Experiencing the risen Christ

Easter Eve 2010

Marian Free

 In the name of God who raised Jesus from the dead and who constantly raises us to newness of life. Amen.

I don’t know if you have noticed, but musicals, plays and movies about the life of Jesus find it very hard to include the resurrection. In most instances, the action ends with the crucifixion and burial followed by a fleeting reference to the resurrection. One wonders why it is so difficult to portray one of the central tenets of our faith. We believe Jesus has risen, we proclaim that Jesus is alive with us today, but do not seem to be able to dramatically portray the event.

One of the reasons for the problem is that no one saw the resurrection. There were lots of eye-witnesses to the crucifixion, several of Jesus’ followers saw that he was buried, but no one was there on the third day, when Jesus rose from death to life. The women and Peter and John saw the empty tomb, and on that same day Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the two who were walking to Emmaus and to the gathered disciples, but no one observed the moment.

The situation is further complicated by a number of facts: Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and continue with his mission. Instead, he appears at different times and to different people. For the forty days until the ascension, Jesus appears on and off – in a variety of places and situations. He appeared in closed rooms, on the beach, walking along the road. His appearances are just that – he comes and he goes. Another complication is the nature of Jesus’ resurrection body. All the reports seem to indicate that although scared, his body is recognizable as the body he had before the resurrection. Despite this, he is not always immediately identifiable. In some accounts, the risen Jesus is mistaken for a ghost, in others a point is made that he eats with the disciples, and in another he is not recognised until he breaks the bread (at which point he disappears). If he has a physical body with flesh and bones we have to ask ourselves how he manages to appear in locked rooms.

No wonder movie-makers find it difficult to portray what has happened. The resurrection was not observed and experiences of the risen Jesus differed from person to person.  What then do we make of the resurrection? I believe, first of all that the resurrected Jesus was and is something to be experienced. The followers of Jesus knew he was alive and their knowledge was so real and so powerful that they were able to convince others that he was alive. Because the resurrection was something to be experienced, two thousand years later we can experience the resurrected Jesus in our own lives.

It is perhaps to our advantage that the resurrection was not observed because instead of one story and experience we have multiple stories and experiences. Instead of limiting the resurrection to a one-off occurrence two thousand years ago, we can expect to experience the resurrection in our own lives.

Christ is risen and because he is risen, he is not relegated to history but is alive in our present. We know Jesus not only as the Jesus of a past era, but the Jesus who is with us now and will be with us to the end. We don’t need physical proof of the resurrection, because all the proof we need exists in our relationship with the risen Christ, right here and right now.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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