he is risen
4th April 2021
The Lord has risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia!
The Easter stories are full of people
getting the wrong end of the stick.
Mary thinks Jesus' body has been stolen.
Peter sees the linen wrappings
and can't work out what it's all about.
The disciples didn't understand the scriptures.
The angels question Mary
and she still doesn't know what's going on;
then she mistakes Jesus for the gardener,
and she reaches out to cling on to him,
and he tells her she mustn't.
You could hardly get more misunderstandings
into a couple of paragraphs if you tried.
And the point is, of course,
Easter has burst into our world,
the world of real history
and real people and real life,
but our minds and imaginations
are too small to contain it,
so we do our best to fit the
explosive fact of the resurrection
into the possibilities
we already know about.
The confusion of the disciples is
a mark of the story's truth.
If someone had been making it all up
a generation later, as many have suggested,
they would hardly have had
such a muddle going on.
nobody would have made up the remarkable
detail of the cloth around Jesus' head,
folded up in a place by itself.
And why did Jesus fold the linen burial cloth
after His resurrection?
Was that important?
Is it really significant? Yes!
In order to understand the significance
of the folded napkin,
you have to understand a little bit about
Hebrew tradition of that day.
The folded napkin had to do with
the Master and Servant,
and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.
When the servant set the dinner table
for the master, he made sure that it was
exactly the way the master wanted it.
The table was furnished perfectly,
and then the servant would wait,
just out of sight,
until the master had finished eating;
the servant would not dare touch that table,
until the master was finished.
Now if the master were finished eating,
he would rise from the table,
wipe his fingers, his mouth,
and clean his beard,
and would crumple up that napkin
and toss it onto the table.
The servant would then know to clear the table.
For in those days,
the crumpled napkin meant, 'I'm done'.
But if the master got up from the table,
and folded his napkin,
and laid it beside his plate,
the servant would not dare touch the table,
the folded napkin meant,
'I'm coming back!'
We then have the even more extraordinary
fact that Jesus is not immediately recognised,
either here, or in the evening
on the road to Emmaus,
or the later time, cooking breakfast by the shore.
The first Christians weren't prepared
for what actually happened.
Nobody could have been.
But this problem isn't confined
to the first century.
Ever since then, people have tried to
squash the Easter message into
conventional boxes that it just won't fit.
But you don't achieve anything by
downgrading the unique message of Easter.
Easter is what it is because,
together with Jesus' crucifixion,
it is the central event of world history,
the moment towards which everything
was rushing and from which everything emerges new.
Easter is about real life,
not escapist fantasy.
It is about God's rich and
bountiful grace to all humankind.
But Is it all true?
Can we really believe it?
I can only give you a personal testimony.
A few years ago, I was privileged to
visit the Holy Land.
One morning our group visited the
sacred spot called the Garden Tomb,
the place believed by many people
to be the actual site of the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Do I believe it?
Standing in that place,
my heart said 'Yes'.
We saw Golgotha, the place of the Skull,
where Jesus was said to have been crucified
then we walked to the place where
an ancient tomb has been hewn out of
the limestone side of a mountain.
Like all the first-century tombs,
it has two chambers-
one chamber where they placed the dead bodies
and one chamber called the "weeping room"
where loved ones could
come to mourn the dead.
One by one we filed into the outer chamber,
ducking our heads because of the low entrance.
Once inside it takes a few moments
for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
Then you see it,
the burial chamber with a ledge carved
in the limestone.
The very place where Joseph and Nicodemus
would have placed the body of Jesus
late on Friday evening.
Every detail of the Garden Tomb
perfectly fits the biblical description
for the burial place of Jesus Christ.
Everything is just as the Bible says
it should be -
everything except one thing.
You look around the tomb,
you search high and low,
your eyes scan from side to side
and from top to bottom.
One thing is missing.
The body is gone!
The tomb is empty!
As you leave the Garden Tomb,
a hand-carved sign catches your attention.
It says very simply,
"He is not here, for He is risen."
If a man dies, will he live again?
Here is the answer to the greatest question,
the deepest question, the final question.
All of us will face death someday.
But for those who know Jesus,
death holds no fear.
We're not afraid of the darkness
for Jesus is the Light of the world.
We don't fear the valley of the shadow of death
for Jesus has said he will be our guide.
We may die, but we won't stay dead.
Billy Graham, shortly before his death said,
'You may hear that I am dead;
don't believe it.
I may not be here but I shall be
more alive than I've ever been.'
Easter is all about Jesus:
the Jesus who announced God's saving, kingdom;
the Jesus who died to overcome the
power of evil;
the Jesus who rose again
to be crowned as king over
all things in heaven and on earth.
On this happy Easter morning
I say with confidence that
Jesus Christ is alive - he is risen!
God give us grace,
this day and from now on,
to live as Easter people,
celebrating and passing on
Jesus' love and joy
and making his kingdom and
justice known in this, his world.
It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
sung by Shawna Edwards
via the link shown below.