The Resurrection

The Resurrection

The most essential and corner stone doctrine to our faith is not the cross, neither is it the understanding of the trinity. It is the resurrection of Jesus.

We don’t need reminding, that if the resurrection had not occurred, or if it is proved it did not occur, Simply, our faith would all be for nothing.

The words of Paul highlight this in, 1 Corinthians 14, if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith….

Without the resurrection, Jesus would have been just another teacher, a wise man, another human with a sinful heart, living with a doubting hope.

But because Jesus rose from the dead, the resurrection holds center stage for us in our Christian faith. It is such an important aspect of our faith, and an aspect I believe we do not always think about and at best, one we take for granted.

As Christians we only seem to celebrate and talk about the resurrection at Easter time. We all know that Jesus was crucified for our sins and rose 3 days later. We greet each other on Easter Sunday morning with the words, “He is Risen. He has risen indeed. 

 But, do we truly grasp the good news of these words and what it means. Its not just a happy ending for Jesus or us. It is a pivotal moment in the glory of God and his people. It is God’s divine plan coming to fruition. The foundation of our hope.

I wonder, do we focus too much attention on Jesus on the cross, instead of, Jesus and his resurrection.

Jesus on the cross reminds us of the suffering he had to endure, it reminds us of his death and the sacrifice he made for us because of our sins because of the love he has for us. The cross in this aspect is overwhelmingly humbling to us.

The cross reminds us to persevere as Gods will is always at work for our benefit and glory.

I wonder how Mary, Jesus Mother and the disciples would have seen the cross? Picture it. The emotions, the tears, the helplessness, the disbelief, dare I say anger??? 

Without the resurrection, where would hope come from, where would your hope come from…. There would be no foundation for hope. The resurrection is the reason we have hope. The reason we confidently know we will have eternal life.

As such, I want to concentrate today on the resurrection story and what we can we learn from it.

We are all aware of the resurrection story. It has been taught to us in Sunday School, scripture classes and every Easter, every year since we were little.

The story of Jesus being Crucified on the cross, dying for us and raising from the dead 3 days later.

And this is where I want to start. Concentrating on this one day. The day he rose.

As we discuss it, I believe it’s important that we understand the chronological order of things,

So, using scripture, we start at the beginning of a Jewish week, in Matthew 28:2-4,

There was a violent earthquake, and an angel of the lord came down from heaven and going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. The Angel, did nothing else. He didn’t free Jesus. Jesus had already risen. He effectively moved the stone and just sat down and waited, confidently mind you. The sight was so awesome, it caused battle hardened Roman soldiers to shake and become like dead men. Why was he waiting, well he was expecting someone.

Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, Salome, Joanna and other ladies where on their way to the tomb, after leaving their homes while it was still dark to anoint Jesus body with oils. They arrive at daybreak. We are even told, while walking they actually questioned each other how they were going to move the stone once they got to the tomb.

This passage reflects their current mind set and our human thinking, It shows with the reality of Jesus, no longer in their lives, they were not thinking straight, their minds easily turned to a state of confusion and unrest. They instinctively reverted to the law and human concerns of traditions, and their own interests for comfort. This is reflected by their determination to anoint Jesus body who they believed was still dead inside the tomb.  Their human concerns were now the best and only option in their minds to gain some form of peace, no matter the real life, impassable obstacles and challenges in the way.

The human concerns of Mary Magdalene are further exposed in John 20:1, when she on arrival, from a distance saw the tomb stone had been removed from the entrance. Instead of investigating, her current state of unrest and disbelief, caused her to see red. She immediately ran back to tell Peter and John, “They have taken the lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”

Mary allowed, the unrest in her to feed contempt and allow anger to guide her thinking!

We at times act like this also. Lose sight of Gods will and love. Instead, focusing on our own wants and interests, leading us into a world of anger and despair when it doesn’t go how we want it too…

Now for the women, who stayed, they continued with open minds and actually go to the tomb. an Angel greets them and tells them in Matthew 28. Do not be afraid, For I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, he has risen, JUST as he Said. Luke’s Gospel reminds us of these words, as they also reminded the women at the time, for our benefit these words are, The Son of Man, must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.

Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples: He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you to Galilee. The woman hurried away, afraid, yet filled with joy.

Straight away, we can see, by coming to Jesus with an open mind and a focus on his teachings, we will remember and hear his words. We also, now better understand the purpose of the Angel appearing at the tomb. The Angel like the word of God is waiting for us to find him and hear him.

It is also hinting at us, that we need to trust Gods words as part of our faith in our life, and just because he is not where we think he should be, he is alive and with us in his risen body, working for us.

