I had the great privilege yesterday of celebrating Easter Sunday with the Church of Pentecost in Winnipeg. Thank you to Overseer Gabriel Addo-Asante for the invitation to share in the ministry of the Word on the Day of the Resurrection. Here are a few paragraphs from my sermon on Luke 24:
While this Sunday is the high point of the Christian year, last Sunday marked the high holiday of the golfing calendar. Thousands of people gathered on Sunday morning in the pristine garden grounds known as the Augusta National Golf Club to witness Tiger Woods complete his inspiring comeback at the Masters. For close to a decade Tiger Woods was the most dominant force in golf and one of the most recognizable figures on the planet. But then he made a car-wreck of his marriage and his back gave out. When he was arrested for a D.U.I., his mug shot appeared on the cover of magazines all over the world. Some days he wasn’t even able to walk, much less swing a golf club. He slipped out of the top one thousand in the World Golf Rankings. He hadn’t won a major championship in eleven years. But this past Sunday, the magic returned. He striped balls down the fairway. He rolled in putts from all over the greens. He even almost made a hole in one! One newspaper columnist put it like this: “As he tapped in for his fifth Green Jacket and 15th major championship overall, the news was already reverberating well beyond the walls of the Augusta National, well beyond the world of golf and into the world at large. One week before Easter, the resurrection of Tiger Woods was complete.” Someone even posted on YouTube the brand new Nike commercial that aired following Tiger’s win and labelled it: #Resurrection of the Human Spirit.
Let’s be clear, this is not what Christians mean when they use the word resurrection. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Tiger Woods. In fact, being around the same age as Tiger and suffering from a bad back, I did find his victory to be inspiring. However, for Christians, resurrection is not about overcoming obstacles or adversity. It’s not about spring time renewal – although having just survived my first Manitoba winter, I can understand how one might get confused about this. Nor is resurrection about the triumph of the human spirit. Resurrection is about Jesus – a first century Palestinian Jew who proclaimed the Kingdom of God, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons, stilled the waves, welcomed the least, the last, and the lost, and was crucified on a Roman cross. Resurrection is the culmination of that particular personal narrative and personal narratives are inseparable from the bodies that bear them. So it is significant that Luke goes to such great lengths to stress Jesus’ embodied resurrected existence. Luke tells us that the risen Lord eats fish and he shows them the wounds in his hands and his feet. The one who has been raised is the same one who poured out his life in love for the world upon the cross. So the Easter proclamation of the apostles is not, “Spring has sprung!” or “Live Your Best Life Now,” rather it is “He is risen!”
This changes everything. Death has been defeated. The chains of the adversary who seeks to keep us enslaved through the fear of death have been shattered. The power of the petty despots and fanatical terrorists who seek to rule our world through falsehood and violence have been exposed as impotent before the resurrection power on display in the body of the risen Christ.
It’s fitting that the first words Jesus speaks to the gathered disciples are “Peace to you!” For throughout the Gospel of Luke, Jesus has been portrayed as the prophet and Prince of Peace. This resurrection pronouncement of “Peace” is the culmination of Jesus’ entire ministry and the fruit of the eternal reconciliation he has accomplished through this death on the cross. While there is a fittingness to Jesus’ proclamation of peace, in its context, however, this greeting is somewhat surprising. Think about who Jesus is talking to. This is a group consisting of disciples who just a couple of days earlier had denied and deserted him.
A few years ago the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live presented a controversial sketch in which they imagined what it might look like if the movie director Quenten Tarantino brought his brand of hyper violence and vengeance to a film about the resurrection. The parody film, entitled “D’Jesus Uncrossed,” depicted the risen Jesus seeking out everyone who had a hand in his crucifixion — from the Romans, to the religious leaders, to Judas — and executing them in graphic and gruesome fashion. While the sketch drew the ire not only Christians, but also Muslims, it did serve to show how remarkable it was that the real Jesus rose from the dead proclaiming peace. The way of the world is to return violence for violence. We ridiculously think that we can achieve peace by fighting wars and evening scores. However, Jesus, “ris’n with healing in his wings,” grants the peace that is only possible through the love that breaks the cycle of violence by absorbing the cost of reconciliation in his own body. The one who announced from the cross “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,” has been raised from the dead, which means that Jesus prayer has been answered. There is no failure or shortcoming or sin, that can separate us from the love of God. Repentance and forgiveness of sin is available for all in the name of the risen Lord Jesus.