Matthew 28:5-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
3rd Sunday before Lent 8am
St Barbara’s; 13.2.22
Rev Tulo Raistrick
Imagine someone tells you something that you find difficult to believe.
It may be that a friend of yours has just run the 5 km Coventry Park Run in under 20 minutes, or that another friend has just completed the Times crossword in 5 minutes. I wonder, what would persuade you that it had happened?
We may ask for evidence and proof. And a strong piece of evidence would be if they can say: “well, so and so was with me when I did it”. A bit like in a court of law, someone accused of an offence will more than likely be declared innocent if they can say: “It can’t have been me. You’ve heard from numerous independent witnesses who said they saw me somewhere else when the crime was committed.”
Witnesses are important and our two readings this morning touch on that theme. They list a whole number of witnesses who vouch for seeing Jesus risen from the dead: the women at the tomb; Peter; the twelve disciples; five hundred people at one time (and Paul tells us many of whom were still alive at time of writing his letter so, in other words, check with them if you don’t believe me!); James; Paul himself. And that’s just from these two accounts. Elsewhere in the gospels we hear of Mary Magdalene, the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and the disciples by Lake Galilee for whom Jesus cooked breakfast.
That’s a lot of people!
Of course, they could have been making it up, but if they knew it wasn’t true, why would they have been so willing to give up their former lives and embrace hardship and poverty? Why would they have been prepared to be tortured and die for something they didn’t believe happened? Why would they have written letters about Jesus being alive?
And if Jesus hadn’t risen from the dead, it would have been easy enough to show that he was still dead. There were enough enemies of Jesus’ followers – whether the Romans or the religious leaders – who would have been more than happy to unearth evidence of Jesus still being dead if they could find it.
But it is one thing to say Jesus rose from the dead. Its another thing to say it matters.
Someone doing a fast 5km run or the Times Crossword may be impressive and special for that person, but its not going to matter much for anyone else. Its not something that is going to make a big difference.
But Jesus rising from the dead. Now that makes a huge difference.
A number of you kindly agreed to be interviewed last week about why the resurrection matters to you. You’ll need to tune in to our 10am service later to see the results, but I thought I would give you a rough summary.
In answer to that question, why does the resurrection, Jesus rising from the dead, matter, people answered in the following ways:
They said because Jesus rising from the dead is central to our whole faith:
Kay described it as being “fundamental to her faith”,
John as “the basis of faith – without it we’re lost”;
One of our church children, Libby: “its what helps me grow in my faith
Bashi: “Its everything – without it, no faith, no life”
For others, the resurrection shows us that ultimately God is in control, that God will bring about what is best for his world:
One of our church teenagers, Daniel: it shows us that God can do anything – he is omnipotent
Stephen: it shows us that ultimately “God wins” – that his love, his hope, his goodness will triumph, despite what the world feels like at times
For others, something that’s important about the resurrection is that it shows us that death is not the end – that we have hope and life beyond death:
Sarah: death is not the end
Liz: after the horror of the crucifixion, the resurrection brings comfort, hope and sheer joy
Ed: it gives us hope that there is always hope
Caroline: it offers for all humankind the possibility of resurrection.
Because of what Jesus has done, dying and then rising to new life, he has made it possible for us to follow. Centuries ago, no-one thought it was possible to circumnavigate the world, but once one ship found the way and made the way possible, others were able to follow, and it transformed our understanding of what the world was like. Christ has gone ahead of us, he has made the way possible, he has found the way through, and in doing so, he has not only made it possible for us to follow – he has transformed our understanding of life and death too. So when people we love die, we can have a confident hope: that death is not the end, but the beginning of new life.
But there is more.
It shows us that Jesus really is God’s son.
No one else has ever risen from the dead. People may have had near death experiences and revived, but they died at some point later. Jesus rose from the dead and went to heaven. That alone shows he must be God’s Son, and so that makes everything he said and everything he did recorded in the gospels so important. It is worth basing our whole lives around him.
His resurrection shows us that Jesus has the power to forgive sin.
A little later on in that passage from 1 Corinthians we heard Paul writes that only one who has paid the price of sin – death – can forgive sin. By rising from the dead, Jesus shows that he has paid for our sins. We can be forgiven!
And Jesus rising from the dead matters because it shows we can know Jesus today.
Jesus is not someone dead who we remember; He is someone alive who we encounter today.
He is someone that we can speak to, someone who can give us strength, someone who can guide us and help us. As Michael said in one of the interviews, he draws out our humanity – he makes us more fully human.
I wonder for you, as you think about those reasons for why Jesus’ resurrection matters, which resonates with you most this morning. The fact that:
It is central to our faith
It shows that God is ultimately in control
It shows that death is not the end
It show us that Jesus really is God’s son
It shows us that our sin really can be forgiven
It shows that we can know Jesus today
Over the next few weeks we will be approaching the very heart of our faith as we remember Christ’s death and celebrate his resurrection at Easter. Let us make his resurrection more and more a central part of our daily lives and daily hope.