Monday, April 1, 2013

Did the Resurrection Happen? Who Cares?

Sunday, the tomb that sealed the stone cold body of Jesus came up empty, which is to also say that death came up empty. The empty tomb is God's divine Yes, to the powers-that-be-in-this-world's violent No.

Our attention turns to the stories of those for whom the resurrection of Jesus makes possible a new life, a new creation. Most immediately we recall:
  • The women who come to the tomb shattered and broken and in fear, and are awed by the sight that the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty.
  • Thomas wants proof to overshadow his skepticism and deals straight up with his doubt and is not condemned by the only one who could.
  • Eleven of the twelve disciples are shivering in fear, locked away for fear that the authorities will do to them what they did to Jesus, and discover behind those locked doors that there is nothing that can separate them from the love of God in Jesus, who enters and breathes the Spirit into them, breathes new life into their fearful, worried bones.
  • Peter, broken, goes back to his old fishing way of life, only to find Jesus already there in his brokenness, ready to restore him, ready to reconcile – because once death has been conquered nothing else matters much.
These stories continue the witness to Jesus’ resurrection, because they are stories that give account of how people have been changed forever because Jesus fulfilled his promise to bring us life and life to the full (John 10). The resurrection of Jesus is not just about Jesus conquering death and rising again;  it’s about how that resurrection changed everything for everyone – forevermore.

I really do believe it’s so important that we never lose sight of Jesus’ resurrection – but that we never lose sight of it, because of the impact it had (and still has) in people’s lives.

For me...
  • Jesus’ resurrection is only meaningful, when we see it take shape in our lives. 
  • It only becomes real, when you witness a dead old life rise from the grave in forgiveness, reconciliation and a new direction. 
  • It is only true when a resurrected people help others experience resurrection in the dead places of their own often bleak existence.
Which is to say that people who have experienced life, help bring the experience of life to others. Jesus’ resurrection makes possible resurrection for everyone.

Someone said to me a few years ago something that changed my thinking on what being a follower of Jesus is ultimately about and how it connects to Easter. He said something like this, “Did the resurrection happen? Who cares? I no longer want to just believe the resurrection of Jesus happened. I want to be the resurrection and see it happen time and time again. The resurrection of Jesus becomes real and true when it becomes a real and true life experience for someone else.”

I've come to realize that anyone can just believe in the resurrection – that’s easy. I believe when Jesus said "Go...and make disciples" that he is calling each and everyone of his followers to be the resurrection. That’s when the resurrection rubber meets the road.

And so, perhaps you can say, we deny the resurrection any time we deny life to someone else.  We deny it, when we refuse to give life to others - in the the words of Jesus (Mt 25; Lk 4) - with a cup of water for the thirsty, clothing for the naked, food for the starving, when the prisoner is set free and the poor of all kinds have good news preached to them.

I suppose then that the other side is true. We embody the resurrection and make it real, true and apparent when we give those things in all the millions of ways we can.

Another familiar resurrection story is about two persons leaving Jerusalem after the events of what we now call Holy Week.

As they are walking a man whom they don’t recognize joins them on the road. They don’t recognize this stranger as the resurrected Jesus, but Jesus recognizes them –
    Jesus sees them,
        Jesus sees into them,
            He grasps who they are…something we all long for...
                 …and seeing the deep place of their broken hearts,
                 answers the many questions they have.

The two travelers on the road are touched, moved and inspired by Jesus (Luke says that their hearts burned within them), and invite this stranger who is Jesus to supper. Jesus accepts their invitation. “Jesus joined them at the table,” is the way Luke says it.

In the middle of the meal, this stranger who is Jesus "took bread and gave thanks. He broke it and began to give it to them." And then Luke says, “Their eyes were opened, and they recognized him." They recognized this One who is no longer a stranger but their friend.

I wished that Luke had just left it there, but he doesn't. 

He says they recognized Jesus. "But then he disappeared from their sight.” That's interesting. Why did Jesus disappear from their sight?

I wonder if Luke wants us to also see that it’s now up to the two travelers to carry on the message, to be the resurrection. And that it is also now up to us, in the time we have been given, to follow suit.

Maybe then somebody will care.

Supper at Emmaus (Caravaggio 1606)