Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Just one question... (Easter homily)

One question: Did Jesus rise from the dead? That’s all the matters.

If he did not – which is entirely reasonable – 
people do not rise from the dead, 
especially after such a violent death, and being sealed in a tomb …

…Then this is just a pleasant spring morning, 
and what are we doing here?

But what if Jesus really did rise from the dead?

Let me be as clear as possible.

I don’t mean, what if we Christians imagine he rose from the dead…
Or, what if we feel he rose “in our hearts”…
Or, he “rose spiritually” for believers.

No, I mean, his broken, dead body coming back to life. Reanimated.
He left that tomb under his own power. 
He appeared to many people – Saint Paul tells us, 
elsewhere in Scripture, 
that he appeared to at least 500 people at one time.

What if that happened? What then?

Perhaps you would like to know some details of what happened…

- Jesus certainly died. He took a horrible beating, 
and was nailed to the cross. 
The job of the Romans was to make sure he died. 
Who thinks they didn’t do their job well?

- He was buried in haste, because the Sabbath was about to begin. 
That means his grave was near the place of execution, 
which is what Scripture says. 

- People knew where the tomb was. 
The Romans knew, because Roman guards were placed there. 
The Jewish leaders who sought Jesus’ death knew – 
they asked for the Roman guard. 
And the disciples knew. Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene, among others, 
was there when the tomb was sealed.

- When Peter and John came back very early on Sunday morning, 
they looked in, and saw no body, but they did see the cloths in which Jesus’ body was wrapped. What’s not entirely clear in the English translation, 
but what the Greek suggests, 
was that the cloths were in the exact position 
they’d been in when Jesus was laid on the stone. 
That is to say, the cloths themselves hadn’t moved; 
the body had simply left them! 
That’s what Peter and John and the others saw 
when they looked in the tomb.

- Sometimes people suppose the followers of Jesus 
were inclined to believe. But what do you think? 
If you believed he was the Messiah, the conquering king,
 and then he gets arrested, 
and executed in the most humiliating way possible, 
and then someone comes and tells you, oh, he’s alive, 
would you really be all that ready to believe such a story?

In any case, what the Gospels tell us is that they didn’t believe. 
Peter doubted. Thomas doubted. 
The two who were walking on the road to Emmaus doubted. 

What made them believe? Why should they have believed?

And even more confounding, why, would Peter, James, and John, 
the other James, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, 
Thomas, Matthew, Simon and Jude 
all spend the rest of their lives telling everyone 
Jesus rose from the dead – at the cost of everything they had, 
with all but one of them dying terrible deaths? 

Peter himself was crucified in Rome – 
we know this, because we have his bones, buried in Rome, 
under the Vatican, found again in the 1940s, 
precisely where ancient tradition said they were, 
they were found in Rome, 
and his bones had absolutely no reason being in Rome 
unless he went there to preach Jesus Christ.

Did Jesus rise from the dead?

What changes for you if he did?

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