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There’s something final about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
For one, the resurrection is the final word on Jesus. At first, Jesus’ death seemed to be the final word. Jesus and the Pharisees, chief priests, and elders had been at it for some time. Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, the one God sent to rule and reign over his creation on his behalf. And that’s what Jesus seemed to do. He cast out demons, he healed the sick, he even raised the dead. But the Pharisees, the chief priests, and the elders of the people thought Jesus was a liar, a deceiver, and a blasphemer. So, when Jesus wouldn’t back down from his claims, they arrested him, put him on trial for blasphemy, found him guilty, and they crucified him.
And Jesus’ death seemed to be the final word. As he hung on the cross, they taunted Jesus and his claims to be the Son of God. “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him.” And when he didn’t come down, but breathed his last, it seemed like they were right and Jesus was wrong. And to drive it home that Jesus was a liar, deceiver, and blasphemer, they sent a guard of Roman soldiers to guard the tomb and they sealed it, “lest his disciples steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”
Those who opposed Jesus not only executed him, they locked him in the tomb. And there the whole matter seemed finished.
But that first day of the week, God had the last word. They may have put Jesus to death and locked him in the tomb, but what is that to the Creator of heaven and earth? As the women were going to see the tomb, suddenly an angel showed up in the power of an earthquake and in the appearance of lightning. He rolled away the stone and sat on it, as if to say, “what are you going to do about that!” The soldiers didn’t put up a fight because the mere appearance of the angel left them terrified like dead men. And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said.” You see—as he said! The Pharisees, chief priests, elders might have thought Jesus was a liar, a deceiver, and a blasphemer, but God proved Jesus right by raising him from the dead. The resurrection is the final word on Jesus—he is, in fact, the Son of God.
And that’s the other thing that makes the resurrection final. By raising Jesus from the dead, we see God’s final intentions for his creation.
Jesus, after all, is the one who ate with sinners and tax collectors. There was a time when Jesus called Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. And as Jesus reclined at table in Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining at the table with Jesus. And when the Pharisees saw this, they gave Jesus and his disciples a hard time: “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Jesus came not to bring vengeance on wrongdoers, but to restore to God what was lost.
Or Jesus is the one who was teaching in the synagogue one day when the Pharisees put him to the test. There was a man in the synagogue with a withered hand. And they asked him. “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” The Sabbath, after all, is the day God rested from his creative work. The only thing you were supposed to do on the Sabbath was rest! But Jesus said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep!” And he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out and it was restored. Jesus came, not to prove his own righteousness under the law, but to finish God’s creative work, making the sick well.
Or Jesus is the one who was on his way to Jerusalem, when two blind beggars began calling after him, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowds told them to be silent and pushed them aside. What would Jesus have to do with these losers? But they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And when Jesus heard it, he stopped and put himself in their service, “What do you want me to do for you?” And when they said, “Lord, let our eyes be opened,” he had pity on them, touched their eyes, and restored their sight. Jesus is the one who came to seek out and save even the least.
By raising Jesus from the dead, we see that God is bound and determined to finish the work he started in the very beginning. In one sense, God’s creation is undone. Like when one of your kids is drawing a picture, and you say, “Can I see it?” and they say, “It’s not done yet.” It’s not done yet in the sense that it’s not right yet. The picture he’s drawing is still out of whack, and if you were to look at it right now, it would be all wrong! And it’s not done yet in the sense that there’s more to do until it’s finished. But Jesus set about finishing God’s creation, making what is wrong right, gathering in the lost, and binding up the broken. As Jesus says, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.” And by having the last word with Jesus, by raising him from the dead to declare that Jesus is, in fact, God’s Son, God has made it known that he has all intentions to finish the creative work that he started.
Now when we look around at God’s creation, we still see that it’s undone. People we love get cancer, and the treatment only makes their lives a living hell. Disease is spreading across the planet right now, bringing sickness and death and destruction at a magnitude none of us could have imagined. Our greed, anger, and selfishness wrecks our relationships in our families, in the community, even in the church. People go hungry and homeless. We parents do our best to raise our children, but end up passing our greatest faults onto them to bear as their own. I could go on and on. When we look around at God’s creation, we still see that it’s undone.
But at the same time, we know that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. And if Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, we know where it’s all headed. We know exactly what God’s final intentions are for his creation—to gather in the lost, to bind up the broken, and to make right what is wrong, until, as Paul says, all things are in subjection to Jesus and God is all in all; or until, as the prophet Isaiah says, “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
And so, what can we do today, but rejoice! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! Everywhere we look, God’s creation may still be undone. But Christ is risen. And we can be confident that He who began a good work will bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”