A sermon based on John 20:1-18
Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. The resurrection happened in a moment, yet for the last 2000 years, the church has been working out what it means. The Gospels don’t immediately tell us what the Resurrection means. In the account that we just heard, there is very little interpretation. John simply tells us the story. All of the Gospel writers take this line. They simply tell the story. Jesus came back to life. Not as a spirit, but in body. Everywhere else in the Gospels, the writers point to all sorts of different passages in the Old Testament, trying to help us understand what the life of Jesus means. Not so with the Resurrection. The main thing the writers want to get across is simply that it happened. “He is risen” is a pretty apt summary of what the Gospel writers have to say about the resurrection. It happened. We ask, “so, what does it mean?” Like a diamond, there are a thousand different angles through which you can look at the Resurrection, each angle has its own brilliance. Today I’d like to reflect on just one angle — the certainty the resurrection of Jesus gives us in our present life.
In this life, there is not much about which we can be certain. In the past month we’ve seen how so much of our stability in life, is an illusion. This past month has shown how we are all vulnerable. Of course, some in this crisis are more vulnerable than others, but everyone is vulnerable. We are all vulnerable. This vulnerability is not something knew that came about with COVID 19. Many have already learned this lesson far better than I. Those who have grieved the death of a spouse, they know we are vulnerable. Those who have wrongfully lost their job, they know we are vulnerable. Those who’s bodily health has deteriorated, they know we are vulnerable. Those who’s finances have been bled dry for reasons out of their control, they know we are vulnerable. Those who have had disaster strike out of the blue, they know we are vulnerable. Those who’s bodies are close to death, they know we are vulnerable. We might hope our faith will prevent us from being vulnerable. Yet the millions in the last century who have been martyred for their faith, they know all too well that the faithful are vulnerable.
This is unsettling. Everything within us wants to protect ourselves from vulnerability. Its hardwired into our DNA to protect ourselves from vulnerability. During this crisis I’ve found myself asking, “what jobs are the least vulnerable. Which profession is the most secure?” That question is one sign of how I’ve wrestled with my desire to make myself invulnerable. Yet the quest for invulnerability is a fools errand. Jesus tells the story of the rich man who tried to make himself invulnerable, saying, “I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years, relax, eat, drink, be merry (this guy was a prep-er).’ But God said to him, “you fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasure for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
We are all vulnerable. Life is vulnerable. No amount of prepping can change that.
I want to tell you an old story about how seven brothers, and their mom, coped with their vulnerability. This happened a few hundred years before Jesus walked the earth There was a wicked king, and he took these seven brothers and their mom, they were Hebrews, and the king threatened torture unless they would submit to breaking the law of their God. It would have been so easy to do, and their life would have been spared. Yet they refused. The king flew into a rage. He ordered a massive iron pan to be heated red hot. He then took the family before that pan, and promised he would fry these brothers unless they submitted to him and broke God’s law. They did not run away from their vulnerability. One after the other, each brother suffered a cruel, violent death. Why? Why would they do so? The second brother gave their reason. In the agony of his death, his last words were addressed to the King: “You accursed wretch, you dismiss us from this present life, but the King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws.”
The King of the Universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life. That is how we face vulnerability, armed with that promise. The promise of the resurrection transforms us in our vulnerability. The resurrection destroys vulnerability, but not the threat. Remember what our Lord experienced on Good Friday. He was betrayed. Arrested. Wrongfully accused. Slapped. Flogged. Scourged. Mocked. Taunted. Crucified. Was Jesus vulnerable? John 18:4 says, “Jesus knew everything that was going to happen to him. He went out to meet them.” What did Jesus know? He knew His vulnerability. He knew the suffering that surely awaited him. Yet He also was convinced that His God would raise Him from the dead, so He went out to meet them.
Jesus is our King. For the kings of Israel what is true of the King is true for the people. What is true of King Jesus is true for us. Our King rose from the dead, and so shall we. Guaranteed. Paul says: “ Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” On that day, vulnerability shall be packed up and put away.
The hope of resurrection empowers us to live with integrity in the worst vulnerability. The promise of the resurrection gives us strength in uncertainty. The promise of the resurrection gives us hope in the present chaos. For we know that death shall not have the last word. We can live with integrity, and transcend our vulnerability. We can live as did our Lord. We can live with strength and certainty because we know, as Paul said, “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the children of God to be revealed… The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Easter resurrection is not simply about a past historical event, although that is our magnificent foundation. Easter resurrection is not simply our hope for the future, yet to that we cling to tenaciously. The resurrection of Christ, and His promise for us in the future, transforms how we live in the preset. The promise of the resurrection gives us strength in vulnenrability, hope in despair, confidence in the midst of uncertainty. The Resurrection is the downpayment on the promise that “The home of God shall be among mortals. He shall dwell with us as our God. We will be His people, and God Himself will be with us. He will wipe every tear from our eye. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the firs things have passed away.” And the one seated on the throne shall say, “See, I am making all things new.” Hope in the resurrection is hope in the promise that the pain, the injustice, the death the heartache, the vulnerability we encounter in this days life, will one day be made right. The Resurrection gives strength to live in the present, hoping confidently in the certainty of this ultimate future.
How does the resurrection change the way you live?