Hope Through the Resurrection
Easter Day talk given by Paul Wintle on .
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[06:28] Luke 24:1–12
[08:08] Three strands of hope:
- [08:55] words of hope,
- [12:37] memories of hope,
- [19:26] fears of hope.
[22:42] Luke 24:28–35
[--:--] Some of the communion service is not included in the recording
[24:50] Your death, O Lord
[25:05] Closing prayer
[Gill Morgan] … To hear from you we pray for Paul, that he will speak with your authority and with your love and with your power, in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Thank you, Gill, for that reflection.
So, today is Easter Day: the happiest and most hopeful day of the Christian calendar. Jesus, the Son of God, has beaten death. This gives us all hope. Hope for our eternal destiny, yes. But hope to live for our best, now.
How hopeful, I wonder, are you? Not hopeful as in, “I hope it doesn’t rain today” — because we love in the north of England. Are you naturally optimistic? Perhaps you would call yourself a realist, when in fact you look down on life … that’s called pessimism.
There were once two identical twins. They were alike in every way but one. One was a hope-filled optimist who ever only saw the bright side of life. The other was a dark pessimist, who only ever saw the down side in every situation. The parents were so worried about the extremes of optimism and pessimism in their boys so they took them to the doctor. He suggested a plan. “On their next birthday,” said the doc, “give the pessimist a shiny new bicycle, but give the optimist only a pile of manure.” It seemed a rather radical thing to do, wouldn’t you say, Doctor Morgan? After all the parents always treated their boys equally. But in this instance they decided to try to Doctor’s advice. So when the twins birthday came round they gave the pessimist the most expensive, top of the range, racing bike a child could ever, ever want. When he saw the bike his first words were, “I’ll probably crash and break my leg.”
To the optimist they gave a carefully, lovingly wrapped box of manure. He opened it, looked puzzled for a moment, then ran outside screaming, “You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s just gotta be a pony around here somewhere!”
Hopefulness. Perspective is everything. What we hope for, and who we put our hopes in, perhaps can mark us out as optimists or pessimists. And when we look at Easter — the most important, most sacred, day of the Christian calendar — this one, very hopeful act of Jesus rising from the dead, is central to what we believe and why we believe. For the optimist and for the pessimist, the resurrection of Jesus changes everything!
Historians are very, very clear about two things about Jesus — he existed and he died. There would be few people who would doubt these facts. If we can’t be sure that Jesus lived and died, then we can’t be sure of any event in history, really. These activities are generally the things that mark out our own lives: life and loss. The man who lived 2,000 years ago then died was not a great “hold the press” story. The fact that he was a great teacher was not even a major news story. The fact that he hung on a cross was probably no great feat — the Romans killed a lot of people that way. Jesus probably wasn’t the only persistent person who claimed to be God’s one and only chosen; or even someone who tried to upset the religious rulers. So what was it that made him unique, that makes us worship him 2,000 years on?
The one thing that marks out Jesus from anyone else is the empty tomb. It gives us hope in all kinds of ways. As Paul writes in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, Jesus died. Jesus was buried. For him to have achieved these things, we know that he must have lived too — and there are plenty of accounts of his teaching, his miracles and his love for people in the Scriptures. But then … we have this astounding fact: he was raised on the third day! Paul reports this fact as “first importance”. Quite rightly. This fact is the most important thing of our faith. Christ died, Christ risen, Christ will come again. Our Christian faith is built on nothing less than our understanding and conviction that God raised Jesus from the dead. If God is God, and if he is beyond my experience and my knowledge and capacity to do whatever he chooses, then there is no reason why God couldn’t do this.
If Jesus isn’t risen from the dead, then my faith comes tumbling down. If Jesus was not raised to life, then it’s a terrible hoax — we’re singing to a dead man, praying to a dead man, we»re preaching about a dead man, worshipping a dead man. I don’t want to put my trust in anything dead. What can we hope for, what hope can we have in something that’s no longer alive?
So we read from Luke chapter 24 and verses 1 to 12, which is Luke»s account — a little bit different from Matthew and Mark and John, perhaps. Luke’s account.
Luke 24:1–12 [NIVUK]
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” ’ Then they remembered his words.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.
