Jesus Is The One

[]We have heard two stories from the Scriptures today: the account of Jesus' resurrection from the Gospel of Mark, and then a continuation of Luke's Gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. These two stories, placed together, do something really powerful. They help us to see the meaning behind what happened in the Gospel stories. In the Acts lesson, Peter, after all these things have happened and Jesus has ascended to heaven after his resurrection appearances, is going out and speaking to people in all Judea, outside of Jerusalem, and is sharing with people not only the good news of Christ's resurrection, but what all these things mean.

For a core group of us here at Grace, we have been going through the Passion narratives during Lent in a study called Road to Coronation. In that study, Dr. Harry Wendt explained to us that these things we read about Jesus aren't simply stories. When we read about Jesus healing someone, it had particular significance. Giving sight to the blind, making the deaf to hear and, yes, even raising the dead as Jesus gave life again to Lazarus and to Jairus' daughter…these were all signs of the Messiah and the coming of the messianic age. And here in our Gospel lesson today, we hear the last piece of prophetic fulfillment that when the Messiah comes, these will be the signs. The final sign is that the righteous one, the Son of Man, the Messiah and Savior, would be put to death and rise again three days later. Mark alludes to that by saying that Jesus was hung on a cross and that he had risen from the grave. In Acts, we hear that same prophetic voice from Old Testament scripture saying that the Son of Man would suffer, be placed on a tree, and die. And the Israelites and those familiar with the Hebrew scripture, hearing the words of Peter as recorded in Acts, would understand that this was the fulfillment of prophecy.

And so we have had all the signs that this is the Messiah up to the time of the crucifixion and the death of Jesus. And then, as he rises, we, as modern-day Christians who know the fullness of this story. We understand this is one of the last pieces of the puzzle. This Jesus of Nazareth truly is the Messiah. And he will sit on the right hand of God as we will hear on Ascension Sunday when he ascends into heaven. So the expectation of the Messiah, the one coming from God to deliver them, has been fulfilled. We see that with our 21st century Christian eyes. It is there plainly for us, what for thousands of years people have hoped for has come true in Jesus. And that's what gives us great joy.

But there is more to just the joy of the deliverer coming. It's that that deliverance is there for each and every one of us, for when we listen to all those Gospel narratives about Jesus and all that he did, we understand that God wants us to be healed and whole. We understand that God wants to give us new life and new hope. And we understand that even though there is Old Testament law that might separate us from God, Jesus is the one who demonstrated that no one can ever be separated from God, that there is always forgiveness when one turns from sin and returns home to God to that love and compassion that we seek. That is a second big piece of the puzzle for us and why we celebrate today, for we have a new covenant with God not based in Old Testament law, but in a new covenant in Jesus, the Christ, who through Old Testament prophecy and the signs that he performed showed himself to be the Messiah.

This is wonderful news for each of us. And on Pentecost when the Spirit comes, that Spirit will fill each of us anew. That Spirit wells up within us with joy on this Easter Day. It started welling up weeks ago even though we were in Lent because, as many of you probably saw, flowers were popping up in gardens and along roadsides…signs of new life that remind us again of God's glory and the way God provides new life. And so in this season of Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Christ to new life and his promise that one day we too shall rise and be with him.

There are so many pieces of good news that it is hard for us to contemplate and reflect on all of it. But somehow, when we gather on Easter Sunday, we know the news is good. We know God's love and God's promises have been fulfilled. We know that there is new life and that there is new life beyond this life, and that there is a new day dawning tomorrow. We feel it in our hearts, we sense it in our spirits. And that's what gives us a joy…a joy that gives us a deep sense of peace, a deep sense of acknowledgment that everything will one day be okay. And that should not be lost on us just because we are in difficult times. Our world has experienced difficult times generation after generation. But it doesn't mean we do not have hope because we are a people of hope. We are a people who know that there is renewal around the corner.

Do we see ourselves as those who ran from the tomb: Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome? Do we see ourselves as those who sometimes run away in terror? Possibly so. Some things in life do bring terror into our hearts. But other things also bring us amazement. One thing that holds true is that what we read today, the account of Jesus' resurrection, and we reflect on Jesus' life and the promises that God has made to us through him, that should bring us amazement.

So the story would seem to be complete. "Jesus has risen. He has gone ahead of you to Galilee where he will meet you. Go tell Peter and the other disciples that he will meet you there." Those words tell us that the story is not yet over. Jesus has risen. And there is an expectation that those who follow him will get to see him again in the flesh. In the continuation of the Easter story over the next several weeks, we will hear about those resurrection appearances. We will hear the profound words that Jesus wanted his disciples to remember and to teach. And those same words are words for us as his followers today.

But today, let us be filled with joy that the worst of what humanity could do to Jesus by giving him death on a cross has been overcome. Death no longer is something that binds any of us who are in Christ. We are freed and renewed to newness of life in Christ in this life and in the life to come. So let us be people of joy and people of peace today, and let us live out the good news.

April 12, 2009

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