Every thing in the New Testament – every prediction of the birth of Jesus, every parable he told, every story of his ministry, every report of Paul’s and other’s visits to congregations and the letters back to them later, all are dependant on the resurrection of Jesus.
No matter how great the miracles of Jesus or how true his comments and teachings about human nature , or how passionate his sacrifice on the cross – if he were not alive right now and present in this room, the church would not have survived for 20 centuries.
Jesus lives, not in the abstract as though we merely agree that something miraculous happened in Joseph’s lovely garden.
Rather, in our worship we engage in an almost unbelievable time-warp. God’s love for us comes forward in time and place because Jesus lives—and the New Testament was written in light of the Resurrection.
Every story, every incident, every conversation of Jesus, is what was being passed on to believers some fifty years later about his time in Palestine, because no one was taking notes.
In the lovely Emmaus story, which only Luke reports, the stranger who joined the two disciples asked them who they were talking about.
Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only one in Jerusalem who does not know what things have taken place in these days?” He said, “What things?” and they replied, “Things about Jesus of Nazareth.”
The stranger was revealed as Jesus himself when he took the bread, gave thanks, and broke it and gave it to them, exactly as in the Upper Room.
From that time on, Jesus has continued to reveal himself in our uniquely Christian worship, the Lord’s Supper. You may not react to Jesus, but He is present. Jesus reveals himself not as ancient history, but as a right now event. God was at work in the Garden for us, planning not only to save Adam and Eve from their disobedience, but taking hold of history and making it bend to his will.
God was at work for us in the delivery from Egypt, and when the exiles rebuilt their temple and city. God was at work in Jesus Christ as he taught, healed, and then died on the cross only to be resurrected.
God was at work in the journeys of Paul which planted the early church.
The story of who Jesus was and what he taught was not written down until it became clear that he was not returning quickly,
Then various writers wanted to recapture what Jesus had said and done at specific points, but always filtering everything about him through the reality of the resurrection and with the continuing experience of his presence in the believers.
When John wrote his story, he knew that what Jesus said about his own future had already been fulfilled. John was not present in the conversations he reports.
Rather, John wrote what Jesus must have promised as it was being fulfilled in the experience of the early church many years after the resurrection. John believed Jesus was alive in the life and activity of the first generation of believers.
The spirit of Truth, promised by Jesus, was already at work. The predictions that Jesus made in the Upper Room were being fulfilled.
When John quoted Jesus, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” and when Jesus said he would reveal himself to those who love him, this was not a prediction or a command.
It was the voice of experience. God had already revealed the truth about Jesus in Resurrection and Ascension.
Today, we in the church believe that we are loved by the Father, and that Jesus is being revealed to us.
Our faith does not whitewash our sins or curtail our remembrance of sins past, but we recognize with clear vision and forthright purpose that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. We are children of God according to his mercy.
Therefore we are already in the kingdom that is so prominent in the parables and sermons of Jesus.
After he died and rose, those who accompanied him became so persuaded of his living presence that they could not keep his resurrection to themselves.
They had to tell others, “He is risen. We find life in his name. You can too.” They realized that the resurrection of Jesus is the centerpiece of the Gospel.
When they thought about the past, they saw God’s hand at work. God picked Abraham and made him the father of a nation, and God sent his son, Jesus Christ, into that land occupied by Abraham’s descendants, those slaves who had escaped Egypt.
The determination of God to mold the history of the world with these events must stagger our imagination, no matter how many times we hear these stories.
The maker of the universe, who has always been and who came before creation but who himself had no beginning, pointed his work toward a young Galilean who said to his friends,
“My father will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.”
Since there is an Advocate from God with us and who will be with us forever, does that circumstance suggest how we shall live day by day and how we shall deal with God’s intentions for us?
What does it mean for us that God lives in our midst, that he is concerned with us, that God is present to uphold us, to sustain us, and to have mercy upon us?
Years after the Ascension, the disciples recalled that Jesus had talked with them in the upper room before his death. They filtered his words through their experience of both Easter and Pentecost, and passed on the stories.
From their own experience, they had learned that God is a living God. He is active. He is alive. He is available to us and he communicates with us.
We are already assured that God is listening. God is already present in his spirit who is standing firm with us.
At the beginning of the day, can we hear the spirit tell us, “You are baptized, named by God. Live today as his child?”
And at the end of all the day long of this troubled life, when the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, the fever of life is over and our work is done, will we be comforted by knowing that all our life long we have been a child of God?”
Or when we consider God’s grace coming to us in the Lord’s Supper, do we whisper our thanks to God for this foretaste of the feast to come?
The life and death of Jesus Christ tells truth about life. His cross is both a symbol and reality of God’s love.
On the cross that black afternoon we call Good Friday, God changed the way things work.
By all the laws of justice and punishment we should get what we deserve, but God in his son gave himself over to sin, death, and evil.
“Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases,” as Isaiah the prophet wrote..
“He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.”
Now the power of God at work on the cross is available to us. In the congregational life of ordinary people like us, the word of God and the sacraments given by Jesus Christ sustain us with an unfaltering faith and unfailing strength.
Only with divine help can we face each day, each challenge, each changing scene of the world around us.
Our sins and shortcomings were overcome on a hill outside the city wall of Jerusalem. Before we were born, God already forgave sins that lie still ahead of us.
We need not be overwhelmed and destroyed by the past. Instead, the future gives us hope here and now. In the light of the resurrection, God is shaping the future.
His grace keeps coming to us every day. His spirit, promised by Jesus in the upper room, is with us forever.
There are times when life is hard. Nobody promised it would be fair. In every lilfe, in every family, failures come without reason or apologies. Answers become lies and promises are ignored.
It is not easy to sustain Christian faith in a sea that overwhelms us. Our masks have to come down as we recognize our helplessness without God.
There are yet new horizons for us to cross, new mountains to climb. There are always new decisions to make. Only with the help of God can we live through each day, one day at a time.
Following in the steps of Jesus Christ is not easy.
It requires self-sacrifice and the recognition of each other as children of God. We must pray and struggle to discern God’s will, and then we should expect an on-going personal transformation that will never be completed in this life.
Therefore without letting the past overtake us and pull us down, let us look to the future that God has given us in the Risen Christ. He is with us now and forever.
We are not orphans. Because Jesus lives, we also shall live with him out into eternity. The Father loves us. Jesus Christ has revealed himself to us. He is risen indeed and keeps on living so that we are with him. He is with us now and, we will be with him forever, world without end.