Proverbs 3:6, In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Look at Mary in her current state, she was blind to this. She needed a straight path now more than ever.

The Angel here, gave the ladies a message and told them to hurry with the message for the others. I believe the Angel said Hurry, not because Jesus had a time schedule he needed to adhere too. I believe the word hurry is to express the urgency and priority God holds out to us, in turning to him for help, love and peace. Remember Pauls warning in 1 Thessalonians, For you know very well, the day of the lord will come like a thief in the night.

With no God, our mind controls our actions, and our minds can not help but revert to our self-pride and sin when given the option as we know from Adam and Eve. If you don’t believe me, Look at the world around us and its problems today. What are the root causes? Look at corona virus. It has been the best example of the speed in which we can revert to our human selfish desires, we all have in our hearts in response to the real and direct result of uncertainty and death.

Continuing on, like a scripted movie, John 20:3, tells us, Peter, John and Mary Magdalene arrive after the woman have left. Peter enters first, even though John got there first, effectively pushing past John as he stood outside the tomb looking in. All they find is the folded linen in an orderly arrangement. When John entered its written, he saw this linen arrangement and believed. I wonder if John was able to see and believe because he took the moment to stop and open his mind to what he was seeing. The folded blankets, the empty tomb . Peter however, pushing past John, entering quickly according to Luke’s gospel, left not understanding, wondering to himself what had happened. His mind closed to god, but open to human actions and possibilities, not godly ones.

Peter and John then both leave. However, they leave Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, alone and crying.

Here in John 20:11, Mary builds up the courage to look for Jesus, in the tomb. When she does, she sees two angels, they ask her, Woman why are you crying? Mary replies, “They have taken my lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.  Jesus then makes his first resurrected appearance, appearing to Mary, but she doesn’t recognise him, Jesus speaks, Woman, why are you crying, Who is it you are looking for?”  Mary, thinking she is talking to the gardener, replies, Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him. Jesus then calls her name, “Mary.”

Like sight being given to the bind, Mary recognises Jesus and calls out Rabboni.  Which is Aramaic for teacher.  Jesus then speaks to her, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father. Go instead to my brothers and ell them, I am ascending to my father, and your father, to my god and your god.

Mary leaves Jesus with renewed hope and joy and goes to the Disciples with this good news, telling them what he said.

This passage of scripture is awesome. It tells us, when alone in our sorrows, God is with us, when we see he is. But at times we need the courage to turn and look for him. Mary at this time would have been feeling hopeless. She would have been at rock bottom. Yet she was a Christian, she believed in Jesus. Just like us. But that does not mean she is immune to the actions of the world around her and succumbing to worldly concerns. Just like us.

She was so caught up in her human thinking of Jesus being gone, that she forgot the teachings of Jesus and his predictions. She was too focused on her own sorrow. Her own feeling of being wronged against and a victim, as a result, she had no hope!  Like we can also feel and do!

Her current feelings blinded her from Jesus words, until he said her name! what better way to get someone’s attention than saying their name. God truly knows us. Why do you think god waited for Mary to reveal himself too, alone in the garden, instead of, appearing in the sky for all to see, over the temple in Jerusalem or over Pilot’s house? Because he cares for us as individuals, and he knows all our names, Isaiah 43:1, “fear not, I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

God, is more concerned about a personal relationship with each of us, than being a celebrity. And this is where we can see in his reply to Mary, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father. Mary’s human concern of never letting go of Jesus again is witnessed by her obvious action of reaching out and grabbing him.

Have you ever hugged your mother or father, or children and grandchildren, so tight and you didn’t want to let go. Yes! Its amazing to feel like that and loving. But why, do you not, want to let go?

Because you want to keep them close and safe, because you know how scary the world can be. Because you want them in your life forever!

Our Human concern again, playing its part in our lives. Imagine if my mother never let me go the last time, she hugged me. I wouldn’t be here. I’d be stuck in her embrace. Imagine if you had never let go, the last time you hugged your child or grandchild. I dare say you would be happy forever and comforted. But they would not. They would be trapped in your arms. How are they supposed to spread the love, comfort and gifts they have to offer the world which you speak to them about?  They can’t. But you can teach them how and let them go for you. Just like Christ does here, asking Mary to let him go and to go for him and tell the others that he is going to do what his father and our father, and his god and our god, wants him to do. 

I love it when the bible opens itself to us. We get to see so much more.

It’s funny, whenever, I’m preparing a sermon for Sunday, Things always seem to happen in the week leading up to it, that I can use to help with the message I want to convey. I used to think it was just luck. But now, I believe it’s because I’m not just thinking about Jesus, I’m actually looking for him, working in my life. I’m trying to see him through the world which wants my attention focused elsewhere.

