Uniform 04.20.2014: Thoughts on Resurrection

Hosea 6:1-3; Luke 24:1-12

Every Easter, we read the story of the empty tomb. And every year, I find myself wondering how I would have felt if I had been there that day. What would I have focused on as I walked to the tomb to tend to Jesus’ body? How would I have responded to Jesus’ absence? Would I have been outraged? Afraid? What would I have said to the “men in dazzling clothes” (Lk 24:4)? Would their words have been an adequate explanation?

While I think it’s helpful for us to try to locate ourselves in biblical events, I’m realizing this year that only looking at the resurrection through the eyes of the women at the tomb limits its power and mystery for me today. I have treated Easter morning too much like a one-time historical event, which usually means that I stop considering the magnitude of the resurrection as soon as we’ve eaten all the ham and packed away the Easter baskets.

This year I started noticing signs of the resurrection even in the midst of Lent. After an unseasonably cold winter, our flowering trees didn’t bloom at their normal time. But just when I started to wonder if we’d ever see those white blossoms on our Bradford pears or the pink ones on our cherry trees, I discovered buds dotting their branches, promising me that there was still life within them. Indeed, just a little while later our yard lit up with bright blooms. At the same time, my family was weathering a difficult season, and we began to feel like we would be forever stuck in a hopeless winter. But, in time with nature, the warm sun of spring shone into our desperation, giving us hope to step forward into a new, better season. I have felt God “revive” me “like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hos 6:2, 3). In that process, God has given me eyes to see the truth of the resurrection beyond Easter Sunday.

I recently ran across these wise words from Frederick Buechner: “Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.” We all need this reminder sometimes. Even in situations that feel completely final and hopeless—even in the face of death—the resurrection promises us that God has a different ending in store.

This Easter, may we all sing out the truth that Christ is risen with such joy and conviction that we hear echoes of our songs all year long.

Discussion

1. How do you normally approach the Easter story? How has that approach helped you understand God better? How has it limited your understanding of what God is doing through Christ?
2. What situations in your life have felt final or hopeless? How have you weathered those lifeless seasons?
3. Where have you seen evidence of the resurrection in your life or in the world around you? What do these sightings teach you about God?
4. How might thinking about the Easter story at different times of year help you discover new ways to think about the resurrection?
5. In what ways can we carry the joy of Easter Sunday with us all year long?

Reference Shelf

Jesus is alive, we say; on what basis do we make that claim? Well, there is the testimony of those who saw him raised or who saw his empty tomb. But Luke’s narrative shows that such testimony can be discounted, even by members of Jesus’ own movement. There are the Scriptures that testify to his resurrection, but Luke’s story includes Jesus explaining the Scriptures to disciples who remain skeptical. Some are gifted by visions of the Lord; Luke’s narrative shows us how some could walk and talk with Jesus and not know him, or watch him suddenly appear in a room and disbelieve. The two kinds of convincing evidence offered by this chapter are the memories of Jesus’ teachings, especially as interpreted by someone else who truly believes, and the experience of Jesus in meals shared with fellow believers, especially the Communion meal. The women were confused until the two heavenly witnesses reminded them of what Jesus had said. The two on the way to Emmaus were confused until Jesus blessed and broke the bread. The apostles and disciples were confused even after Jesus ate in front of them until he “opened their minds to understand the scriptures.”
Thus does Luke instruct us that our experience of the resurrection, two millennia after the event, is not second-rate or defective. When we experience the risen Christ in Communion, he is truly present. And the experience of a Lukan Jesus present with us at Communion would be a good thing for the church. This is the man who accepted two dinner invitations from tax collectors and three from Pharisees, who broke bread with his betrayer and with his quarrelsome disciples. He refused to be bullied into rejecting the hospitality of Levi, Zacchaeus, or the woman who anointed his feet; he instructed his disciples, likewise, to accept whatever was put before them from whoever would receive them peaceably. If we conducted our Communions the way Luke’s Jesus conducted his meals, then they’d be full of surprising guests and uncomfortable revelations about our values and conduct, and there would almost certainly be some moments to make the respectable folks cringe. Are we brave enough to welcome that Jesus to our meals, or better yet, to sit at the table that Jesus hosts?
Luke’s resurrection narrative also shows us how memory and reflection, guided by wise interpreters, are part of how we come to know the risen Lord. The angels remind the women; Jesus opens the minds of the disciples; and in Acts, the Spirit fills the believers, giving them boldness and insight. But there is also the actual work of learning, thinking, meditating: chapter 24 pictures the disciples sharing their experiences with each other and talking things over, and Acts continues the theme of the whole church gathering regularly to eat, to worship, and to be instructed. Our experience of the risen Jesus is thus not only a moment in worship but a process of formation under the guidance of the Spirit and in the teachings of Jesus.

Resource

Richard B. Vinson, Luke, Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary (Macon GA: Smyth & Helwys, 2008) 757-58.

Bonnie Chappell is the editor of the Uniform Series Bible Study. She is a graduate of Mercer University and Vanderbilt Divinity School. She is an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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