From the tomb to our lives
Easter 3B | Luke 24:36b-48
The Physical Resurrection
This moment we receive here in this third Sunday of Easter is another gospel treatment of the resurrection. At the vigil, we had Mark’s empty tomb, then on Sunday we had John’s empty tomb. Last week we had Jesus’s appearance to the disciples and then again with Thomas. Now we have one from the writer of Luke.
This excerpt we read is most of the ending to the book. The only words missing describe the ascension, which we’ll cover in a few weeks.
This version is like the one we read last week from the writer of John. It is physical. Jesus invites his followers to touch him. To touch his wounds. This is his way of saying It’s me! The one they crucified.
For many, this idea – that Jesus comes back in his own body – is so important. So important that it is that same body, that same physical form, brought back to physical life. Not a ghost! but a resurrected man. Touch me, see me. I’m real. this says.
This is much more to us than did it really happen. So much more than the history. It is the story of everything. I’m real. he is saying to them. To us. I’m real. I’m here. with you. You aren’t imagining things. I’ve come to be with you; together you are with me.
It must be reassuring to see, to hear Jesus again. The familiar voice, returned from the dead. Like a voice on an answering machine, saved in the voice mailbox for months after. When I listen, I don’t just hear him; I feel him.
The Power of the moment
The resurrected Jesus doesn’t stay in the assurance; he doesn’t stay in the place of comfort. He takes them back to the time before, taking them to the memory of when he was alive. Taking them to the time in which he was alive and talking about dying. Talking of the Scriptures, of the hopes and dreams of Israel, of GOD’s dream for humanity. For them. And he brings them back there. He brings them to their beginning, their grounding. He brings them to the thing that matters more than his standing before them. The thing that is the everything of the resurrection: that Jesus, the Human One, the Christ, is more than the one who died and was raised. Jesus is more than the crucifixion and the resurrection. Jesus is more than the Son of GOD and the partner with GOD. Jesus is more than a theological construct of the divine.
Jesus is the spark. The revolutionary one. The one in whom everything changes. Everything. The world, the culture, the nature of life and death. All of it. Changed forever.
He says to them
“Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,”
So if we stopped there, we’d get a view of our faith that is pretty much all about the physical. The prophecy, the death, and the resurrection. End of story, time to go home. But instead, he continues:
“and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Suddenly it isn’t really about Jesus anymore. It isn’t about what Jesus does or what GOD does through Jesus. It isn’t about our faith in a moment or an idea of Jesus or what happened in human history. It isn’t really about Jesus at all. It is about what GOD is doing after Jesus. What GOD is doing with the people: proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’s name. That’s for his followers. That’s for us.
“Beginning from Jerusalem” he says. The city that kills its prophets. That killed Jesus. The city that was compromised, that had betrayed GOD. The city that kept screwing up. That’s where we start. We start speaking in Jesus’s name in the place where his name is most hated.
Then he says
“You are witnesses of these things.”
We are Witnesses
Witnesses of these events, this history. Also this present, these actions. Witnesses of this repentance and this forgiveness. Of this turning and returning. Witnesses to these powerful moments, this powerful work.
Witnesses to GOD’s presence, to the swirling power of the Spirit, to the actions of redemption that bring the community together, that bring the Kingdom into our midst.
Witnesses to GOD’s work in the world, to the places and times in which the divine has sparked the people into action, into longing, into creative pursuits of the almighty, of the glory we long for.
Witnesses to GOD’s work in one another, in the people called to do more than sleepwalk through life, earning and spending, eating and defecating, sleeping and waking until we arrive at our final resting places.
We are witnesses to work that brings new life, new patterns, new hope to this existence, to this world through acts too big to be human and too small to be divine. In works that lift our hearts and burden our minds and leave our stomachs churning.
We are witnesses to a power so significant that even GOD can’t do it alone. Even GOD needs some help. Even GOD needs to recruit some people, asking who’s with me?
That’s the witness Jesus speaks to; the witness we’re afraid to deal with because that is some heavy stuff. That seems like a whole lot more than we bargained for; more than we were taught in Sunday School.
Because a witness doesn’t just see. A witness testifies to what she has seen.
Witnesses tell stories. Stories of an active GOD. Of a GOD that is so committed to the human project, to this very good creation that GOD would come and endure a life, a human life, with its birth and its living and its dying. GOD would endure the ecstasy of healing and redeeming, of praying and loving, of making this a life worth living for hundreds, thousands of people. GOD would endure the pain of losing one of his favorites, of betrayal, of abuse, of torture, of death. GOD would return and reassure and reconstitute a movement to transform the world. GOD made a promise and continues to fulfill that promise. Again and again.
This is our story. We are the witnesses. We are called to tell this story. This story of our living and dying and rising. A story of our people and our past. A story of our experience of the resurrected Human One. A story of redemption. A story we were told. Then experienced. That we live. A story we are called to tell. And keep telling.
We are witnesses to a life that is better when it is shared. Better when it is given. Better when it isn’t about us at all.
We are witnesses to a way of living that is actually fun and full of hope and true, unbridled potential.
We are witnesses to a GOD that can do so very much, but would rather have us do so very much for one another and for all of creation.
We are witnesses. We know. We know. So we’ve got to share it; share this good news.