Tag Archives: Christ is risen

Easter is God’s ‘Yes’ to those who die

John 20.1–18


One reason [why we cannot seem to learn to die], of course, is that death is the one great adventure of which there are no surviving accounts; death, by definition, is what happens to somebody else. Empiricism falters before death. Yet [death] is more certain than love and more reliable than health. Pico Iyer, ‘Death, Be Not a Stranger’, Time Magazine, August 8, 1994, 68 ― in Frederick Dale Bruner, The Gospel of John: A Commentary


Last Sunday, I told you a story about my dad and me. Let me refresh your memory. This is what I said:

At fourteen, I accepted Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham rally — in fact, it was 52 years ago to this very day (5 April 1968). When I told my dad what had happened, his first reaction was displeasure. He said that Billy Graham had come to Brisbane in a luxury jet; therefore he wouldn’t listed to him. (You have to remember that jet travel was much less common in 1968 — there was even less than there is in 2020!) Dad went on to say that if Billy had come into town on a donkey, then he would’ve believed him. 

You have to unpack that statement a bit. At fourteen, I didn’t and couldn’t. My dad was confessing deep respect for Jesus, while at the same time he held in contempt Christians who didn’t live as Jesus lived. 

Dad’s story didn’t end there. And — of course — it didn’t start there either. At fourteen, I didn’t know the beginning of dad’s story well, and the end was still a long way off. 

A few words about dad’s early years, which I learned about after I was fourteen. 

Dad was raised as a member of the Methodist Church. He must have been a keen youngster, and he decided he’d like to be a minister when he grew up. 

Now, to be a minister you had to have completed secondary schooling, which many were not able to do around the early years of Word War Two. Dad would have gone on to secondary school, but his own dad had died and his mum, my gran, needed him to leave school as soon as possible so he could start earning money for the family. 

When my dad mentioned his sense of a vocation to his minister, he was brushed off because he didn’t have the education to enter the ministry.

Dad never went back to that church. 

By the time I came along, dad was a cultural Christian at best. 

That was dad’s beginning. 

So, what about his end? Dad died of cancer at the age of 59. 

In his last weeks, I got to know him better than I had for a long time. 

In particular, I saw his boyhood faith rise from the grave where he had laid it years before. 

As his body wasted away, I saw his eyes come to life. I witnessed his dawning, renewed and life-transforming realisation that Christ, the risen One, was with him. Even walking through The Valley of the shadow of death. 

Dad became aware that he had a share in the new life; he was being raised with Jesus. 

I heard recently (on the By the Well podcast) that Easter is God’s ‘Yes!’ to those who die. 

It’s often been said that Easter is God’s ‘No’ to death. But dad died! We all die, and people across the globe are dying today from COVID-19. Yet Easter is God’s ‘Yes’ to us who will die. 

Easter is God’s assurance that we can live without fear of death. 

Christ is present with us. Alleluia!

Christ is risen indeed. 



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The risen crucified One among us

Or, What on earth is the Resurrection?


…where two or three are gathered in my name,
I am there among them.                             Matthew 18.20

Then I saw…a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered….
Revelation 5.6

The Church preaches Christ the risen crucified One and confesses him as Lord to the glory of God the Father.
from the Basis of Union, Para.3


Today, I want to ask a question I can’t answer, not this Sunday and not even in a month of Sundays. But even so, it’s still a very good question to ask.

The question is this: What is the Resurrection?

It’s a deceptively simple question. Only one word has more than one syllable. But ‘Resurrection’ is a big word.

How can we think about the Resurrection of Jesus?

Is the Resurrection a happy ending to a sad story? It could easily look that way; and the story has been told that way. Everyone was sad on Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday they were happy once more because Jesus was alive again. But the Resurrection is no happy ending. Most of those first witnesses lost their lives because of the Resurrection.

Well, maybe the Resurrection a proof of life after death? Again, the story has been told that way. But that’s not how the Gospels tell it. The risen Jesus doesn’t talk about heaven. He instructs his people to make disciples of all nations, baptise and teach them. He forgives Peter, telling him to feed his sheep. He gives his peace to disciples who had let him down big time. He makes them breakfast. He helps them to be unafraid of death. He points them towards a transformed life here and now on earth.

