In Easter season the church worships, ponders, and considers the resurrection of Jesus. We are not so much interested in proving the validity or historicity of the claims that God raised Jesus from the dead. It cannot be proven scientifically. 100% of human experience contradicts the claims of Jesus’ disciples. We have before us ancient texts, written by Jesus’ followers who tell us what they saw and heard, what they experienced. Empty tombs and appearances of Jesus in the flesh are only part of that story. In fact, if we read the gospels, Acts, and all the letters—the easter stories take up only a small part of the material. Not that much is actually said about the risen Jesus. In Mark’s gospel, he doesn’t make an appearance and the empty tomb story is a mere 8 verses that ends with the terrified women fleeing the tomb in silence. Luke and John have extended stories about the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus and on the beach beside the sea. But even these stories are strange. Jesus appears, disappears, is recognizable and hidden from their recognition. He is there, but on his way somewhere. Going to the Father. It is told by Luke that after 40 days Jesus ascends, is taken up. St. Paul records that he appeared to the women and apostles, to 500 people, and finally to Paul himself as one born at the wrong time---as if to say his vision of Jesus was by happenstance, at the wrong place at the wrong time. Or right place at right time. Not sure what he meant, actually. Nevertheless, the resurrection was an event that reimagined the power of God and the people of God. Rather than a divine liberation and rescue of all the people of Israel, God rescues Jesus from death. This Exodus was not like the first. And it did not put an end to Roman oppression. One could ask, what about the lived experience of the people of God changed as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection? This is a critical question for us. Because we need to have an answer to this accusatory question. If the answer is, nothing, then why does it matter? And if it doesn’t matter, then why worship or any devotion whatever? I suspect some people might say, Jesus was a good teacher. His teachings inspire. Living like Jesus is the right way to live. But was it? His revision of Torah that rejected purity laws got him crucified. Jesus didn’t so much teach his followers how to live as how to die. Basically serve others, pouring yourself out for the needy, until you die. Ok. Very few people will actually do this. The rest will fail miserably. If martyrdom is the Christian life, most of us will opt out. So what of the lived experience of the people of God changed as a result of the resurrection of Jesus? That is perhaps more significant than proof of his bodily resurrection. How did they live after that?
Peter and John are arrested, standing before the same Jewish leaders that accused Jesus and had him dragged before Pilate and killed. The High priest was a powerful man of influence and justice in Jerusalem. He was the shepherd of the flock of Israel, whose job was to keep the peace and the commandments so that the Romans would allow them to practice their religion. This meant identifying and silencing zealots and extremists. Were Peter and John two of them? They healed a man at the gate of the temple. Then they proclaimed that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead as a sign of God’s favor and vindication in their conflict with Jesus that ended in his crucifixion. If so, Jesus won. And they said that faith in his name healed that man. So they arrested them for stirring up the crowds with talk of resurrection from the dead. And they questioned them and Peter responded with the verse we heard. But verse 13 says it all: Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were ordinary uneducated men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. When they saw the man who had been cured standing there they had nothing to say.” Peter has been speaking boldly and publicly about Jesus. It seems that the confrontation between Jesus and the authorities did not end with his death on the cross. The assumption was that the movement dies with its leader. But now a new leader has emerged. Maybe even more than one. Cut off the head and two new heads emerge. Peter’s proclamation about Jesus is clear and very Jewish. He is bold enough to accuse them of killing Jesus, quoting Psalm 118 a Messianic Psalm. Basically Peter is saying, Jesus was the Messiah, the king. You killed him. God raise him from the dead. That power also healed this man. If we are being accused of doing a good deed by healing a sick man, let it be understood that we are not guilty. Jesus is! And they can’t arrest Jesus.The community of the resurrection consists of ordinary people with no special abilities, competencies, or powers. That’s good news for us. Jesus powers their action. And ours. Health and healing are signs of God’s mercy. And when a sick person becomes well, many things change. His social status changes. He need not beg anymore. He is whole, so can participate in the community’s religious life. His healing was not just physical. He was seen, heard, received, and treated as one worthy of health. They did not throw money at this problem. They empowered him to stand. Healing is spiritual---its about the whole person within a family. One might say everything changed for that person. The risen Jesus lifts up people who have been made low. The community of the resurrection acts under that power—the power of love to heal. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? The church is called to respond to that question. The love we dare is the power of the risen Christ in us to heal people. How have you participated in someone's healing? In a broken health care system in which there are no winners, what is our calling as a community of the resurrection? What role do we play in health care? Nutrition? Education? Addiction recovery? Hospitality? Are we a hospital, welcoming guests in need of care? Do we provide emotional healing or spiritual healing for those who have been wounded by a venomous version of Christianity? What is your healing story? Did you know that it was Jesus? I have been seriously ill three times in my life. Once as a four year old, and twice as an adult. Yet, here I am to tell you that the Lord Jesus healed me so that I may share this good news with you. Having been infected by Jesus' healing power, we are empowered to become healers in the name of the risen Jesus. How will you and who will you heal this week?