(Acts 1:6-14, Psalm 68:1-10, 32-35, 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11)
(watch here: https://youtu.be/7ijpte95JT8)
After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people,* to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
6‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
We’re coming to the end of our journey through Easter this morning. Over the last several weeks, we’ve dedicated our time to understanding the resurrection of our Lord. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again—the resurrection is a difficult thing to believe. We celebrate it on Easter Sunday yet few of us take the time to really ponder what it means for our lives. I suppose that’s why the Church gives us these 50 days to reflect on it and apply its gifts to our daily lives. Christ’s resurrection is more than a singular event that occurred nearly 2,000 years ago. Christ’s resurrection is more than a magic trick involving a man coming back to life after being dead for 3 days. Christ’s resurrection is more than just one man! No, Christ’s resurrection involves all of us. Christ’s resurrection involves a man being transformed into something more than a man, into something larger than a man. Christ’s resurrection is an ongoing event, unfolding throughout the centuries and continuing to unfold throughout all time and beyond. Christ’s resurrection is BIG…so big that 50 days is probably not enough time to fully understand what it means. But that’s why we return to it each year, tackling it afresh and gathering new wisdom.
We are not unlike those early disciples who first encountered the resurrected Christ. We are scared, confused, doubtful, anxious, yet hopeful and encouraged, inspired and fed by the resurrection. This is the mystery of the resurrection and its ability to both confound us and provide for us. And like any good mystery, it does this by creating faith. Faith is created by that which we don’t understand and faith is a good thing to have. Faith opens doors that were once closed. Faith provides hope when all hope is lost. Faith enables us to do the impossible, to be the unimaginable. Oh, yes, faith is a good thing to have! But getting back to the resurrection…
In the first few weeks of our journey through Easter we commiserated with those early disciples. Then we got away to reflect on Jesus being the Good Shepherd as reflected by the resurrection. Jesus went to the grave on our behalf and came back to us as someone both willing to die for us and yet not abandon us. The resurrection revealed someone we would forever want to follow. Jesus IS our Good Shepard precisely because of the resurrection! Jesus’ deep love for us is seen in and through the resurrection. Make no doubt about it, Jesus loves us…each one of us!
Even so, it is difficult at times to see the resurrected Jesus here among us. We struggle to believe that Jesus really is walking among us today. But that’s because we’re looking for him in the wrong form and in all the wrong places. Remember I said that Jesus was transformed by death? He came back from death in a new form. He went to the grave as Jesus but came back to us as Christ. He came back to us as more than one man…he came back as ALL men! Jesus took on the form of ALL men, not just one man. How? Well, through the Holy Spirit of course. The Holy Spirit that abides in each us is Jesus the Christ within us. WE ARE CHRIST! WE are the hands and feet of Christ. WE are the mind and soul of Christ. WE are the body of Christ. So the resurrection is larger than one man…it involves all of us…WE are the resurrection! And are we a singular event? No, of course not, we are an ongoing event. We are living and moving and evolving and growing…we are an ongoing event!
Now then, is Jesus the Christ only limited by us and our survival? If we are the body of Christ, the mind and soul of Christ, the body and feet of Christ, does Christ dies with us? Well, we receive an answer to these questions in today’s assigned readings. In our passage from Acts, we heard the encounter between the resurrected Jesus and his disciples. They wanted to know when Jesus would reestablish his reign here on earth, especially now that he had conquered death. Surely the world would now serve a man who defeated death! Jesus’ response was unexpected: “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority.” He goes on to remind them about the gift of the Holy Spirit that he had already blessed them with before his death. When finished, Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” This little detail is an integral detail in understand our resurrected Christ. It’s not, “Jesus left them” or “Jesus disappeared.” No, it’s “[Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” There is an establishment of Christ’s lordship with that small statement. Jesus took his place as sovereign Lord over all, he was “lifted up.” Jesus was transformed not only into ‘Christ’ but ‘Christ the Lord.’ He reigns over us, not simply through us.
We might be the body of Christ but that by no means separates his sovereign lordship over us. God is God…we are not God. God might be working through us in this world but that doesn’t mean we are God. God is still very much God, reigning supreme over us. Our relationship with God is a little more intimate now that we have Christ and the Holy Spirit within us but that doesn’t make us God. We must still lift up our praise of God’s majesty as we did through our psalm for today. We must still “humble [ourselves] therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he might exalt [us] in due time” as Peter urged us to do in our second lesson. Our God is still a mighty God, working both through us and over us. We must never forget the sovereignty of our God. Jesus himself never forgot the sovereignty of the Father. Jesus, who spoke on our behalf as one of us, never forgot the sheer majesty of the Father. We heard this to be true in our passage from John. On the night of his betrayal and knowing that his arrest and crucifixion was imminent, Jesus prayed to the Father to bring him home: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” The Father gives authority to the Son who in turn is glorified and brought to eternal life. Jesus the Christ is in both our world, through us, and the world of the eternal.
So will Christ die with us? No, because even he is larger than us. He is “lifted up”…he is sovereign over us. He is reigning in and through our world but also over our world. We can take great comfort in knowing this about our Christ. Perhaps that’s why we close out this season of Easter and move into the season of Pentecost with reflecting on Jesus’ ascension. Jesus was transformed into the resurrected Christ, embodied in and through us, but also into our sovereign Lord, forever reigning over us. Let us give thanks not only for Christ within us, but also for…Christ above us.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.