Well, the empty tomb may be the clue we need. Does the empty tomb prove the Resurrection? No, it does not. I realised this with a big thump the day after my father’s funeral. I had returned to his grave to make a quiet space to pray. It struck me then that had my dad’s grave been empty, I would not have immediately concluded that he had risen from the dead. I would have made the ghastly assumption that someone had stolen his body, and called for the police.

The Easter stories in the Gospels are exactly the same. When the women see the empty tomb, they do not immediately assume that Jesus has been raised from death. They have to be told the news. Told by an Angel of the Lord (Matthew), a young man in white (Mark), two men in dazzling clothes (Luke) or a ‘gardener’ who was Jesus himself (John).

The women didn’t believe that Jesus was risen because the tomb was empty. They believed because they had a life-changing encounter with the Christ who had been crucified and who is now risen.

And there were other encounters.

Remember the two who were joined by a stranger on their miserable way to Emmaus? He made their hearts burn as he opened the scriptures on the way, showing how the Messiah should suffer; and then, at the table they knew him in the breaking of the bread. Today, we may encounter the Lord in the same way, in these means of grace he has given us, the scriptures and the eucharist.

Remember Thomas? Thomas wasn’t convinced that Jesus had been raised from the grave—but he was fully convinced when he saw the wounds that had been inflicted upon Jesus. I too have met people who have responded to the wounds that life has brought by allowing themselves to be transformed into being more Christlike. I have seen the risen crucified Lord in them.

Remember the disciples by the lake? Jesus made them breakfast. There are people who the Lord shines through because they know how to gladly serve others.

The Uniting Church’s Basis of Union calls the Lord ‘the risen crucified One’ (Para.3). When we speak of the risen Lord, we must always remember what the empty tomb does tell us: that it is the crucified One who is risen. The risen Lord hasn’t set the cross aside. He hasn’t put it in a cupboard somewhere. The body of Jesus is not something separate from his living presence. Jesus is the risen crucified One.

Jesus once said ‘where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them’. He is here as the risen crucified One.

You may wonder why I’m labouring the point so much.

Jesus is the risen crucified One. Everything that brought Jesus to the Cross is risen with him. Everything that caused him to be crucified is raised with him:

  • his preaching of God’s coming kingdom
  • his healing of the sick and the oppressed, which pointed to the kingdom
  • his parables, that shattered human expectations of God and caused those who could hear to open their hearts to God
  • his compassion for the poor and those on the margins of society
  • his forgiving of sins
  • his opposition to religious hypocrisy
  • his intimate knowledge of God his Father—and now, through him, our Father

All of this is raised in Jesus. It’s not just a happy ending, or the resuscitation of a corpse. It is eternal life itself embodied in the risen crucified Lord Jesus Christ.

That is who is in our midst today, and wherever two or three gather in his name.

And Jesus brings his friends along. Remember the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25? The nations are arrayed before the King. They are judged on one thing: did they act with compassion towards the poor? Did they

  • feed the hungry
  • give water to the thirsty
  • welcome the stranger
  • clothe the the naked
  • take care of the sick
  • visit the prisoner

Because, Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

When Jesus the risen crucified One is in the midst of the two or three who gather in his name, he brings his family along. He brings the poor, the sick, the detained and the starving. He bears their wounds in his risen crucified body and calls his church to share the work.

And he also bears our wounds. We are not yet what we shall be. We still die. In 1 Corinthians (15.25–26), the Apostle Paul says Christ

must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

We still look for the fullness, the completion of Christ’s work. In the meantime, by faith we share in the overcoming of death as we look to God for eternal life.

Some Christians are embarrassed by their wounds, or even put to shame. They think that God will bless them so much that nothing bad should happen to them. That is not right. We know Jesus as the risen crucified One. He bears our wounds in his.

