The Resurrection

Luke 24 Very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, so they went in; but they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.They stood there puzzled about this, when suddenly two men in bright shining clothes stood by them. Full of fear, the women bowed down to the ground, as the men said to them, “Why are you looking among the dead for one who is alive? He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’”

Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. 10 The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles. 11 But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened.[a]

Have you decided who you are going to vote for yet on May 7th? I am a signed up member of the Lib Dem party and this year is very different to four years ago. In 2011 it was probably the most exciting time ever to be a  Lib Dem, we had been in opposition for years, carefully crafting our favourite polices, and had an exciting young new leader, who didn’t wear sandals and have a beard, and when he got to participate in the TV debates, everyone else realized how great he was. When Nick spoke in the debate, it was a key moment, for the first time in ages, the public got chance to hear directly what he and the party stood for, which wasn’t normally possible. It was what’s known as a game changer.

Jesus’s resurrection is also a gamechanger.

Back in 2011 after a fantastic campaign when the count was completed,  we all felt pretty let down, having received the most Lib Dem votes ever, we had lost seats and were worse off than ever before. Worse still the Conservatives, the enemy of liberalism had beaten us fair and square in many of our target seats. They didn’t have enough for a majority, and it looked like they wanted to work with us after the count came in. This prospect was not popular for most Lib Dem activists who had campaigned hard against the Tories, both through personal time/commitment but also through financial giving. It seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, and we believed we would be crucified by the public if we joined the Conservatives in coalition, but if we didn’t our campaign would be for nothing, and non of our policies would be implemented. At this moment, our new exciting leader didn’t seem so trustworthy. After all he is a public school boy, he’s one of the establishment, how didn’t we realize this?

The people on the road to Emmaus were not the disciples themselves, but people who had come to see Jesus in Jerusalem, maybe for the Passover, and they had been disappointed.

“This man was a prophet and was considered by God and by all the people to be powerful in everything he said and did. 20 Our chief priests and rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and he was crucified. 21 And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free!

. After an amazing three years with Jesus, seeing huge crowds gather to cheer him, and ask for healing and prayer, they were now astounded that the same crowd, had “voted” for Barabus to live over him. They didn’t understand how the church, the establishment of the time, could offer him up as a sacrifice to appease the public, during a time of oppression and poverty. They didn’t have the luxury of hindsight, to know that the risen Lord would inspire Christians for thousands of years to come, they just knew he’d promised to be the Messiah, and to change their lives, and he was now dead at the hands of the Romans. Where was God in this situation they might have asked themselves.

Jesus appears first to a group of women, and then to a group of people on the fringes of the Christian movement, not the disciples themselves. The disciples didn’t believe their testimony

“But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened.[a]

It’s not that is hard in today’s context to understand that the disciples didn’t believe the story because it was women who were telling it… Too many times, it takes a man to say the point before a woman’s point of view comes across in meetings! Many people campaigned tirelessly so that women can speak in church.

I don’t think it was just because it was the women’s testimony that it wasn’t heard though, all the disciples had was word of mouth. No photos, no selfies, no newspapers, no Twitter feed, no Facebook. So you can hardly blame Peter for wanting to see for himself. He is the only one in Luke’s account to bother checking out their story, Peter who had denied the existence of Jesus when the time came, now rushes down to the grave. It’s difficult to imagine with hindsight how Jesus would have been killed if he lived today, just for being a prophet that caused too many problems during the Passover, and contradicting the teachings of the church. However unfortunately today there are still Christian martyrs, suffering throughout the world for their faith. Maybe stories we find hard to hear.

Perhaps the others are too weighed down by the grief and loss of losing Jesus, to go with him. Seeing him alive is such a shock whilst they are going through this process, that when he does appear to them later on in Luke’s gospel, he actually eats and drinks with them and lets them touch him, to show them it really is him.

One of the first stages of grief is shock, and this can paralyse you, unable to think or move or do anything constructive

The other issue that I think about is what did Jesus look like, was he different, how could his body that had died hold him? Was that why they didn’t know it was him? I was thinking about this, when  I went to see my Granny last weekend, who had her 100 birthday celebration. It was a great party celebrating her life, she couldn’t attend but I went to visit her afterwards. I found out a lot about her, she was born before the 1st world war in Australia, her Dad committed suicide after the Wall Street Crash when she was 4, and she served in the WRENS in the 2nd world war before marrying a handsome officer, who refused to buy her a Gin and Tonic, in the officers mess, as it wasn’t ladylike! She has always been very determined, and despite her memory, eyesight, hearing failing her, she is still fully mobile and fighting to stay alive.

Nowadays she is in the grip of dementia, so when I went to see her, she didn’t know it was me. To someone who didn’t know her they wouldn’t know what a smartly turned out, intelligent and witty woman she was, who had men chasing her throughout the war. But to me there are aspects of the old granny still there, it’s muddled up, and unclear, but she is still in there somewhere.

Sometimes words can’t capture what someone means to you, the essence of them is their living spirit, and I think Jesus maybe wasn’t quite the way the disciples expected to see him, I don’t know  how, but they way they talk about him, is that they recognized his words and his actions, so maybe his voice and outward appearance had changed?

Finally though,  I don’t think we always recognize God’s hand on our lives, and like to believe our own efforts are the reason for both success and failure, we like to see ourselves as King of our own world. We get carried away with the feeling of success, the Palm Sunday parade, and believe that this is the important part of our lives. The message of Easter is the opposite of this. God uses all our gifts and talents and our weaknesses, illnesses, failures to his own purpose. We don’t know this at the time, as we don’t have the luxury of hindsight.

Back to 2015, and what happened in the last election has set a whole different precedent in motion, now the SNP and UKIP are key players in the campaign, so it’s gone from a 2 horse to a 5 horse race. The TV  debate last week featured 7 different parties, and people are potentially facing another four years of coalition. So even though Nick Clegg failed to win more Lib Dem seats, and will probably fail to keep the ones we’ve got this time, he changed the way people do politics, and opened up the debate. We didn’t know this at the time of course.

It’s also possible that if they weren’t really expecting Jesus to show up, they wouldn’t have noticed him under their nose, as we don’t expect God’s work to be as unexpectedly wonderful as it often is. Later on in Luke the same people on the road to Emmaeus say, “Wasn’t it like a fire burning in us when he talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” “There are countless tales of acts of pure grace that have affected Christians over the centuries, and without these, the church wouldn’t stand today.

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