The Resurrection Of Christ
April 16, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Happy Easter! Since I took on my duties [as pastor] of this church the week right after Easter of last year, this makes my first Easter here to celebrate with all of you. I'm especially excited about that. We entered into the Passion Season at the beginning of March. We've spent a month and a half remembering Jesus' passion period. From a certain perception, the span of time in this season feels a bit like walking in a tunnel. But the tunnel doesn't go on for ever. It soon reaches the end [of the tunnel]. Today, the liturgical colors change to white-on-white, and somehow it seems like we made it to the light (exit) of the tunnel, doesn't it? The tunnels of our lives are not for ever, and it seems like this is pointing to the fact that we will all come to the light of our own tunnels for sure.
The Desperate People
2. Well, during Easter this year we read the words from the scripture that tell about the events of that resurrection morning, and I would like for us to turn our attention on to what is written just before it for starters; because today's passage of scripture shows a distinct contrast with the scene that is written just before it. The text has this, "Joseph purchased linen, and bringing Jesus down from the cross he wrapped him in the cloth, he buried him inside a tomb built by excavating a rock, and he rolled a stone to the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses found the place in which they had buried the corpse of Jesus," (15:46-47).
3. The people related to today's passage of scripture appear right there at [the tomb]. First there's Joseph, the owner of the tomb in which Jesus was buried, and a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court. He was part of the court that returned the guilty verdict and handed down [Jesus'] capital punishment. But, the man who courteously buried Jesus was obviously favorably disposed toward him. It must have been that in his eyes this Jesus of Nazareth didn't look worthy of the death penalty in any way, shape or form. He most likely thought that a decision that came from an irregular trial held in the middle of the night was not justifiable no matter how you looked at it. Yet, [Joseph] was unable to protect Jesus. According to the decision of the supreme court to which he belonged Jesus was executed and died in the name of religious justice. [As] the least [he could do], Joseph wanted to bury Jesus in a tomb in a proper manner. So, he used his own tomb. But, even after having placed the corpse in the tomb, nothing changed. His own powerlessness couldn't change the situation, he himself was part of the shame and sham of religious authority, it was a great great sin committed in the name of justice. As it was a situation that was hard to influence, everything was beyond changing. This was the [foregone] conclusion for Joseph. It was all over.
4. Also, there are some women found there. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses. These women loved Jesus and were so attached to him. But, they were unable to protect this Jesus of theirs. They could do nothing for Jesus as he was crucified and while he was suffering. They could only stare. Jesus gave up his last breath right before their eyes. They couldn't even give his corpse, which was buried hastily the day before the Sabbath, a [proper] anointing. They had received so much love from Jesus. Yet, they could not return one bit of it. They couldn't do a thing for him. The scripture says, "Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses stared at the place where they buried the body of Jesus." It seems like they were always just staring and staring. Because that was the only thing they could do. The fact that Jesus was dead and gone wouldn't change. It was over. It was all over.
5. We should probably think of the folks who do not take the stage here, Jesus' disciples. They don't appear before or after at all because they abandoned Jesus and fled. Peter had vowed that "I will never say that I do not know you." But, the fact of the matter is Peter did deny knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crowed twice. I wonder with what thoughts he had passed that Sabbath after Jesus had been buried. [One thought] he had was of despair from his having been [seemingly] abandoned [by Jesus]. His own despair was probably deeper, though, from the pangs of guilt on his mind from his having abandoned someone. If the evening has come, the morning will follow. [Another] new day would come. But, nothing would change now. The time clocks of the disciples was unchanged having stopped with the death of Jesus. It was over. Everything was over.
6. Jesus was dead and gone, he was buried in a tomb. The entrance to it was blocked out by a stone. The text records that that stone was large. Those women were staring at a large rock that was at the tomb entrance, a hard to move and huge rock. You can't help but get the feeling that [this stone] symbolized the size of the despair of Joseph, the women, and the disciples. They had in their hearts the stone of despair that was much much larger and more difficult to move than the stone [before] the tomb.
The Resurrection Of Christ
7. However, the words from the scriptures, which I read to you today, have more to say after that point. After that point the scripture says the following words. "However though, when they lifted their eyes and looked, the stone had already rolled off to the side. The stone was very large," (verse four). On the morning of the third day, on that Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb to anoint the corpse of Jesus with oil. They said to each other, "Who will roll that stone from the tomb entrance for us?" The stone was big. It was a stone that was hard to move. But, "when they lifted their eyes and looked, the stone had already rolled off to the side." This is good news. "Who will roll it away for us?" -- Who did roll it away for them? God did. God had already rolled it away and left it for them [that way].
