Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection
March 29 2001 by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 24:1-12

Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection | Friday, March 30, 2001

Friday, March 30, 2001

Formations lesson for April 15: Resurrection

By Ken Vandergriff Luke 24:1-12 "He lives, he wakes - 'tis Death is dead, not he." The line comes from the poem, Adonais, written in 1821 by Percy Bysshe Shelley upon the death of fellow poet John Keats. But what a marvelous expression it is of Christianity's most profound confession. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God effected an astounding reversal; where death appeared to have won; God brought life and conquered death. In our teaching of this text, it is important to emphasize the church's present experience of resurrection. Christian faith lives not just on the testimony of witnesses long dead. It lives through the continued presence of the living Christ; the experiences of the first witnesses help us make sense of our own experiences with Christ.

Finding - and not finding (Luke 24:1-5) Verses 2-3 express an intriguing contrast. "They found the stone rolled away, but they did not find the body." That left them perplexed because any number of reasons could explain the absence of the body. Grave robbers might have taken it, or the temple guards might have hidden it to prevent Jesus' followers from getting to it. Or, Jesus' enemies might have taken it to desecrate it. Hatred causes people to do bizarre things; the enemies of John Wycliffe, who translated the Bible into English in the 1300s, exhumed his bones some forty years after his death just so they could burn the bones and scatter the ashes.

In the midst of the women's confusion, two men (Luke does not call them angels) appear and ask the oddest of questions, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?" Surely they must have wondered, "We saw Him die (23:49) and we saw His burial (23:55). Why wouldn't we seek Him here?"

Maybe that's what it takes for God to get through to us - a state of confusion and what appears to be an odd question. In the midst of our normal routines and ordinary expectations, the living Christ suddenly breaks in, pointing us to the new.

Remembering (Luke 24:6-8) It is instructive to compare these verses with Mark 16:6-7. In Mark's telling of the story, the messenger points the women to the future - go to Galilee, where Jesus will be seen. In Luke, however, the messengers point the women toward the past and make no promise at all of a personal appearance by Jesus. "Remember how He told you. ..." Indeed, Jesus had taught his followers on numerous occasions that He would be arrested and killed, and on the third day rise again (see Luke 9:22, 44; 18:32-33). Remembering would relieve their confusion and make sense of their present experience.

The emphases of both Mark and Luke are important. Jesus' resurrection appearances would thrill his followers, but without memory, those appearances might become just a series of disjointed adventures. That would not be sufficient for a coherent Christian proclamation. By remembering, those early Christians could begin to make sense of the whole story.

So it is with the church today. Christians ought to eagerly anticipate the new future God is creating (Mark's emphasis), but we will only comprehend the new by remembering what God has already said and done (Luke's emphasis). That is why remembering the stories of the faith is so important. Sociologist Robert Wuthnow has even called the church a "community of memory." He writes, "The church must be a community of memory by perpetuating the narratives of the past, by telling stories that bring the past into the present" (Christianity in the 21st Century [Oxford Univ. Press, 1993], 48).

We cannot assume that the resurrection story is well known to everyone. One importance of Easter is the opportunity to retell the story.

Experiencing (Luke 24: 9-12) According to Luke's account, when the women went to the other disciples, no one had yet seen the risen Christ; the women had only their account of the empty tomb and the messengers' remarks. Verse 11, then, is notable. Their words "seemed an idle tale."

Mere stories of an empty tomb will not convince others. Personal experience with the resurrected Christ will. The good news is that the living Christ still appears - not in a visible, bodily form, but in the convincing form of the Holy Spirit.

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3/29/2001 11:00:00 PM by Ken Vandergriff , Luke 24:1-12 | with 0 comments
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