Bishop Peter Carrell
Sharing the Resurrection
This is the day that the Lord has made.
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Greetings, welcome and thank you for attending to this Pascha (or Easter) message today.
May God bless us as we open our hearts and minds to God’s Word in Holy Scripture.
We focused in my previous message, on Good Friday, on Jesus’ final words as he was dying on the cross, from John 19:30:
“It is finished. Or, It is accomplished. Or, It is done.”
Through Jesus’ death we have forgiveness, healing and victory over evil.
But how would we know that?
Mad people say the craziest things. Bad people tell lies.
What reliance could we place on the words of a man dying as an executed criminal if the last we saw of him was his burial in a grave?
And wouldn’t it be especially stupid to rely on Jesus’ words if other things he said turned out to be false.
He had said to his disciples that he would be raised from the dead.
We are reminded of that when we hear the angel in Matthew’s Gospel reading saying,
“He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:10)
Today we celebrate the fact that what Jesus said was true.
We celebrate that “He is not in the grave any longer, he has risen, just as he said.”
But the significance of God raising Jesus from the dead was not that God was some kind of conjuror, making dead bodies do what dead bodies do not do.
The significance, the meaning of the resurrection lies in its vindication of Jesus’ sacrificial death.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians,
“And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (1 Cor. 15:17)
The resurrection is the confirmation from God – visible to eyewitnesses (as the Acts reading says (Acts 10:40-41)) – that Jesus’ died an effective death, making possible forgiveness of wrongdoing, healing of hurt and victory over evil.
And there is more: as we track through the New Testament epistles, we find the apostolic writers teaching that the resurrection of Jesus means we will share in his resurrection.
And they do not only mean that there is life beyond the grave. They mean that a new kind of life – resurrection life - begins now when we believe in Jesus and follow him as our Lord and Saviour.
In Colossians 3:1 the Apostle Paul can talk confidently about his Christian readers,
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ …”
Participating in the new life called “resurrection” begins with our baptism into the life of Christ.
But how does this apply to our situation in Lockdown?
What difference does Resurrection make as we live without freedoms previously enjoyed,
perhaps in a state of anxiety about what the future holds,
to say nothing of our pain and suffering if we are sick with the virus?
We know that even when the Lockdown lifts,
there is going to be hardship for a lot of people and
there are going to be restrictions on privileges and luxuries we previously took for granted,
What does celebration of Jesus being raised from the dead mean in the middle of Lockdown and when there is concern about ongoing hardship?
I suggest our Resurrection celebration means at least this:
Because Resurrection follows Crucifixion,
Christians have always faced the most difficult, the most distressing, and the most dangerous times with hope that bad times always give way to better times.
We do not know how long the present distress will last.
We do not yet know how difficult life is going to be as the whole world fights this virus.
But we will not despair because Jesus rose from the dead,
because he was not in the grave and the angel could say,
“He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.”,
The risen Jesus is with us.
No matter what we face now or in days to come, the resurrection means that Jesus is not locked away in a grave.
The risen Jesus is with us: wherever we go, whatever we face, we are not alone.
We are an Easter people when we live in hope of better days to come.
We are a Resurrection people when we live confident that we already share in the resurrection of Jesus.
When we meet our neighbour in the street – 2 metres away - may they see the light of the risen Christ shining in us.
Let us pray: Mighty God, who raised Jesus from the dead and raises us to new life in Christ, thank you for raising Jesus from death to life. May we live Christ’s risen life here on earth, even in the most difficult of days. May we shine with the light of Christ in the midst of Lockdown and witness to the joy of Christ being with us. Amen.