Sunday, April 24, 2011

He is Not Here. He is Risen!

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared, and went to the tomb.

They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightening stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground.

But the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He’s risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee? ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again.’”

Then they remembered his words.

Then they remembered his words.

They had forgotten his words.

How could they have forgotten Jesus’ words about crucifixion and resurrection?

Didn't they believe in resurrection?

Why didn’t they remember Jesus’ words? Didn’t they believe Jesus? Maybe they didn’t remember because they didn’t really believe that Jesus would be resurrected. Maybe they believed that once Jesus died, that was it. Done. Finished. Over.

Even though they had heard Jesus repeat his little line about death and raised to life at least three different times, they must not have really understood what he was talking about. They didn’t understand, and so they didn’t really believe.

How could you be a friend of Jesus, feed him, care for him, and then forget about his dire warnings of death on a cross? How could you forget about your friend promising to be raised up again?

Sometimes people have no imagination.
Sometimes people only hear what they want to hear.
Sometimes you have to believe something in order to see it.

Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Joanna financed Jesus’ ministry. Mary the mother of James took care of everyone, including Jesus. How could they not remember his words about resurrection?

How did Mary Magdalene not remember Jesus’ words?

Jesus had saved her life. He had rescued her.

She had been home to demons. Seven of them ravished her soul.

She was helpless. Mary of Magdala was driven to madness. Until she met Jesus. Or, until Jesus met her.

Maybe a friend dragged her screaming and frothing corpse to the feet of Jesus. Maybe Jesus heard her wails and seen her writhing as he passed through the dirty streets of her hometown.

When Jesus arose to deliver her, when Jesus placed his weathered hands on her worn out body, when Jesus’ stern gaze caught her tear-drained eyes, when Jesus commanded with steely authority for the demons to depart, when Mary’s exhausted body dropped into the carpenter’s arms, she had been born again. She had a new life. When she woke up, she was starting over. She was loved. She was healed.  She was at peace.

So when Mary hears a few years later that Jesus is telling the apostles about upcoming tragedies, she is frightened. She wonders: what does Jesus mean that he must be delivered unto the hands of sinners and crucified, and on the third day raised again?

What does Jesus mean? Crucifixion? Why will he let that happen to himself? What will we do if that happens? What will happen to us? And what does he mean that he’ll be raised back to life again on the third day? On the third day you’re dead-dead. Maybe I could believe that he’d be raised again on the first day, but the third day?
No way.

Is this another parable? I don’t understand what he’s saying.

How did Mary of Magdala not remember Jesus’ words?
She got busy? She stayed confused? She couldn’t believe in resurrection? She loved Jesus, but she didn’t always understand Jesus. She didn’t always understand Jesus, and she didn’t always agree with what she did understand.

Crucified and raised again on the third day?
To be crucified is to be cursed. Cursed by God.
If Jesus is crucified, does this mean he is cursed by God? Why? What would Jesus have to do in order to be cursed by God? I understand why some of the Pharisees and Herodians want Jesus crucified, but God? Surely God won’t allow Jesus to be cursed and crucified?

Didn’t Peter confess that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus is the Son of the Living God? What about the stories that we heard from Mary and James about when Jesus was born in Bethlehem? Surely God won’t let the Savior of Israel be crucified! Why would God let Israel’s Deliverer become accursed? And if God curses Jesus, why would he bring him back to life three days later? Why would God curse Jesus on one day, and then raise him back up on the third day? What does this mean?

Why do you look for the living among the dead?
He is not here, He is risen!

You can imagine the two men rehearsing their lines. Should they shout it out loud and full of joy, or should they come across as serious and exasperated? Should they say it together in unison, or take turns with the different lines?

Here’s what I think they were supposed to say when they confronted the unbelieving women coming to put the burial spices on Jesus’ entombed body – it comes from Deuteronomy 32:29, a chapter that charts out Israel’s history – a history that God is prepared for, a history that God is preparing for:
See now that I myself am He,
There is no god beside me:
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
And no one can deliver out of my hand.

I think that was the first line, and here’s what was supposed to be the second line, a portion from Isaiah 53:
After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; 

By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, 
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death, 
and was numbered with the transgressors. 

