There is only one thing more annoying than forgetting the punchline of a joke and that is to remember the ending but not the jape that went before.
And that is relevant today, as I saw a sermon title but could find the text. To explain, I was researching today’s talk when I came across the heading ‘surprised by resurrection’. However, I then lost the page and never did read the story beyond it.
Nevertheless, you’ve got to admit it’s a cracking title – surprised by resurrection. So much so, it got me thinking. It indeed got be pondering the types of surprises.
For there are those pleasant ones of unexpected visitors or invitations to a party. And there are the nasty ones – I’ll leave their illustration to yourself. But there is a third category of surprise – the ones that leave us dumbfounded as we simply can’t fathom what has happened.
Now this seems to be the type of surprise suffered by the women and the disciples in today’s resurrection story. For, as we read their story, we get no sense of joy at the Lord’s resurrection – in fact, quite the reverse. Since, if the truth be told, what they were seeing was beyond their experience and comprehension. As a result, the whole experience must have been at best perplexing and at worse downright unsettling. Because, we as a species, are uncomfortable with the inexplicable, events that don’t fit a pattern and facts that cannot be bound with others to give understanding.
And it is for these reasons, resurrection is not a hot topic even amongst Christians today. For, we know we don’t see it in our every day. And, as a result, we fear it can be more a stumbling block to faith than a promise of that faith.
What then is to be done when we encounter this surprise called resurrection?
How do we cope with the incomprehensibility of resurrection?
Ultimately, what does resurrection genuinely mean for you and I?
Well, I believe we must start at a point where the disciples did not. And that means approaching the whole narrative with an open mind. Since Jesus’ followers had a lot of misconceptions about how his rule would be established. As a result, they were not ready to be surprised – surprised by the total newness of the situation.
Let us not make the same mistake – let us be ready to be surprised.
Next, we need acknowledge there is much in this physical universe we do not understand – indeed don’t know about. What other civilisations lie far out in space as an example.
When we do this, we prepare ourselves for the surprise of something totally different.
It is then we are ready put aside all the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of the resurrection. We ready to set aside explanation. We ready to acknowledge our limitations. And now are we are open to encounter – encounter with risen lord in our lives. We are open to companionship – companionship with Christ with us. And we are open to love – the love of the living Jesus.
Finally, we in the right place to receive the real surprise at the core and purpose of resurrection.
Since in the early part of World War II, an American Navy submarine was stuck on the bottom of the harbour in New York City. It seemed that all was lost. There was no electricity and the oxygen was quickly running out. It seems the crew was lost. A Navy diver went over the side of a rescue ship to the dangerous depths in one last rescue attempt. The trapped sailors heard the metal boots of the diver land on the hull’s surface, and they moved to where they thought the rescuer would be. In the darkness, they tapped in Morse code, “Is there hope?” The diver on the outside, recognizing the message, signalled by tapping on the casing of the sub, “Yes, there is hope.”
Here then is the real surprise of resurrection. Here is the real purpose of Easter. For it is not about chocolate eggs and bunnies. It is not even about days off and family get-togethers. It’s about being surprised by hope where we least expect it. It is about being surprised by hope in the darkest places. It is about finding hope when we least understand it. In fact, it is about coming alive again by more hope than we can handle.
And that is no joke!