Before you rush to brand me a heretic hear me out. First I want you to think of events in your life that you have witnessed that you know changed everything. Maybe it was the birth of a child, the tragic death of a loved one, or the first time you laid eyes on that special someone. Perhaps its national or global events like 9/11, the fall of the Berlin wall, or the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the USA. You know that this is a game changer. You or perhaps the world will never be the same.
Second, now put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. They had followed Jesus for 3 years or more. He was their rabbi, master, and friend. They had heard the teaching, saw the miracles, and witnessed the incarnation in the most intimate of ways. The events of that last week in Jerusalem had stolen all that in what most have seemed like a flash. Now there are reports that Jesus is alive. Some of the women say they have seen him as do some of the disciples. The tomb is empty and your heads spins at the possibility. Could it be? No, there’s no way!
In Luke’s Gospel when Jesus appears to them in the upper room the disciples have a hard time taking it in. Jesus not only has to show them his scars, offer them to touch and see that he is real, but he also has to eat some fish to prove he is not a ghost. He even has to go so far as to “open their minds” so that they believe what is happening. I picture Jesus unscrewing the tops of each disciples head and pouring in the understanding that they need. With heads screwed firmly back on Jesus says, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” Then Jesus adds that they are witnesses to these things. They are witnesses to the resurrection. Even though they weren’t there at that moment or resurrection they at least now see Jesus in the flesh.
But what about us? How are we witnesses to the resurrection? We weren’t there, we didn’t see what happened. I started off by asking you to reflect on events that you have witnessed. By witnessing them you were either there or through the wonder of technology were present. This is not so with the resurrection. There was no one hiding in the bushes as Jesus took those first steps out of the tomb. Not even the disciples are there for the moment of new life, its only afterward that they get to witness the risen Christ. So where does that leave us?
That brings me back to my title and opening thought. The resurrection didn’t happen. It is not a past historical event that happened once and ended. The resurrection didn’t happen; it is happening. The resurrection of Jesus was the first act in God’s plan of restoration for God’s creation. It begins a new way of being in the world. Paul wrote to the Corinthian church and said that Jesus was the “first fruits” of the resurrection. Jesus is the first in a bigger harvest. He says to the Philippian Church that everything else is rubbish, literally crap, to him compared to knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection. For Paul the resurrection is a present reality. It did not happen, but is happening. To witness it is to take part in it.
The wonder of the resurrection is that God invites us to take part in what God is doing. A story may help here. Rayna Ford from Kelligrews Newfoundland was at a Paul Simon concert in Toronto and every time Paul would finish a song Rayna would cry out “Play Duncan”. This happened a few times and then Paul Simon did this, just watch the video below.
Paul Simon could have ignored her. Paul Simon could have played Duncan. Instead the legendary singer songwriter Paul Simon invites little ol’ Rayna Ford onstage to sing and play. It’s that way with God. God could have fixed all of the worlds problems with the resurrection of Jesus. No more death, no more poverty, no more hate or violence. But no, God invites us into the song to play our part, to sing along in the great resurrection song. Whenever we show love, in words or deeds, we bear witness to the resurrection. Whenever we do justice, we participate in the resurrection. Whenever we choose life over death, light over darkness, truth over lies, we witness the resurrection anew. The resurrection is happening all around us, the trick is to jpyously join in the song that God is performing.