupt end.  All their hopes and dreams forever sealed by the great stone over the tomb. 

          But on that first Easter morning, what they discovered didn’t make sense to them.  The stone was rolled away from the tomb, and there was no body.  The tomb was empty.  And then something happened, suddenly two messengers in dazzling white clothes stood beside them and asked the women, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”  But they had not remembered.  None of them did.  All they remembered was that Jesus had been crucified.  All they remembered was that Jesus had died.  All they remembered was that Jesus’ body had been put in the tomb. 

          If all we remember about Easter is the story of the empty tomb, then we are no better off than the women – still perplexed about what has happened, still wondering what happened to Jesus’ body, still not sure if the empty tomb is good news or not.  The empty tomb in and of itself is no proof that Jesus was raised from the dead.  It is only when we remember the words of Jesus himself does the empty tomb begin to have meaning.  Only when we remember the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ does the fuller message of Easter begin to take shape. 

The empty tomb without the remembrance of Jesus’ life and ministry, without the promise of God, without the message of the good news of salvation attached to it, is just that - an empty tomb. 

          But remembrance is only the beginning, because sometimes even the act of remembrance is not enough to evoke a faith that believes.  Even when the women remembered Jesus’ words, and ran off to tell the apostles what had happened, the apostles did not believe them.  They thought it was an idle tale, that the story the women told was just the disconnected talk of delirious people.  

          The faith of the disciples was not enough to convince them that what the women said was true about what had happened.  They too had remembered that Jesus had been crucified.  They too had remembered that Jesus died.  And they too had remembered that Jesus had been placed in a tomb.  In spite of all Jesus had told them beforehand, the apostles did not have any hope whatsoever that he would be raised from the dead. 

          For them, human reasoning dictated the only logical possibility.  If Jesus was not in the tomb, then either the body was stolen or the women went to the wrong tomb.  This was the only logical answer, because dead people do not rise from the dead by themselves.  Even when Peter went to the tomb himself, he still only left amazed at what had happened, but not yet believing. 

          Simply hearing the words about the empty tomb on this one day is not enough to evoke a faith that believes, because faith does not believe in something, which at best, is not provable, and at worst, is not true; “faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen.” 

 

It won’t be until Jesus appears to the disciples in the body, that their faith becomes a believing faith, a saving faith, and a true resurrection faith, and they are transformed from a fearful, hopeless band of followers, to believing and confessing witnesses of the living Christ. 

It is only in our encounter with the presence of the living Christ that our faith begins to become a resurrection faith that believes, and the empty tomb is seen for what it really is – the first testimony of the fulfillment of God’s promise that Christ is risen. 

          Resurrection faith is the assurance and conviction that what happened on that first Easter morning was not a hoax, or a lie, or wishful thinking, but a fact, a fact grounded in the promises of God, a fact grounded in the words of Jesus Christ himself, a fact grounded in the testimony and witness of the apostles and saints throughout all time and place, a fact grounded in our own encounter with the living Christ. 

          This is why the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead,” is so fundamental, not only for the women, but also for us, and for our fuller understanding of the Easter message.  Easter is more than just about the empty tomb and it’s more than just about one day.  Easter is about the on going encounter with the One, who is not among the dead, but the living, the One who is the living Lord of our life. 

On that Easter morning long ago, God not only radically changed the empty tomb from being the end of the story, to the beginning of a new story, but God also radically changed the empty tomb from being the end of our journey, to the beginning of our new journey, a new journey that is not to last just one day, but over the course of our whole life, in the on going fellowship with the very people who lay hold of the same claim that God raised Jesus from the dead, in the on going outworking of our faith in mission and ministry, in the ongoing evangelism of the Gospel, in the ongoing hearing of the word,

in the ongoing devotion and practice of our faith, and in the ongoing embodiment of love, forgiveness, compassion, and comfort for others. 

These are the ways in which we will find and encounter the presence of the living Christ.  These are the ways in which we will come to know and believe and trust him more fully.  These are the ways by which we become Christ’s loving servants and faithful witnesses.    

And in doing them, we will discover the full meaning of Easter, and our faith will not only become a believing faith, and a saving faith, but also a true resurrection faith in the risen and living Jesus Christ.  Amen.