Three Strands of Hope
On this Resurrection Sunday, I’d like us to spend a few moments looking at three strands of hope that we find in Luke’s account of the resurrection at the tomb: Words of hope — spoken by the men outside the tomb; memories of hope in the minds of the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body, kindling a reminder of what Jesus had previously told his followers; and the fear of hope — the confusion that Peter experiences when he comes to the tomb and can’t quite get his head around what on earth has happened over these past few days.
Words of Hope
I was recently at the introductory evening of “What Can a Parent Do?’ and Ruth Basden helped us discuss a number of things that prevent parents from communicating effectively both with their children and their partners. Just to say, I don’t have children but I was invited along anyway. Ruth went on to explain that we often mishear, misinterpret or just miss what people are saying because we are all wired differently. We might be listening out for one thing, but hear something totally, totally different. Or we might presuppose that our husband or our wife or our partner asks us to do something and then we totally forget what they asked the other person to do — I’m sure that never happens in any marriages here. Ruth introduced us to the Five Love Languages that Gary Chapman, an American, writes about. He explains that the way we communicate to others is not always clear because we give and we receive messages in different ways. For him, the way we give and receive love is of key importance to communication. And so, for some people, words of affirmation are one way of giving and receiving love. There are people here, perhaps, who just love receiving positive words spoken over them. Others might really appreciate getting cards or letters or phone calls which show care or appreciation. Still others will love best through a hug or by spending quality time with another special person. The last Love Language is by giving and receiving through practical action — showing love by doing something for someone.
Now I don’t know what love languages the women at the tomb had but what we do know is that the words they hear have a massive impact. Even before they see Jesus, they believe. For the women at the tomb, they were least expecting such a visitation, let alone such hopeful words from the shining men which came to their ears: “He is not here. He has risen!” Isn’t it so often to doubt the words of another without some form of proof or evidence? Even recently when the doctors told me about my elbow that had healed itself and there was no need for further bone surgery, I had an element of doubt: perhaps it’s a human thing. Perhaps it’s a Paul thing. Perhaps it’s me being naturally cautious or pessimistic. The docs didn’t bother doing an X-ray because they hadn’t needed to. They seemed hopeful and their words gave me hope. For the women at the tomb, their proof was indisputable. Jesus’ body wasn’t there, but the grave-clothes were. Angels had appeared to offer what angels do best — give a clear message of encouragement: He is risen! Wow … what hope!
Memories of Hope
These words of hope give way to memories of hope: “Remember how he told you … the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” [Luke 24:6–7]. These reminders sparked such joy, such elation, such overwhelming hope in those ladies, I$rsquo;m sure. Although they had not yet seen Jesus, in this account at least, they became aware of Jesus’ promise that he would rise from the dead. In the NIV in verse 8 here says, “They remembered his words”. It was like another revelation. That light-bulb moment: “Ah yes! Git it! Wow!” This news is good news, it’s great news — Jesus. Alive! Not only today for our salvation from sin, but a new hope. A hope that calls us into a relationship with Father God. A hope that speaks of grace and forgiveness — our own resurrection. A hope of eternal life and a hope of perhaps even now being more optimistic about our own life and existence. A hope which we can offer to others through our lives, our actions and our own message of hope.
Those miracles that we have been hearing about over the last few weeks as we’ve been going through Mark’s Gospel were always accompanied by words of hope from Jesus: “Your faith has healed you!” “I tell you, take up your mat and walk!” “Go in peace and be free from your suffering!” These words of hope and a new hope for ordinary people are also reminders of hope — memories or encouragements of God’s promises of God’s goodness in our own lives. Even in spite of troubling circumstances, we can remember and be encouraged by words of hope and inspiration. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said this about hope: “Hope is being able to see light despite the darkness.” In his book Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell asks, “Why blame the dark for being dark? It is far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it should be.” Martin Luther King said, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”. Like the women at the tomb, we can have hope. These promises of Jesus, his words of new life and new hope are for us, today, as they were for those people all those centuries ago.
The Psalms are a great source of encouragement and hope. Even the most well-known, Psalm 23, helps in times of adversity — “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me …” At our Maundy Thursday Communion service here, we stopped to listen to Psalm 43 in which the psalmist laments, “Why, God? Why have I been rejected? Why so downcast?” But still he clings to the hope when he says, “For I will yet praise him, my saviour and my God.” Psalm 22, often read at Easter time, begins with the words Jesus remembered on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from me, so far from the words of my groaning?” Yet as we read on in the psalm, it becomes apparent that there is still hope and faith and trust that God is still there — [v19]: “But you, O Lord,” it says, “be not far off. O my strength, come quickly to help me.” If you feel God is far from you today, what better day than Easter Day to pray again, “ O Lord, be not far off. Come quickly to help me.”?