Like in the next appearance of Jesus to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were in conversation, discussing everything that had just happened again, Jesus was not recognised by them either, even though, like Mary, they had Jesus in their thoughts.

Jesus asked them, what are you discussing as you walk along I can’t help but think they answered Jesus with some sort of emotional tone, in their voice as the question was enough to make them stop, and standstill, with their faces described as downcast. Is this guy serious?  One of them replied, are you the only one, visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days? Jesus replied with another question, “what things?”

They as such relayed the events of the past days and how the hope that they had, that Jesus would redeem Israel, was now diminished. They even stated, what’s more, it’s been three days since this all took place, acknowledging they had heard some talk that the woman this morning found an empty tomb, supported by others, but they still did not believe or see Jesus in front of them.

Jesus interjects, How FOOLISH you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory!

Jesus uses scripture to help open their eyes. We read on that Jesus then explained to the two disciples what was said about him in all the scriptures. Jesus continued unrecognised until later that evening when he sat with them at a table. Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it and begun to give it to them. This is the moment their eyes were open. And they recognised him. Jesus then disappeared from their sight and they had a light bulb moment. “Were not our hearts burning within us, while he talked to us on the road and opened the scriptures.

With their faith reignited, they packed up and left for Jerusalem to tell the others. They also went for him, like Mary.

We notice a common theme start to develop, We as Christians all to easily forget Gods words and promises in our daily lives and challengers. We have need to be reminded of them, to keep our faith strong and our hope alive. But we are also proud and at times stubborn. He knows this. Hence, Jesus uses questions to help Mary and the disciples, to come to the realisation, and to truly see him with their own eyes.   

I have been teaching Scarlet this week to do her times tables, I teach her the method and show her, I write it out before her eyes and explain it to her. she says, she understands it. But when she goes to do the question, she looks up at me, and says, Dad, I don’t understand. I stare blankly, and shake my head and say out loud, are you kidding me. We just learnt it step by step literally going through the answer.

But like our good father, I as a father, go back to step one and show her again, and again asking her questions I hope will lead her to the answer, until she understands, and has the ability to realise the answer on her own, without being told. This gives me an insight to how Jesus was with these two disciples and is with us. He truly knows us.

But the kicker is when the disciples recognised him only when he broke the bread and gave it to him. Is Jesus not the bread of life. The words of the bible are made for us to consume. By consuming the words, we are able to digest it and turn it into wisdom and understanding. But you don’t become wise with out digesting what you learn and trusting in that.

You’d be happy to know; Scarlet by Thursday evening now understanding on her own, was up to her 9 times tables.

And the feeling of accomplishment for her and me was like a burning fire of happiness.

Just like the two disciples exclaimed to each other. And also, the reason you all, were so happy and excited to come back to church even though you knew, you may have to wear mask and there is no singing, no hugging and no morning tea.

You have to laugh at the awesomeness of it.

The burning desire to come back to church for each of you, was not to sit on a wooden pue for an hour. It was to hear Gods word together. We truly have a living and active awesome God in our hearts. Who we know is the provider of the love and peace in our lives through his teachings. Take comfort that he is alive in your hearts working for you and with you.

These two disciples quickly returned back to Jerusalem and to the locked room where the disciples were gathered. These two men were discussing there meeting with the resurrected Christ, when Jesus made his last appearance for the day.

His first words to them, his disciples. Peace be with you.

Why these words?

We find a clue in the Old testament. we read in Isaiah 9:6 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”

I believe, Jesus was announcing with joy, the heavenly kingdom now available to all who know him.

Because of Christs death on the Cross, sacrificing himself for our sins, we now have a restored relationship of peace with God. This relationship is more than just another face and name in your life. It is the source of the deep, abiding peace between our hearts and our Creator that cannot be taken away and enables a state of calmness of your spirit no matter your circumstance.

Peace is defined as a feeling of tranquillity, free from disturbances, with the opposite of peace defined as conflict, and irritation.

Christ death and resurrection was the ultimate fulfilment of Christ’s work as “Prince of Peace. And he is with you. You just need to open yourself to him. Trust him, allow his peace to be with you.

By reflecting on these three main occasions were Jesus

presented himself in his resurrected body, we can identify the similarities and associate it to our lives.

The thirst thing we notice is that on each occasion, the witnesses did not see Jesus straight away for who he was. They were blinded by their emotions, influenced by the happenings of The world around them. This blindness, took them away from what they know and have been taught. Stay cemented in your faith and trust in God and his promises for you. It will keep your path straight.   

