Summary: What does the Resurrection of Jesus mean to us today?
Today is the Second Sunday after Easter – and our Gospel reading focuses on two post resurrection appearances of Jesus.
The first was Jesus’ appearance to the disciples meeting behind locked doors. And Jesus just appeared in the room in front of the terrified disciples and said: Peace be with you”
And the second appearance was the famous one when he appeared to his disciples again – and Thomas who had been missing the previous time.
For the Gospel writer, St. John, these post Resurrection appearances of Jesus were important because John says:
“these things are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through believing you may have life in his name” (Jn 20:31)
Story: Last Wednesday whilst over in Pfarrwangen in Switzerland - I went for a walk with a good friend of Maddy and mine, Philipp Nanz. Philipp is the Swiss Reformed pastor of that village – and while Maddy and Philip’s wife Suzy went horse riding, we went for a walk.
And we started discussing Islam, and got onto the subject of what makes Christianity distinctive?
How does Christianity differ from other religions?
And we came to the conclusion that the answer lies in the Easter story.
No other religion has ever claimed that its leader rose from the dead
St. Paul - who was nobody’s fool - had this to say about the centrality of the Resurrection:
3For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance :
that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.
6After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
When you add that up you get at least 514 men.
An English “House of Lords” Judge, Lord Darling said this about the Resurrection:
” In its favour as living truth, there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the resurrection story is true “
What do we mean when we say Jesus is alive?
Some think that Jesus is only “alive” through his teaching – in much the same way as we would say the Buddha lives on through his teachings.
But that wasn’t what the Early Church meant by “alive” when they formulated the three major Christian creeds –
The Apostles Creed,
The Athanasian Creed and
The Nicene Creed.
“The third day he rose again from the dead” as the Apostles’ Creed puts it.
I would like to suggest to you that what they meant was this :
That Jesus really physically died once on the Cross and physically rose again on the third day.
So if Jesus has been raised from the dead what are the consequences for us today?
Well here I can only share just a couple of my own experiences of the Risen Christ:
Story: My Conversion
In the last week of December 1971, I went on a Christian Union Conference in Oxford – a bit of an agnostic.
On the evening of the Thursday of the Conference, I went into my room and said: “Jesus, if you exist like my friends tell me you do, I want to know you.”
And as I prayed this prayer – I felt the presence of God come to me in that room. I passed from being an agnostic to being a Christian.
Story: My calling to the ministry
The second story that I’d like to share with you concerns my call to the ministry.
Story: In March 1997, I told Maddy that I thought the Lord was calling me to become a vicar and she said agreed
So I went through the Church of England Selection Process - which took about a year culminating with a 21/2 day ABM Selection Conference in June 1998.
Two Sundays before the final ABM Selection Conference, I went to the evening service at Christchurch, Bridlington.
As I walked in, I prayed to myself ”Lord give me a confirmation this evening that I am really doing the right thing”
That evening we had an outside speaker – who I had never ever met in my life before. Indeed I didn’t even know his name as I walked into church that evening.
As he got up to preach he said: “I have been bothered by this all through the service. So before I preach, I’ll say it anyway.”