This reflection is for Easter Sunday – The Resurrection of the Lord, Cycle B, 4/1/2018.
Have you heard the Good News?! He is risen! No fooling, really, Jesus the Christ has conquered the grave! Death could not hold him. He has been raised by the glory of the Father! He is risen and the world will never be the same again! Today we celebrate the foundational proclamation of our faith in who Jesus is, what Jesus did, and what that means for us and the whole world, namely, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation in the name of Jesus!
In his book, More Than A Carpenter, Josh McDowell (who follows the logic and repackages Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis) lays out the reason for our belief in the resurrection. He says that the world is confronted with three basic questions about Jesus’ person. Jesus, according to these authors, is either a liar, a lunatic, or indeed the Lord and savior of the universe. Also, you might like reading, The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel, as he lays out the reason that lead him to an obvious conclusion–Jesus is Lord. All of these books seek to provide reasons to believe the testimony of those who were there. Their claim, of course, is that Jesus was more than a good man, more than a prophet, more than a miracle worker; he was, as they claim and as we believe, the Lord and savior of the human race.
I was quite surprised last week when one of my students asked me not if Jesus was God, but whether or not Jesus ever even really existed. Really? Is this what fake news has done to a generation of youths? Have we come to a point where a person’s physical existence is now even in doubt? What’s next, did Abraham Lincoln really ever exist? If I’ve never met him, shouldn’t I have reason to doubt whether he ever was at all? Actually, there are a number of extra-biblical accounts of Jesus’ true existence (Click here for an article with sources), but His being Messiah, and Lord, the Christ, is a matter of faith through reason. Not faith without reason, but instead we believe it is very reasonable to profess the faith of the Church, that Jesus triumphed over the grave and is Lord.
In fact, today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles seeks to offer the first reasoned response and a simple yet thorough explanation of the whole Gospel! According to Acts,
“Peter proceeded to speak and said: ‘You know what has happened all over Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses of all that he did
both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible, not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.'”
That’s it! That’s the whole thing! Jesus is the anointed one of God (the Greek word for anointed is Christos, hence, Jesus the Christ), who came to earth filled with the Spirit and with power to do good by conquering evil wherever he found it! Peter says that he and the other apostles are witnesses to Jesus’ life, actions, and teachings, and most importantly stand as a witness to Jesus’ death and resurrection. He makes it clear that after Jesus rose FROM THE DEAD they broke bread together! That’s not a small matter! So, yes! Jesus really did exist. And yes! he was crucified and rose again! And, yes! the apostles and many others ate, drank, and walked with him–as all of the Gospel options for today’s Mass make quite clear (cf. John 20:1-9, Mark 16:1-7, Luke 24:13-35).
But I think the most important part for all of us is in the last few lines of Peter’s exhortation, namely, that Jesus commissioned them (and us) to preach to people and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to judge the living and the dead, and that everyone who believes in Jesus, will receive forgiveness of sins in his name. There is nothing that matters more than this simple truth. Sin causes separation from God and from others. It causes divisions within our selves and in our communities–but through Jesus, we can be reconciled within ourselves, within our families and communities, and in our world.
The message of wholeness and redemption is needed more today than ever. Young people and veterans are committing suicide in staggering numbers. Twenty-two veterans take their life each day in this country! Shocking amounts of young people need mental health counseling and drug and alcohol counseling. School shootings have become common place. Over half of marriages end in divorce, over three thousand abortions per day in the U.S., young people are being manipulated and abused through human trafficking, and countries never cease to do violence to humanity and the earth. In sum, we need Jesus. We need the Prince of Peace more than ever. We need those who are willing to courageously share Jesus with everyone they meet. We need evangelists today more than ever! Are you in?
The resurrection of Jesus is still Good News for so many living in darkness–but we who call Him Lord need to take that message of redemption, wholeness, and reconciliation to the world! Sin is real. Name it. Forgiveness of sin is real. Name Him and receive Life–and Life Eternal. Share that good news with someone today. Happy Easter everyone. He is risen. He is truly risen!
God Bless, Stephen