Summary: A case for the resurrection and belief in Jesus Christ.
EASTER DAY 2005
March 27, 2005
St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
The Rev. M. Anthony Seel, Jr.
“Resurrection Life “
When I was in seminary in the late 80s we read a book entitled Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? It is a written presentation of a debate that took place in 1985 between Christian scholar Gary Habermas and the renowned British philosopher Antony Flew. Flew has been called the “world’s most influential philosophical atheist,” but that has changed, according to ABC News and other sources.
Flew’s father was a famous Methodist preacher in England and the first non-Anglican to earn a doctorate in theology from Oxford University, and so, the son’s rejection of faith at age 15 must have been a terrible burden to the family. When Flew was in college at Oxford he attended a weekly religious forum chaired by C.S. Lewis. But even C. S. Lewis, whom Flew calls “by far the most powerful of Christian apologists” of the last sixty years of the 20th century, did not convince Flew of the truth of the Christian faith.
In a new video of a symposium in New York City last May, Flew said that the recent discoveries of biologists’ studying DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved."
Here we are, twenty years later, and how things have changed! Antony Flew has not yet become a professing Christian, but neither does he continue as an atheist. Flew at age 81 is as committed as ever to going to “where the evidence leads,” and he has come to understand that a universe as varied and complex as ours requires a creator.
While Flew has not yet embraced the Christian faith, he does recognize that there are good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Maybe that’s as good as it gets at this point after nearly 70 years as a convinced atheist. In our gospel lesson today, two women are presented with the best reason of all to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
vv. 1-2 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
There was not much optimism on that first Easter morning as Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, probably the mother of Joseph and James, approached the tomb of Jesus. It was still dark, but the day was dawning as the women venture toward the tomb. The two Marys went there with the items they needed to embalm the dead body that they expected to find there.
What they experience at the tomb is totally unexpected. First, there is an earthquake. Matthew mentions an earthquake when Jesus died, and again an earthquake at the empty tomb, and both of these violent natural events mark a supernatural one that shook the world, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
Speaking of the angel, Matthew continues
vv. 3-4 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.
The angel’s appearance, in the sense of his arrival at the tomb and also in the sense of what he looked like completely traumatized the guards. In a beautiful irony, Jesus, the one presumed dead is alive, and the two guards, presumed to be alive, “became like dead men.”
vv. 5-8 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
“Do not be afraid,” said the angel to the two women, but they were afraid. There was a strangeness to this whole scene, and the women could not help but be afraid. The heavenly visitor was enough to provoke fear, and this combined with the discovery that the body of Jesus no longer was no longer in the tomb gave plenty of cause for fear.
The angel’s message to the brave women is precisely what Jesus told His followers would happen when He predicted His crucifixion. “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” After telling the women that Jesus is alive, the angel instructs the women to “go quickly and tell his disciples.” The message that they are given to deliver to Christ’s other followers is this: “that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”