Sure, we can say we believe in him and say proudly I’m a Christian. But do you really see him. Do you know him.

If you do, then you are blessed and I encourage you to continue to deepen your relationship with him, If you are still unsure, understand Jesus is waiting to hear from you and I encourage you, to find time alone, like Mary, and have the courage to engage in a conversation with Jesus. ask him questions and allow your thoughts to be open to his teachings. As You have nothing to lose by trusting in God, but everything to gain.

This brings me to my second point. Each time Jesus showed himself, it was during a conversation and a conversation centred around doubts about him. With those who had him in their thoughts, thinking on him, knocking on his door, looking for answers! Matthew 7:7 ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you.

But remember, God does not give as the world gives. He is not interested in material things, He is interested in you, giving you peace, love, grace and eternal life, which you are to share with your neighbours.  

It highlights to us the importance of having a conversation with God. Both in prayer and feeding off his words as written in the bible. Taking them in by listening to them, just like you created images in your mind about things I have spoken of today. Who didn’t think of cuddling someone earlier when I mentioned it. If you can listen to me, YOU can Listen to God. His more important than I’ll ever be.

Learn from these biblical events today, Each time, they first saw Jesus, initially they did not see and understand, like us. We humans have a great tendency to see what we want to see and to hear what we want to hear, dictated by the current circumstances we are in. Generally, a circumstance associated with human concerns for our self.

Yet, we need to understand that what we want to hear and see, is necessarily, not what we need, and that we at times spend so much energy trying make a crooked path, appear straight. When the answer is to simply trust in God asking for strength, wisdom and perseverance. As he knows what we need. And after all, its for his glory, not ours.

While with them, Jesus told them he would die and rise three days later, but his teachings had been pushed aside by sadness, disbelief, hopelessness, emptiness, DEATH, the feeling of being wronged. All these when we allow them, turn us to anger, resentment and sin. In turn creating a lack of and longing for peace, we cannot satisfy with worldly pleasures.

The third point, is that on each occasion, Jesus conveyed an inspired a message to go for him. Do you know what the first sermon was after Jesus ascended to heaven. Acts 2. Pentecost. Peter preached to the crowd about the resurrection and what Christ had done through the cross and the pouring out of the spirit. The real hope we now have. Peters message that day concluding with, Save yourselves from this corrupt generation. Is this message not still relevant today. 2000 odd years after it was first spoken!

Turn to Jesus. Allow him in your life.

As we come to a close today. I want you to leave here with an open mind, focused on Jesus, to initiate a conversation with him, alone with no distractions.  

It can be a call for help, a call of thanks and even a doubting question. But once you have asked, I want you to continue to look with open eyes in your life and find his reply. It will be there. If you can’t see it, ask him again and to help you see through the worldly distractions.

Mary, the two disciples and the ten disciples in the locked room. They all needed Jesus to open their eyes before they could see and they lived with him. I’m not going to tell you it will happen straight away. The doubting Thomas story shows how closed our minds can be in the comfort of earthly laws. But, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believed. Have you ever realized, Jesus is referencing us here? You and me.

Trust in him, as Our God. Our creator, Our savior! Prince of Peace.

When we insist on being in control, we sabotage God’s desire to let us live in peace. When we choose worry rather than faith, we cannot live in peace. Jesus warned us often about fear and worry. Worry is the enemy of peace. God invites us to cast our cares upon Him and then let go of. If you haven’t already, I want you to consider in prayer, Handing your life over to God. It’s a scary thought not being in control, but realize you never were. God has always been there from before Genesis to now and will be tomorrow and beyond. His in control. Once you realize that, Peace will come.

In closing today, I have a photo of Abbigail, in our front yard at Tenterfield. She is about 2 years old I think. She is playing with the flowers of a blooming crab apple tree. The crab apple is a deciduous tree, it loses its leaves in winter. It appears dead and bear.  But in spring, it resurrects itself back to full life, starting with these beautiful little flowers.

I believe the photo captures exactly how I see the resurrection. What do you see? Really look. The photo is not just of Abbie. I can see God and his awesomeness, alive and present working not just in my life but the world.

I see the wonder and the joy expressed by a child reaching out to experience the life given to her. I see a child who has a father and a mother, who know her name and love her beyond all measure and would sacrifice their life in an instant to ensure she lives.

I see the love God has for each of us. I see a child, joyfully trusting with confidence without a care in the world, knowing she is under the watchful eye of love and in the right hands.

By adding Christ’s words in Matthew 18:3, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Be a child in your looking for God,

Remind yourselves of the true beauty and gift of life God has given us and the real hope we all can find in death.  Because the resurrection of Jesus happened. And God is real and so is heaven!