Message from our Pastor

 

Just as we are more than ready for Winter to be over and for Spring to arrive in earnest, I sometimes get the feeling that people are more than ready for Lent to be over and for Easter to arrive.  It is no coincidence that the seasons seem to line up for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. We have had enough of the talk of death, denial, and desertion. We are more than ready for something more upbeat, more positive. We are ready for the Good News.

But once we get to Easter, we are confronted with what is great news, but news that is hard to believe. It is news that has no precedence. It is news that as Paul states “is a stumbling block…”  Each year we are confronted by God’s refusal to allow the powers of this world to have the final say. We proclaim, “Christ is risen!”

Will Willimon writes, Easter means that Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead. This is the earliest, most universal Christian acclamation: God raised crucified Jesus from the dead.

But what does that mean for us? God raised Jesus from the dead, but that was something that happened to Jesus. What happens to us?

At a very early date, Christians moved to an astounding implication – the same God, who raised Jesus from the dead, would raise Jesus’ followers as well. When Jesus was crucified, right as he breathes his last, Matthew says, “The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection, they came out of the tombs and entered into the Holy City and appeared to many” (27:51b-53).

The earth heaves, just as it would shake again when an angel rolls the stone away from Jesus’ tomb in Matthew 28:2. But you will note a detail which only Matthew reports: “The saints who had fallen asleep” were raised from the dead. That’s the only appearance of the word saints (Greek:hagion) in the Gospel of Matthew.

Perhaps these were the righteous in Israel who had died in the past, the “holy ones” to which the prophets refer. Paul uses the word saints to refer to all believers (Rom 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 2:19; and others).

Note that these saints who appear are raised only after Jesus’ resurrection. All of this is to say that Jesus’ death and resurrection have implications beyond Jesus. Resurrection is applied not only to Jesus but also to Jesus’ followers. As Jesus experienced resurrection, so too will his followers.

And that’s good news. But is it unambiguously good news? What if our lives with God are not over until God says it’s over? What if God is related to us in a way that doesn’t finally end, but is eternal? What if God’s love, and therefore God’s demands, are for always? Good news or bad? You make the call.

Shalom,

       Craig