For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

But I think the men – messengers from God, clothed in gleaming garments of flashing lightening – they got so excited about announcing this good news to the women that they blurted out a much shorter, concise, and memorable announcement:
Why do you look for the living among the dead, he is not here – he is risen!
And then they remembered his words.
The Son of Man must be delivered over to sinners and be crucified.
And on the third day be raised again.
He is not here – He is risen.

So don’t go looking for him.

So now what. What do we do now? This is crazy good news! We’ve got to tell the others! Except we know what they’re going to say: you girls are crazy!

Jesus is dead! He’s been crucified! Cursed of God! We’re doomed! Doomed I tell you! You’re crazy to leave this Upper Room. You’re crazy to visit the tomb. You’re crazy if you think we’ll believe it’s empty and that two linen-lightening clad men told you that Jesus is alive. You’re crazy and we’re doomed. All is lost.

Even when Jesus did show up in the flesh – with obvious wounds to his hands and feet and side – everyone was very frightened. They just didn’t expect to see a resurrected Jesus. Even with Mary and Joanna’s crazy good news, even with Peter’s confirmation of a missing body and empty tomb, even with the weird story of Cleopas claim having broke bread with Jesus – nobody was ready for Jesus to show up amongst them.

Jesus was hard pressed to convince the cowering crowd that it was really him and not a ghost. What to do with disciples who are more apt to believe in ghosts then resurrected rabbis? What do with doubters?

Jesus had to eat fish to show his friends he was really alive. You got to wonder how much fish did he have to chew up before the doubting turned to delightful belief?

Maybe He spent the first hour disproving he was a ghost by downing bowls of broiled fish. Then maybe he spent the next hour with a stomachache while letting James and John stick their fingers in his feet, letting Peter and Andrew hold up his wrists and peek at each other through the holes.

Jesus pulls his friends together, big smiles, big eyes, big hearts – and he reviews with them his version of what’s happened, what’s going on, and what’s going to happen.

This was the way things had to be.
It was hard. It was tragic. It was difficult. It was confusing. It had to be this way.
And this changes everything.

You know how I healed you Lazarus. You know how I rescued you Peter. You know how I delivered you Mary. And now I’m back – I was crucified by sinners and cursed by God, and I’m back – blessed by God and ready to forgive sinners!

You didn’t believe me. You betrayed me. You abandoned me. You denied me. You ran away. You fell asleep on me. Yet hear me now: I. Love. You. I. Forgive. You. We. Are. Friends. My. Peace. I. Give. You. God has blessed you. God has been making you a blessing. And now God is ready to bless the world through you.

Now hear this – this is what’s next for you:
I’m going to send you out into the world that God loves. You remember how through God’s Spirit I helped you change your life? Well you get to go into the world and help sinners and cripples and the brokenhearted, showing them how to change their life. You get to preach repentance and demonstrated forgiveness of sins with that Same Spirit of God!

Just as I invited you to change your life – so you get to go and invite others to change their life. Just as I forgave you, so you go and forgive others. Just as I taught you how to forgive others, so you go and teach others how to forgive. Just as I healed you, go and heal others in my name, with the Same Spirit of God. Just as I saved you, rescued you, delivered you – let me save and rescue and deliver the world through you.

Don’t just believe in resurrection. 
Live in light of the resurrection.

Resurrection. Raised up. New beginnings. Born again. Invincibility. Getting back up. And the resurrected Jesus – what’s the first and best message he gives his followers? Forgive. Teach others to forgive.

How do you sow seeds of resurrection in the world God loves? Repent. Change. Forgive. Love. The resurrected Jesus came to forgive and save sinners. To those that remember his words: remember to forgive, to help others forgive.

Don’t just believe in resurrection. 
Remember the words of the resurrected Jesus.

This is how the world that God loves learns to believe in him. When those that follow the resurrected Jesus remember his words and choose to proclaim forgiveness of sins.

Don’t just believe in resurrection. 
Believe in the resurrected Jesus.
He is not here, he is risen!

He is risen!
He is risen indeed!

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