We belong to the risen crucified Lord, and he will complete the work he has begun in us. But right now, we walk with him by faith; we look to him for help and for strength, and as the Funeral Service says, we live

in sure and certain hope
of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who died, was buried, and rose again for us.
To God be glory forever.


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The mind of Christ (Easter 2B, 12 April 2015)

Acts 4.32–35
Psalm 133
John 20.19–31

How very good and pleasant it is
when kindred live together in unity!            Psalm 133.1

This is a true story.

A young boy aged four I suppose, went to preschool for the first time. When he came out in the afternoon to greet his father, he had a huge smile and his eyes were shining. He was bursting excitedly with his news: ‘I made two enemies today!’

I’m not sure he knew what an enemy was, and since then this particular lad has gone on to make good friends and to be a good friend.

But isn’t that just like life? Aren’t we being told all the time who our enemies are? Our enemies are Muslims and asylum seekers, they are environmental greenies and gays who want to be married.

It’s important to know who your enemies are.

Isn’t it?

Sadly, sometimes it is necessary for us to know who our enemy is. There are circumstances where we must pay attention to this. But it’s not a way of life. It cannot be a way of life for the Christian who follows the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul says

For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

And in 1 John 4.18 we read:

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…

Our way of life is love, not fear. Continue reading

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I am about to create anew—Easter Sunday, Year C (31 March, 2013)

Isaiah 65.17–25
John 20.1–18

Through the prophet Isaiah, God says

I am about to create a new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or brought to mind.

But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.

I have to say this: I’m getting on a plane tomorrow to go to the Holy Land. A number of us are going on a tour together, and we’ll find out soon enough if Jerusalem is “a joy”, and its people “a delight”.

Someone told me the other day that you can feel that something special happened at Jerusalem. I’m really hoping that’s what we’ll find, anyway.

This passage from Isaiah is full of hopeful words, isn’t it? It was written to people whose parents and grandparents had been carted off into Babylon, in present-day Iraq, after Jerusalem had been destroyed. After about seventy years, they were allowed to return so they could rebuild. But it was hard. The new Jerusalem they were building wasn’t a patch on the old, and they knew it.

Jerusalem was a place with a problem back then, just as it is now. Jerusalem a “joy”? Well, not so much maybe. Continue reading

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Christ is risen indeed!

The best comment on Christ’s Easter victory over death comes from the simply wonderful Beaker Folk of Husborne Crawley

And a hush settles on Hades. It’s been a funny few days. The one in charge so much busier than usual – rushing about, getting involved in affairs upstairs in a much more direct way than normal…

Do yourself a favour and read the rest here!

And the best icon of Christus Victor? Why, the Harrowing of Hell of course…

The Harrowing of Hell

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Second Sunday of Easter (Easter 2)

Show your resurrection

Let us pray:
You come into our midst, Lord Jesus;
you hold out your scarred hands
and surprise us with hope.
Help us to receive your word and your Spirit,
that in our woundedness
we may know you as our Life,
now and for ever. Amen.

John 20.19-31

Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!

It’s the Sunday after Easter, and we’re getting reacquainted with the Apostle Thomas. ‘Doubting’ Thomas to his friends. Jesus has appeared to the frightened huddle of disciples on the evening of the first Easter Day, but Tom wasn’t there.

We don’t know why he wasn’t there. We only get a few tantalising glimpses of Thomas, but he seems to me like an all-or-nothing kind of bloke. When Jesus says he’s going to Jerusalem, Tom says Let’s go with him and die. Now, Jesus is dead and everything has gone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were down the Jerusalem Arms or the King David pub drowning his sorrows and crying into his thirteenth beer.

Of course, Thomas didn’t believe what the others told him. How could it be true? Thomas would have known his Bible, and he would know that Deuteronomy 21.23 says

anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse.

And a ‘tree’ included a cross. Jesus was under a curse from God. The dream turned out to be a nightmare. It was all over.
Continue reading

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Christ is risen! Hristos voskrese! ХРИСТОС ВОСКРЕСЕ!

Hristos voskrese, Christ is risen!

An Orthodox Easter song from Serbia, and a lovely video.

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