Today in Chicago, the St. Louis Cardinals will play the Cubs in the first game of the season. There is only one game scheduled, but that game means that the 2015 MLB season has begun.The thing is, tomorrow no other teams will have played a game--but the season is still begun. If the rain delays other teams for a week, the season is still started.
Today we celebrate Easter. The resurrection of Jesus is the beginning of The Truly New "Season": the Kingdom of God. The rest of us will be raised some day, but for now Jesus is unique.
The resurrection of Jesus baffles the mind. We do not know much about His body, but we know it is a body resembling the body He had prior to death. He looks the same, even if He is very different. The Gospel stories also remind us that the same women who watched Jesus die and stood weeping at His tomb returned that Sunday morning after the Sabbath rest. It is they, the eye witnesses of that crucifixion,who become the eye witnesses of the resurrected Lord.
Let us be clear, the reasons for believing Jesus was dead were rock solid. He had been beaten mercilessly and His body was ravaged. Nailed to the cross, His broken body gave out within hours. There is reason to believe He died of a heart attack, this is consistent with the spear wound which poured water and wine. Professional soldiers were satisfied that He was a corpse. His momma was there, she was satisfied He had died. The disciples were so sure He was dead that that hid away, cowering behind a closed door. They were bereft of any hope. There was no reason to think that Jesus would rise from the dead. Such things do not happen.
Ironically, the Gospel story of the women does not even enter into Paul's list of witnesses. This is consistent with the legal status of women at the time. No one in the ancient world would make up a story about something as unimaginable as Jesus resurrection and claim women were the first ones to see Him. If you were going to lie about it you would choose a reliable witness: a man. The only reason for saying it was women to whom Jesus first appeared is the fact that it was women.
In Corinthians, Paul provides the only non-Gospel account of the resurrection appearances of Jesus. Note that it is men whom he mentions by name. How wonderful it would be if each of those events were recounted for us, including first person reactions to the events. Sadly, we only know that there were many, including one to five hundred at the same time.
Perhaps the best summary of Easter is the one found in Luke's Book of Acts 1:3--- After His suffering, Jesus presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs. My assumption is that those men and women, especially the ones who saw Him die with their own eyes, would have had a very high standard for determining what was convincing proof. They are no different than you or I. They know that dead people stay dead.
So what does this resurrection mean for us? It means that God has vindicated Jesus as Messiah. It means that the first game of the Kingdom has taken place. It means that we can be very sure that God has kept His promised to save the world and gather into His Kingdom those who love Him.
It means, for each of us personally, that we must choose to embrace Jesus as our Messiah King and the life He offers. He has shown He is alive, only a fool would choose death in the face of that wonderful Good News!
Tonight the players will show up for the game, they will not go off and toss balls against a wall by themselves. Sadly, the church will not have the same enthusiasm and commitment to the Team Jesus. If we immerse ourselves in the Gospel Resurrection message, all our worries and fears will have a new frame of reference. God is faithful. Death is conquered, Jesus is risen.