We Are Witnesses | God Raised Him

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Luke 24:1-12

         One of my hobbies is writing. I love telling stories and more than that, I love creating them, crafting them from nothing. But storytelling is more than just making something up. It requires a certain dedication. Writing is both craft and discipline. Therefore, writing has its own rules beyond just simple grammar. They are the rules of storytelling in general. One of these rules is stories have parts. 

         When you put together a story, most of the time, you develop an outline. You start with the story idea but after that, you need to flesh out how the idea will develop so you need an outline. Most of us have had to learn how to create an outline as part of basic writing in English class. You start with the idea and then introduce the story. There are characters–good guys and bad guys and some other guys–and the basic setting of the story. This is the introduction. Then you get to the part we might call the mystery. This is where we find out what is going on, what’s problem the story has to solve.  Then we build the action. Stuff happens to the hero and their friends or allies. Bad guys do bad things and show us how bad they are. And this brings us to the main conflict, the place where the good guys and bad guys duke it out. When the dust is settled, we have our conclusion. The story gets tied up and things are resolved between the characters for now (there could always be a sequel).

         The gospels are no different. While they are a sort of ancient biography, they follow the same basic outline of most stories. Jesus has a beginning. His life develops normally at first but then he is called into the mystery of ministry and being a first century prophet, healer, and itinerant preacher. As this mysterious calling builds and he finds followers and disciples, they do amazing things together and break societal rules and help restore people to their families and communities and teach old truths in new ways. The conflict builds and Jesus finds himself at odds with Pharisees who want to protect their understanding of the Torah. Jesus is at odds with the Sadducees who want to protect their alliances with Rome and financial and political control over the Temple. And Jesus is at odds with Rome, seen as one another Judean rabble rouser stirring up the people. 

         The conflict comes to head during Passover, a week often punctuated by political turmoil during this time in the life and history of Jerusalem. Jesus is arrested, tried, and executed by Roman authorities. He is prepared for burial and laid in a borrowed tomb. This would seem like the end of the story. But the Mary brigade is called to action. There’s a twist ending afoot. As Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women (Luke) or Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (Matthew) or Mary Magdalene, the other Mary and Salome (Mark), or just Mary Magdalene (John) goes to the tomb, they find Jesus is not there, at least not physically. Each gospel has a variation on how it tells the story but each of them makes the same point: Jesus who was dead is still alive. 

         Each of the gospels is story. Some people get angry about the idea of saying the gospels are a story because they hear story and think of it as something made up, a sort of lie. But the truth is all the greatest stories of human existence, this one I believe being the greatest, are stories that speak to truth. When we read the bible we read it for the truth beyond the words, the ideas beneath the language being used. The gospels are relating many of these truths and the biggest is in the surprise ending: the truth of resurrection.

         Jim Burklo wrote, “As St. Paul wrote much later, “It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:44) Jesus’ body was a seed sown in the earth, and from him sprouted a beloved community that lives and bears fruit to this day.”[1] I think this is the great truth of the resurrection. We are born into a physical existence with the capacity to have a spiritual existence, a relationship with God. When we awaken spiritually, whatever that looks like for each of us, we experience a rebirth within our physical being, the birth of our spiritual selves. It is the birth of a new way of seeing and understanding the world around us. It teaches us a new way of living through this new seeing. Paul wrote to the Roman church, “But now we have been released from the Law. We have died with respect to the thing that controlled us, so that we can be slaves in the new life under the Spirit, not in the old life under the written Law” (Romans 7:6)

         The story of Jesus resurrection is the original version of our story of spiritual reconciliation, rebirth, and renewal. It becomes the story conveying the great truths: love, community, reconciliation. We all need/want love. We all need/want community. We all need/want to be reconnected to community when we become disconnected. The resurrection story tells us all this is possible through the Way of Life Jesus lived, preached, died, and was resurrected to show us. To elaborate on the quote earlier, 

“It’s the same with the resurrection of the dead: a rotting body is put into the ground, but what is raised won’t ever decay. It’s degraded when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in glory. It’s weak when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised in power. It’s a physical body when it’s put into the ground, but it’s raised as a spiritual body. If there’s a physical body, there’s also a spiritual body”.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44

We who experience this resurrection, this reconciliation, this great love of restoration, are changed and given a spiritual body, a spiritual awareness with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a new heart to understand. We are new creatures, not a hodge-podge fabrication of what used to be and we are becoming, but something altogether new. 

         So, live into it. Stop waiting for some day and start living today. Stop waiting for some grand moment and start living each moment. Stop putting off accepting the changes God has made and start experiencing the spiritual birth and awakening the Holy Spirit has and continues to try to work in you. The other option is to accept being dead in the spirit. So, live and live the Way of Jesus.

[1]  (https://um-insight.net/in-the-church/practicing-faith/the-sacred-myth-of-easter/).


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