Eastertide Preaching Series: A World Turned Upside Down
Jesus said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
During these weeks of Eastertide, on these Tuesday evenings, we are preaching on what it was which ‘turned the world upside down’ at Easter. For me, the good news of Easter can be summed up in one word, and that word is ‘Life. Jesus came that we may have life. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we have been given the gift of life – eternal life.
Those very first Christians discovered something so wonderful, so miraculous, that it turned their lives upside down. It was not just that Jesus himself had died, had overcome death, and then risen from the dead. But they also discovered that because of their relationship of faith and trust with Jesus, they too had conquered death and would live forever. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you”, says St Paul, “he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his spirit which dwells in you.” (Romans 8:11)
It is hard to imagine just how overwhelming this must have been for them: that the last enemy, death itself, had been conquered. No longer did they live in fear of death, but in the wonderful hope of life eternal. Resurrection for those first Christians was about victory. That Christ had conquered, that his was the victory. One of the earliest Christian inscriptions which can still be found on stones and tombs, were the Greek letters: NIKA. ‘Ihsous Xpistos Nika’ – ‘Jesus Christ conquers, or ‘is victorious.’
One of my favorite hymns, which is not in our hymnal, but which we’ll sing at the end of the service, expresses this extraordinary experience which lies at the heart of Easter:
“Thine be the glory, risen, conquering Son; Endless is the victory thou o’er death hast won.”
But there’s even more. Those early Christians had their lives turned upside down because they knew that Jesus’ victory over death assured them of eternal life with God forever. But they also discovered that they didn’t have to wait to die to enjoy eternal life. They could know it now.
In John’s Gospel, (chapter 17:3), Jesus says,” This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Jesus is not saying that you must know him to get eternal life, but that knowing him IS eternal life. Knowing Jesus changed their lives, gave them life abundant now and the resurrection of Jesus assured them that the abundant life which they had already tasted would last forever. And that same promise of the gift of abundant life forever is made to us too.
So are you alive? Are you experiencing the kind of abundant life which Jesus promised and which can turn our lives upside down?
Maybe you once did, but don’t any longer? The great second century bishop Irenaeus wrote these famous words;”Gloria Dei, homo vivens”. “The glory of God is a human being fully alive”
When we are fully alive we reflect the glory of God – we shine and magnify the glory of God.
Do you long to be fully alive? What is stopping you?
If Easter is about Jesus’ victory over death, then we are invited to share in that victory by each receiving personally, the gift of life.
It seems to me that we need to do that every day, when we wake in the morning to claim what is ours, to claim life. “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”
We may believe passionately in Jesus’ final victory over death at Easter, yet WE still have to struggle to truly live the life that he has given to us. We are living in a world where so much speaks of death, hopelessness and despair. So we have to struggle to truly live the risen life. And it is in this struggle I believe, that we most need each other, the church, and our fellow members of the Body of Christ. We need their encouragement and strength, and they need us. It is a wonderful thing to help another person come to life. And I want to mention two passages in scripture where this happens in a remarkable way.
The first is in the account of the conversion of St Paul which we just heard read. As Saul was traveling along the road to Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him, he fell to the ground, and heard Jesus’ voice asking, “Why do you persecute me?” Saul gets up and is blind. What I find most moving about this passage is that the great and powerful Saul is led by the hand by others into the city. He is brought into the light and life of Christ by Christ’s body, the church.
And then in our Gospel today, the story of the Raising of Lazarus. Lazarus has been dead for four days – he is truly dead. And yet Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, comes to the tomb, orders them to take away the stone, and cries with a loud voice,” Lazarus, come out!” We read, “The dead man came out, his hands and his feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.” Jesus said to them, “Unbind him and let him go!”
Just as ‘others’ led the blind Saul to light and life, so Jesus asks ‘others’ to unbind Lazarus and bring him to life.
Who are these ‘others’? They are you – and me: Christ’s body here on earth. It is we who have risen with Christ at Easter, who share in the victory, who are the ones to bring life – eternal life – to others. WE are called to encourage, to lead to sight, to unbind, to bring life to those who are dead. WE, and it is an incredibly humbling thing, we have been commissioned, at our baptism, when we died to sin and rose to new and eternal life, we have the task of giving life to others. Not our life, but the risen life of Christ, which is a free gift for all.
So tonight you might ponder these questions:
Who by your words and actions have you helped bring to life?
Who have you kept bound and blinded? Pray for them
And then, ‘Who has led you to life? Who has helped unbind you? Give thanks for them.
Perhaps tonight, as you come to receive Jesus in bread and wine, ask for the gift of life, life abundant, ask to be made fully alive, to shine and radiate the life of God.
God longs for each one of us to be fully alive; it’s the gift he longs to give us. It’s the gift of Easter.
Questions for reflection:
Who has been instrumental in offering resurrection power to you in your life?
Who might God be calling you to offer that life now?
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