8. What does this mean? The statement after it expresses it well. The women hear this message from the youth who was in the tomb. "Don't be surprised. You are looking for the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, but he has risen from the dead and so he is not here. Have a look. It is the place where he was buried," (verse six). That's how it was, the women certainly were looking for "the crucified Jesus of Nazareth." -- Because they fully expected the crucified Jesus to be in [his] grave. -- Because nothing changed, he was supposed to be in [his] grave. -- Because it was all over. His being in his grave was the expected conclusion. However, Jesus wasn't in the grave. "He has risen from the dead and so he is not here." That meant that although everyone expected everything to be over, it wasn't. That's what it meant when [the angelic youth said] "risen from the dead."
9. There are times when it does look like "the end" from a human perspective. There are certainly times when all we'll have to say is "It's done and over." But, even though it is "the end" as seen from the human view, it is not "the end" as far as God goes. Jesus wasn't at "the end" in some grave. He had already gone on ahead. It was the resurrection of Christ. What does it mean when we say, even though it is "the end" as seen from the human view, it is not "the end" as far as God goes? It means that we no longer need to despair ever again. God rolled that great stone away from the tomb entrance. And that's not all. He has rolled the great stone of despair from the hearts of those women, the heart of Joseph, and the hearts of the disciples who fled, and from the hearts of the many people who would come after them.
10. God rolled the great stone away -- That was the starting point of the church which still continues to this day. Had God not raised Jesus from the dead for us, had God not rolled away human despair, the Christian church or any part [of Christianity] could not even expect to exist on this earth.
The Church Believes In The Resurrection Of Christ
11. There may be some people who have come to church today for the first time. Welcome to church! The church has believed in the resurrection of Christ from the very beginning for a long two thousand years. [The church] has believed that God has already rolled away human despair for good. Therefore, for generations, the church has gathered together on Sundays and had worship services. -- Because Sunday is the day of Christ's resurrection. The very fact itself that [the church] has gathered together Sunday after Sunday has been a witness to the faith that [the church] believes in the resurrection. Jesus has invited us as well to gather on this day of the resurrection, to a Sunday gathering. He has invited each one of us here now to gather on the day of the resurrection. While we struggle along in the faith, we'll still be all right. In getting to the point we're at here, we may have pursued a pretty bad road. But, because we have been lead into a faith that believes the resurrection of Christ, we'll be all right. There's no need to say "It's done and over" and lose hope any more ever again.
12. If a person lives long to a certain degree, he or she will encounter great sorrow. [Everyone] will come to experience the sorrow of bereavement of a close friend or of family. Or else, there may even come a time when the individual himself or herself cannot avoid coming face to face with death. Indeed there's no "may be" about it for each person, everybody's going to meet with it for sure. But still, we don't need to despair over that any longer because even though death may be the end as seen from the human perspective, it is not the end as far as God goes.
13. Or, when we turn our eyes on the world, when the sorrowful news on the things happening in the world every day jump before our eyes and our ears, the world seems to be getting worse and worse right before our eyes and it looks like it may collapse and be destroyed in the evil and the sin of humanity. It may even look like this world is already finished. But, we do not need to despair over the appearance of things in the world. -- Because even though it may look over as seen by human eyes, it isn't over to God.
14. Or, also maybe, there is the case that the sinfulness of an individual, or the size of the sin that someone has committed may render one helpless to think that "It is already the end." "It is already the end. It's beyond fixing and gone with the wind." But, even though it looks like it to people, even though a sin looks so big and so beyond repair, even though it looks like something is over for good, to God it is not over.
15. Since it's not the end, there is a new beginning there. God is one who is able to grant a new beginning. He can grant a new beginning beyond human death. He can grant a new beginning beyond the end of the world. Indeed, we don't have to wait for death, we don't have to wait for the end of this world, God will give us a new beginning [now]. Through forgiveness of sin, he gives us a new beginning.
16. Let's listen once more to the message of the angel that resounded inside the empty tomb. The messenger said, "He has risen from the dead and so he is not here." Then he went on to add, "So, go and tell the disciples and Peter, that 'He is going ahead of you to Galilee. Just as he told you before, he will meet you there.'," (verse seven).
17. Jesus was not in a dead end tomb. [Jesus] was on a new time that had already begun brand new. He was already walking on ahead of them. And he was waiting for the disciples there [on ahead of them]. Interestingly enough, it is stated on purpose here to [tell it] to Peter. Peter was but one of the disciples. But, it is a special treatment for him. Peter had denied Jesus three times, he was tormented from the burden of his sin, and he was suffering over and over for real, and so Jesus must have given [poor] Peter a new beginning that came straight from God. I think that's [what happened]. That's why [the messenger] said, "So, go and tell it to Peter."
18. And the same thing has happened to us. "So, go and tell Kiyohiro." Jesus commanded it to a certain person. Therefore, the news got to me. I was told as well that you do not ever need to say anything like "It's over for me." So, here I am now. Put your own name where you read Peter's. In that same manner then you too will be told of the resurrection of Christ. We are invited to gather to believe the resurrection of Christ in this way. So, let's celebrate the resurrection of Christ together. Happy Easter to you all!