The Joy of the Resurrection (Sligo talk).
1 Jim Elliot, the Christian martyr said many remarkable things. For example, “he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Or this one, most suitable for Easter Day, “Forgive me for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.” Surely we all feel the force of these words, for there is sadly too often a gap between what we say we believe and how we live. Why can’t we be different from the world? Forgive us for being so ordinary.
It’s not a new problem. Read Matthew 28:1ff. What a lot of stuff these women had to contend with: earthquake, bright lightning, an angel, a huge stone, grief and (what they took to be) the dead bodies of the guards. And the one they expected to be there, the one who was dead not there at all!
Tell me, what difference does the resurrection make to our everyday living?
Notice the mess we get ourselves in whenever we use the wrong tense. What do I mean? Look at verse 5: the angel said, “ I know that you are looking for Jesus, who WAS crucified.” Of course on one level that is merely stating a fact. But that is not the whole picture. Something similar happens on the road to Emmaus, where the two disciples talk to the stranger (Jesus) of Jesus of Nazareth that he “WAS a prophet mighty in deed and word.” It is as if the apostles’ testimony goes something like this: ‘Jesus is
dead, and we buried him.’ The disciples were hiding behind locked doors. Even when the women came and told them that Christ was really alive, risen from the dead, the apostles dismissed their talk as “idle tales” - literally, ‘nonsense’. No, they were sure: Christ is dead, and we buried him.
We can get our tenses wrong too. We place Christ in the past. We make him a figure of history, a figure of remote stories (whose truth is debated) - impressive, yes, but of no lasting significance, of no greater significance surely than other famous great leaders of history.
Forgive us for being so ordinary.
But the women were looking in the wrong place! As Luke 24:5,6 says, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!” The women should have known better. And the angel had to remind them: “Remember how he spoke to you when he was still in Galilee, saying, ‘the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” Even the so-called stranger on the road to Emmaus rebuked them: “Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” Jesus had to explain to them what the Law and the Prophets meant “that they might comprehend the Scriptures.”
But we too look in the wrong places. We too need our understanding of Holy Scripture enlightened.
Non-believers look in the wrong place as well. They open old books, they look at paintings, they listen to music, and they visit architectural sites. But Christ is not there. He is alive, not confined to buildings or works of art. He is supposed to be seen as alive in us - those who claim to follow him as their Lord and Saviour.
Forgive us for being so ordinary while claiming to know so extraordinary a God.
When we allow the Resurrected Christ to clothe our humanity with his divinity, to live his risen life through us, then everything about us changes. We become 24 hour evangelists. Christ in us - Christ through us - Christ with us: we are no longer speaking about a dead figure of history. rather, we are living our lives in the abundance of someone else’s resources.
Let me try and explain.
The true Christian life can only be explained in terms of the living Jesus Christ. If our Christian lives can be explained in terms of us - our personalities, our willpower, our gifts, our talents, our money, our courage, our scholarship, our education, our wealth, our dedication, our sacrifice, our ANYTHING - then although we may have the Christian life, we are not yet living it. If our Christian
lives can be explained in terms of who we are, what do we have to offer? Forgive us for being so ordinary. There is nothing about us which leaves others guessing. And too often there is nothing commendable in us which non believers don’t feel equally capable of reproducing in their own lives, without - as they see it - the inconvenience of following Christ.
Only when our lives baffle our neighbours by their qualities of peace and joy and love are we likely to get their attention. It must be obvious to others that the lives we lead are not just commendable, but beyond human explanation. Our lives must only be explained by God’s capacity to reproduce himself in us. Those who live around us must become convinced that the Living Loving Lord Jesus Christ is himself the essential ingredient of the lives we live.
It is my belief that the Christian life is impossible. And there in only one who can live it - Jesus Christ himself. This is in part what Paul means when he says, in Romans 5:10, “we are being saved by [Christ’s] life.”
And according to his original purpose and design for us, the Lord wants to govern our behaviour in such a way that
• He is in us the origin of his own image
• He is in us the source of his own activity
• He is in us the dynamic of his own demands • He is in us cause of his own effect.
You see, God has created us to be functional only by virtue of his being alive in us, only by virtue of his living presence within. None of us is essential to God. But he is essentially indispensable to each of us.
We are to let the living Jesus Christ be God in us, just as once as man, he allowed the Father to be God in him.
Concluding Remarks about the Resurrection:
• The Resurrection is a lively proclamation that Jesus is alive and present with and to us. The same Jesus who walked and talked with the disciples touches our lives too in exactly the same way. Jesus is once again forgiving, feeding, freeing, teaching, and consoling - but this time it’s the world at large, and, thank God, we’re included.
• Death has been conquered. Death is but the gateway to eternal life. Jesus’ Resurrection gives meaning to suffering and death like nothing else. There is meaning and purpose to life after all. Death and sorrow do not get to have the last word. Life and love win.
• Jesus’ Resurrection affirms the value of the human, of the material, and of the whole world we live in. Jesus was raised as a whole human being - body, soul and spirit. Jesus retained his humanity. And so shall we when we are raised from the dead. God has embrace the human condition in the Incarnation, when the Son of God became a tiny baby, growing into a man, and that commitment is only strengthened in the Resurrection. there
is for ever a profound unity between God and his world, between the Holy Trinity and matter. Jesus’ Resurrection speaks of a continuity between this world and the next. Our faith in the Resurrection assures us that EVERYTHING of beauty and joy and love and creativity lasts for ever.
Jesus is with us; death has been destroyed; human life and activity have lasting value. What great reasons to rejoice this Easter morning! And best of all, we know he lives, we know he’s alive because he lives in us by his Spirit! Happy Easter!