Page last updated



He Is Risen--Now What?

HW in HI

John 20:1-18


There was an earthquake! There was an earthquake and an angel appeared. And Easter Sunday happened. Just like that: boom!

Have you noticed that God had some of the first special effects ever, and some of the best. Even today, our best movie makers, even Steven Spielberg or George Lucas can’t come close – they do their best with special effects, but they’re really just playing catch up to God. The best stuff belongs to God. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, eclipses, meteor showers, volcanoes, parted seas, voices from clouds, choirs of angels. You name it, God knows how to use it to get our attention.

I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had risen, but know one knew. No special effects; no earthquake. If the stone stayed in front of the tomb, and no angel came down from heaven. No special effects to get our attention. What if Jesus decided he’d had about enough of this world and went straight up to heaven? No special appearances. How long would the disciples have stayed together? At what point would Jesus have been written up as just a prophet? A good one, but only a prophet?

In other words, our sinfulness would have been reconciled with God, and Jesus would have earned for us eternal life, but no one would have known. A few things are obvious: no Easter baskets, or Easter eggs. No sunrise services. By the year 1999, probably no Christian services anywhere.

Easter is the center of our faith. Without Easter, everything falls apart. There is no center. Some people say they believe in Jesus: everything right up to the resurrection. I know what they mean. If you think about it, the resurrection doesn’t make sense. Jesus was killed. Crucified. And they wrapped up his body and put it in a tomb. And poof! Just like magic, he wasn’t there, just the cloth they used to wrap his body. But then they saw him. He appeared to two women: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, perhaps Jesus’ mother.

But how did he get his body back? Everything we know says: Impossible! The blood in his veins could not just start flowing again. The heart in his chest could not just start beating again. His lungs could not just start breathing again. And yet... they saw him. First he appeared to the two Mary’s. Then he appeared to the eleven disciples. When they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted. Thomas said he would not believe until he touched the wounds on Jesus’ hands and the hole in his side. But when he did touch them, even Thomas believed. The unbelievable had happened. God had touched our world in a way that hasn’t happened since creation. God brought new hope to the world in a powerful way, and announced it with a boom!

In that moment, everything changed. Everything changed forever.

Paul, in his letter to the Church of Rome tells us: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” In other words, we have a share in this powerful resurrection. Simply by being baptized it is ours, too.

This morning St. James’ baptized the Groom family in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In that baptism, everything changed forever. They said ‘Yes!’ to Christ, who has already said ‘Yes!’ to each of them. ‘What has changed?’ you might ask. Tomorrow morning Swan will go to school. Jed and Susan will return to the medical practice. If you call him with an emergency at 2 AM, he will still come. So, what changed? Well, you can ask them yourselves after the service. But I will offer you a few thoughts: their family is now united in God's love in a deeper way. There is a fourth person beckoning to them in their difficulties and in their joys, and that person is Jesus Christ. They have said Yes! to that leap of faith and joined a community of people who say out loud: Yes! God can! An earthquake shakes things up a bit, and that includes the lives of the newly baptized.

Actually I believe we all need to be shaken up a little. And the Good News of the resurrection is God's way of doing that. How easy it is for us to leave here today, having enjoyed the flowers and the candles and the brunch, and go right back to where we were. How easy it is to continue our little disagreements and playground fights, our snide comments and petty thoughts. But here stands Jesus among us, unseen, but not unknown. He did not go to the cross so that we could worry about whether or not the lawn is mown or the pews are soft enough. Jesus died to give us eternal life. And to shake us up. Before Jesus left this world he said, Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Care for the sick. Visit the prisoner. Offer hospitality to strangers. Spread the Gospel. Jesus died to shake us up.

Tomorrow morning, Easter Sunday will be over. We will turn on the television and anguish over the pain in Kosovo. Serb forces have driven 290,000 people out of Kosovo in the past ten days. Neighboring Macedonia cannot cope with the wave of people. Germany said it is ready to take in some. Things have been shaken up – but not in the way Christ calls us to be shaken.

Christ is risen. But sin and evil have not been overcome. Even on Easter Sunday, we are reminded that we are the hands and feet of Christ. Jesus rose from the dead, but not before leaving us his teachings. We know how to respond.

Dear God, you have shaken us up. Let the work and teachings of Jesus permeate our souls. Lift us from our pettiness, we pray, and give us the faith and courage to go out into the world in your name, spreading the Gospel and caring for all those in need, rejoicing in the wonder of your love and the great mystery of Christ’s resurrection.

I asked a few minutes ago what would have happened if Jesus had risen, but no one knew. It’s a moot question. God used an earthquake, an angel and the reappearance of Jesus himself to herald the event. Alleluia Christ is Risen. Amen.