The memories of hope; believing and remembering that we have a God who somehow comes through. For the ladies at the tomb, the angel reminds them of Jesus’ promise he will return, and they are driven to action by their words. They have to tell someone! And so they go to the disciples — surely they would love to hear this news? But, oh dear, these words of hope fall on deaf ears. They all think it’s stuff and nonsense. An old wives’ tale. As the Orthodox Jewish Bible puts it, “Narrishkait”, which is a lovely word, “Narrishkait”. How stupid. But even then, I wonder, were their hearts tinged with perhaps just a little bit of possibility of hope?
Unsurprisingly, it’s the excitable, intuitive, act-now-think-later Peter who kind of gets it. I know! I just knew this! But when he speeds off to the tomb, it’s almost like an anti-climax in Luke. He looks down into the grave and sees the grave-clothes lying there … and then he goes home. This morning, on the hill, I read this version but it was different because it said Peter went home amazed, which kind of conjures up a bit of hope in there. But what we have in the NIV I was reading from seems to suggest confusion, bemusement — or — as one version states, “in unresolved puzzlement”.
Fear of Hope
Whereas the women go off to tell, Peter goes off without assurance. Different gospel accounts vary but, here, Peter is exceptionally puzzled. And so perhaps Peter was experiencing fear of hope. What if the resurrection had not occurred? What if the women were dreaming? What if the smell of the spices they were going to anoint the body with had overpowered them and they were hallucinating? What if …? You can imagine Peter wandering home in a bit of a daze. Jesus couldn’t really be risen. Could he? He couldn’ really be raised from the dead … I mean that doesn’t happen? Peter’s fear of hope stopped him from being his usual impetuous self. He was stopping himself this time from jumping to the right conclusion. After all, he had let Jesus down time and time again in these last few days. No, what the women had said back there couldn’t be true … could it …? Peter could not yet dare to believe what he hoped might be true.
And so to summarise.
Words of Hope — “He is Risen!” Do you believe? That’s all Jesus invites us to do — believe and follow him.
Memories of Hope — Not those halcyon days through rose-tinted glasses, but words spoken by the one who was and is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Will you follow him, the one who can be trusted, the one who has overcome death and offers us life and hope? Jesus is not just a memory he is alive today.
Fear of Hope — Dare I trust these words that Jesus is alive? In my own situation, what’s stopping me from daring to hope? Hopelessness in our world I think literally crucifies. Hopelessness in the form of violence, hate, revenge, exclusion, loneliness, hunger, trafficking, warmongering; it all brings death. Where we see these things we must become signs of resurrection, bringing hope and life where we see death. Because it’s love over death, this is the resurrection. This is the hope of today. For us, for others, love in action.
As we gather around the Lord’s Table this Easter Morning, we remember that it was likely the Disciples had locked themselves away in the same upper room where Jesus had shared the last supper just a few days before.
Luke 24 verses 35 to 41 say this, “ ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke the bread.” Let me read just a little bit before that, sorry.”
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going further. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ [So he went in to stay with them.]
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognised him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’
Then they got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven [and those with them], assembled together and saying, ‘It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognised by them when he broke [the] bread.
The next time he appeared, in verse 37 , Jesus says, ‘Peace be with you.’
This meal today is the familiar bread and wine. But we hear the words of Jesus: Peace be with you. The resurrection of Jesus gives meaning to the sacrament of Communion. Like Jesus with those on the road to Emmaus, we break bread today with the Risen Lord.
[ Some of the communion service is not included in the recording. ]
Your death, O Lord, …
[After everyone has been served the elements], Shall we say this together?
Your death, O Lord, we commemorate,
Your resurrection we confess,
Your second coming we await for,<
May your mercy be upon us,
Almighty father, you made glad the disciples with the sight of the risen Lord. Give us such knowledge of His presence with us, that we may be strengthened and sustained by his risen life and serve you continually in righteousness and truth. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
[This was followed by prayers for peace in our world, our land, our situations and our church]
[Not included in the recording]
I pray that God, the source of all hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. [I pray] you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. [Romans 15:13].
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