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Easter Day, Year C, PAAT Training Course,
Theme: Resurrection = Church, empowered to live in the Jesus style.
(Ps 118.21-3, 14-24 – omitted at
“This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in
it.” Psalm 118.24.
Psalm 118 is part of the Hallel, the “Praise” psalms, Pss 113-118,
which the Jews always used at Passover, and today is our Passover, the Paschal
So what are we singing the praises of today? We
are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified under
It is in the last two centuries before Christ that the notion of
resurrection of the body arose among the Jews.
Completely fundamental to the concept is that resurrection is God’s
sovereign action: there is nothing remotely automatic about it.
Thus Jesus did not rise from the dead; Jesus was raised.
There are at least three ideas concerning who would be raised.
One notion was that there would be a general resurrection of everyone who
would then be sorted out according to their deserts.
A more restricted notion was that only the best of the best and the worst
of the worst would be raised, with the best rewarded and the worst punished.
But the understanding that Luke uses, both in the Gospel and in Acts, is
that it is the righteous who will be raised, and for this he quotes in Acts
(13.35) from Psalm 16.10, “You will not let your Holy One experience
corruption.” This is why in
Luke’s gospel the centurion at the cross says of Jesus, “Certainly this was
a righteous man.”; that is, he ought to be raised.
Thus the raising of Jesus is his vindication; it is God’s seal of
approval that all that Jesus had said and done was in accord with God’s will.
So part of what we are celebrating today is our conviction and confession
shared with the early Christian community that in Jesus of Nazareth we know the
very nature of God’s righteousness, namely, his steadfast and unbreakable
We have just heard the opening section of Luke’s witness to the events
of Easter Day. Luke’s is one of
five resurrection narratives that we have in the New Testament, namely, the
accounts in our four gospels plus 1 Cor 15.
No two of them are the same. However,
there is one very important and central feature that they all share, and that is
that in every case, including this morning’s gospel, the resurrection is
announced before any appearance of Jesus, or, as in Mark’s case, before
the prospective appearance in
When one takes this with the fact that the writers of the New Testament
only talk of Jesus appearing to believers, it becomes reasonable to conclude
that the risen Lord appeared to those who already knew on others grounds that he
had been raised. That is, the
appearances are a fruit of the resurrection experience, not the cause of it.
To view the appearances as the proof of the resurrection is, I would
submit, akin to end-gaming [i.e., putting the cart before the horse].
For the resurrection event is much more than appearances of the risen
Lord. It is much more than the
raising up of a physical body. When
one turns to
This is what
And this is how Luke, in the Book of Acts, presents the encounter of Paul
Just as to say “God is love” is an oxymoron unless safeguarded by the
defining nature of that love in terms of Christ crucified, so, with sufficient
caveats we may nearly say that the resurrection if the Church.
Or, to put it a bit more conventionally, any laying out of the
resurrection event that dies not include the Spirit-empowering of the community
of believers is quite inadequate and misses the whole point.
Paul ties the resurrection directly and intimately with the gift of the
Spirit, as does
Those of you who would say that you know Christ to be alive to you in
your lives join with the saints and all the members of the Church down through
the centuries in knowing that you have been empowered to live in the Jesus-style
by a strength not your own, and this is for us the ongoing experiential proof
that Christ has been raised.
This is why we celebrate the Resurrection not simply as a past event but
as a present experience, so that at the acclamation in the Eucharistic prayer we
proclaim the past event as “Christ has died”, the present as “Christ is
risen”, and our future hope as “Christ will come gain”.
So, what is the Jesus style? As
some of you have heard me say before, the witness of the writings of the New
Testament makes three things stand out as unique to Jesus.
Our Lord was a first century Palestinian Jew, and almost everything that
he taught can be paralleled in purely Jewish sources.
But three things set him apart. One
is his uniquely close relation to God which he in turn imparted to others, so
that he addresses God as Abba, Father, and Abba is roughly equivalent in
intensity and depth to the small child’s “Daddy.
He taught his followers to do the same, as both the Lord’s Prayer and St Paul’s letters to the Romans and Galatians bear witness.
That is, we are to live in total dependence upon God and in the security
of his love which frees us to have a go without worrying about ourselves.
The second thing that is unique to Jesus is the positive injunction to do
unto others that which we would have them do unto us.
It is not enough simply to abstain from harming others; one must
positively help them. And the third
point has to do with the boundaries of concern.
The Old Testament and Judaism were much concerned with relations with the
neighbour, but the neighbour was the fellow-Israelite or Jew.
When the Jewish lawyer asks Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, who is the
neighbour whom he is to love, Jesus replies with what we know as the parable of
the Good Samaritan. It is the Samaritan, whose guts he hates, who not only is the neighbour, but
shown what it is to be a neighbour.
These three things: the
Abba-closeness, the positive doing unto others, and no boundaries to who is the
neighbour – these are the marks of the Jesus-style, these are the marks of
following Jesus, summed up in one word as agape, summed up in the
startling statement in the first letter of John as “God is love”.
In following Jesus we know the freedom to love because we are loved with
an unbreakable love. If we truly
follow Jesus, then the fellowship must follow as the night the day.
It will be a deep, supportive fellowship that reaches out to others.
It will have to the One, Holy, Catholic and
We know that we are deeply loved, as Jesus knew the all-sustaining love
of God his Father, and thereby we know ourselves freed to love without limit, as
Jesus did. This is a freedom and a
desire to reach out and share with others. This freedom is expressed by and fed
by our gathering together for the Eucharist and sharing with one another as
members of the Body of Christ in Holy Communion together.
It is striking that it is Luke, both in chapter 24 of the Gospel and in
Acts chapter 1, who specifies that the risen Lord ate with his disciples, and
this is also mentioned in this morning’s reading from Acts.
In Luke the disciples on the road to Emmaus know the risen Lord in the
Breaking of the Bread, the Eucharist, and all through the book of Acts the
disciples gather for the Breaking of the Bread, continuing in the fellowship of
the risen Lord, just as we have gathered here on this Easter Day to Break the
Bread of the Lord and to share his cup that we may be sent out to continue to
follow Jesus, our risen Lord, in the week ahead.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it!”
Alleluia! Christ is risen!