Romans 6:2-11; Mark 16:1-7
The truths of our faith are as startling as they are simple. What, for example, is there not to understand about the foundational truth: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Gn 1:1) or: God fashioned man of dust from the soil (Gn 2:7)? Theologians may debate the finer details and hidden depths of these statements but you and I know what they mean – There is a God. He created the universe. He created us.
The history of salvation can be mapped out, step by step, in these clear, unambiguous statements. You must not eat of it … . She took some … and ate it. God expelled him from the garden of Eden… (Gn 3).
Understand me right, I am not saying the scriptures are simple; we all know that’s not true. What I do assert is that God did not make a profound academic understanding of his word a prerequisite for salvation; the basics are crystal clear.
- You must love the Lord your God.
- Love your neighbour as yourself.
- Everybody who believes has eternal life.
- Love your enemies.
- Do not be afraid.
- This is my body.
- Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Perhaps the passion readings of the last few days are the most ancient New Testament texts and the clearest of them all. Anyone with an understanding heart will agonise in the company of this innocent man and recognise his part, his guilt, his sins in the atrocities he suffered.
But tonight, after the arduous journey of Lent it is finally time to hear another simple truth, a truth so astounding it changes everything we ever though we knew. It is the message of the angel: He has risen! The tomb is empty: He is not here.
In recent years there have been ‘so-called’ theologians debating whether Jesus rose in the flesh or just ‘spiritually’ (whatever they mean by that). I guess that’s why the angel made sure the women took good note that the body was no longer in the tomb: See, here is the place where they laid him. He is not here. His body has gone. He has risen!
If that is where this wondrous event ended we might be tempted to say ‘That’s nice for Jesus. God has raised him from the dead. That’s absolutely wonderful!’
However, there is another bombshell of truth which follows the one we have been marvelling at. Every time we say: He has risen we must immediately add: and so have we!
The resurrection of Jesus is about us! In his death we have died, in his rising we have been brought back to life. One day our tomb will be empty; one day the angel will say ‘He is not here; she is not here. He is risen! She is risen!
In anticipation of the wondrous day let us say: Alleluia! Alleluia!