Nonsense (Easter message)

. 5 min read

Apr 2019, Christ Mountain Top, Easter
integrated into hymns:
      Psalm 118.1-2, 14-24
      1 Corinthians 15.19-26
      Isaiah 65.17-25
Acts 10.34-43, with Easter eggs
Luke 24.1-12
Moment, NONE
ago, an international student and Muslim in an English class I was teaching
asked, “So, why do you call it GOOD?” I was introducing the customs and story
of the season. She believed, as Islam teaches, that God took Jesus from the cross
directly to heaven before death. To think that followers of Jesus would call
the day of his brutal execution GOOD was mind-boggling for her. Yes, there is a
lot about our faith that is mystery, that does not seem to make sense. Indeed,
the women who came back from the empty tomb reporting their story to the Twelve
were thought to be uttering “nonsense” (Luke 24.11).
This is where some folks would jump off and focus on demonstrating the reasonability
of resurrection, particularly in the way the story is told. The canonical
gospels do not do what other ancient texts do with a story.

·       They
do not present the disciples in heroic light. No, they are presented as
skeptics. You don’t do that if your bias is in favor of the established church,
one more sign that this book – even with human fingerprints all over it – is God’s book.
·       Women:
“The first century church would never have created a story whose main first
witnesses were women” (Bock, 607).
·       None
of the canonical gospels tell the story of Jesus’ resurrection, just the story
of the empty tomb and the proclamation: He is not here. He is risen!
(Fitzmyer). There is no hidden camera replay (Culpepper). But, non-canonical Gospel of Peter, an example of how
other ancient texts tell a story like this, but not the biblical record
(Fitzmyer)…. Too much in common with that giant chocolate-coated miracle pill
given to the mostly-dead Wesley in The Princess Bride: “Don’t go
swimming for at least an hour.”
But, no. The resurrection
of Jesus is nonsense.
It is unreasonable. It is unexpected. The Apostle Paul
calls the gospel, particularly the gospel of the cross, “foolishness” (1
Corinthians 1.18-25). And, by the way, the Greek word Paul uses for
“foolishness” is the root of the English word “moron.” He calls Jesus and his message an “offense,” a “stumbling
block,” the “stone the builders rejected,” and uses the Greek term at the root
of our English word “scandal” (1
Corinthians 1.23, Romans 9.33, John 6.61, more).
Twelve disciples of Jesus, who had heard him predict his death (seven times in
Luke’s gospel), and had heard some of those death predictions include
resurrection, thought of this as nonsense. Darrel Bock points out that in their
doubt, the disciples are just as modern as anyone today. Nonsense. The Scriptures embrace the resurrection as
The disciples experienced the testimony of the women as nonsense.
And yet, they are convinced to stake their lives on it. And yet, they base
their entire message and entire system of thought on the assumption that the
resurrection of Jesus is fact, not in the sense of a mythology that makes sense
of things but as an historical event that makes no sense.
      The resurrection
of Jesus is a
disruptive force. It is a defining singularity. It is a
decisive moment. There is no way to make sense of it – at least no way to do so
while respecting the biblical account. However, the nonsense of resurrection
makes sense of everything else. That crazy disruption changes everything. That incomprehensible
singularity defines everything that follows. That insane moment shapes all that
is to come.
Because Jesus is
resurrected, bodily:
human must forever be understood as embodied,
and our bodies are meant for glory and good.
·       Not
that spirit matters (which it does) … matter matters
·       Related
to this … the theological basis for a coherent ethic both of Creation care and
of life. If bodies don’t matter, then there is no way that the earth can
bias for the poor, the marginalized,
the outsider is validated by resurrection. Over and over, the religious folks
in Jesus time are scandalized, offended, by his friendships and social choices.
He goes to parties with the tax collectors and sinners. He touches untouchable
lepers. He says that the poor inherit the earth. Who are the people that our
society marginalizes? Who are the people that we marginalize? (We all have our
own lists.) Jesus put the margins at the center of his ministry. And the
resurrection puts God’s all caps YES with five exclamation points on the
ministry Jesus announced at the beginning of Luke:
 The Spirit of the
Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He
has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the
blind, to let the oppressed go free,  19
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
can’t save ourselves; we require
Jesus. And we’re worth it. We’re
worth everything to God: We are worth God being crucified. We are worth the
Father forsaking the Son. We are worth Jesus carrying our sorrows and bearing
away our sins in his body. Just as surely as we cannot solve our sin problem on
our own, just as surely as we cannot address our justice deficit, just as
surely as we cannot be righteous as God is righteous – on our own – so there is
nothing that God will not do to bring us back to God, so that we can truly
live. We are worth everything to God.
– as a power that defines and determines our lives – is defeated and new life
is actually possible.
is dead may never die – but kill [them] anyway” (GoT), Yara Greyjoy to brother Theon, season 8 premiere.
      Jesus – God – died. That’s crazy enough.
Then, Jesus was resurrected. That’s nonsense. What is dead stays dead, doesn’t
it? In fantasies like GoT, if it rises it does so like a zombie army or like
Jon Snow, who can die again. Not Jesus. He rises never to die again. As John
Chrysostom remarks, Jesus destroys death by enduring it. “Hell was in an uproar
because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was
in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is now made
captive” (Easter Homily).
      What is dead may never die. That is true
of Jesus. But death itself? Death is going down.
back over the next couple weeks. We’ll be looking at how these skeptic
disciples became believers – not by getting all the answers but by meeting
Jesus face to face.
The New Interpreter’s
Bible, vol IX, Luke,
R. Alan Culpepper,  Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
Luke (2nd vol), Anchor Bible
Bock, Luke, IVP Application

Chrysostom, Easter Homily