Centrality of the Resurrection of Jesus (Part 1): Introduction and prayer

The following 6-part series of posts constitute the bulk of the sermon I gave on 10/28/2012.

I knew we were close to wrapping up the Gospel of John and I really wanted to talk about the centrality of the resurrection. Sometimes, when I go to study the bible, I can get several pages into it and feel like I’ve come up with nothing – nothing worth talking about anyway. This time, it was just the opposite. I found, reading through scripture and other books and thinking about my own relationship with God, I had so much to say about the resurrection, I didn’t even know where to start. I think I could yack up here for five or six hours and not even come close to running out of what I consider to be compelling and interesting and useful material! But doing that wouldn’t help anyone, including myself. I tried to boil things down to a “best of” playlist of sorts, but I found that many of the top ideas just didn’t fit together really well. What I’ve come up with instead today is a bit meandering. I’m just going to follow one train of thought as it winds through the landscape of the resurrection of the Son of God. Let me tell you where I’m going to try and go with this before I begin.

Our passage today features Simon Peter, the apostle, rather prominently. I want to look a bit at his life and talk about how Jesus coming back from the dead affected it in some really profound ways. From there, I want to look at some of the evidence we have that Jesus really did rise from the dead, as well as discuss the pitfalls of trying to “prove” these sorts of things about God in the first place. In there, I want to take a look at several possibilities for what happened on Easter and afterwards and explain from several different angles why we Christians believe what we do. Finally, I want to return to Peter and compare what the resurrection meant to him and how it means similar powerful things to us today, especially regarding it’s power to cast out our fear and give us (much needed!) hope for the future.

First, let us pray. This is a bit of a longer prayer, but it says all I intend to ask of God this morning.

Father, negate all my faults and fears as I come to speak against men’s faults and to negate their fears with good news. Your good news of the resurrection of Jesus, your son is potent medicine – the only cure for our world, and for each of our individual persons. Stretching out to touch us now, 2000 years later, it is a wave that builds up steam as it goes, a tidal wave of your grace, covering all our sins, our hates, our twisted desires, washing over us, burying the world and all living things with your kingdom. We will not drown in your love, but find we can breath in a richer world than we ever imagined. Jesus when you opened your eyes on the third day in the tomb outside of Jerusalem, death began to work backwards. If death seems stronger now, it is only due to its frantic fevered grasping for straws before the dawn comes and the grave is overcome completely. Jesus, send your holy spirit to quiet our hearts and still our fears. Those fears are many and sometimes we do not trust you. We do not believe you rose, or we do not believe that it means anything of significance for us. Those are almost the same thing. Strengthen our faith, not because we need to psych ourselves up because we have nothing (or almost nothing) to believe in, but strengthen our faith because we have something so great and terrible and wonderful to believe in that we cannot bring our cynical skeptical selves to take it all in. The good news of the work and love and resurrection of your son Jesus is more than our minds and hearts can contain and so we fill them with other things instead that seem to allow us some space to breath or some concepts we can work with safely. Forgive us for that. Regardless, we declare to you now that we desire you, all of you, the full force of your power for every man, woman, boy, and girl. Lord, we ask you to fill us with faith, empty us of fear, and cause us to overflow in love. Amen.