Our faith is not a philosophy or a set of ideas, it is not a path of spirituality or a rule of life. It is not something thought up by someone on a rainy Tuesday. It is based on a historical event, something called the ‘scandal of particularity’; at a particular time and place something happened that defines everything. That something is resurrection.
We don’t say Christ has died, Christ was buried, Christ has since disappeared. We don’t say Christ has died, Christ metaphorically rose and Christ occasionally appears in our imaginations. No, we say Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Is, is IS! Christ rose and is still risen, resurrected with a capital R.
So what does that mean?
Jesus was provocative in his life, and provocative in his death. A good Jewish leader with claims to be the Messiah does not overturn tables and drive out sacrificial animals from the Temple. In our Lent Course I overturned some chairs as an example, even in front of a Church Warden. That is the point – he did it in front of people who would care.
A good Jewish leader with claims to be the Messiah does not talk of the destruction of the Temple, not least followed by a claim to rebuild it in 3 days. The churchwardens, treasurers and pastors all respond with incredulity – it has taken us 46 years to build this!! Do you know how many jumble sales, barn dances and sponsored organ sacrifices we have had to raise this money?! The Temple is where God dwells, and Jesus speaks of its destruction… and its being raised.
John 2.22 has this wonderful line in which we are told the disciples understood what Jesus meant only after he was raised from the dead. When he is more explicit in Mark 9.32 about being killed and being raised after 3 days, the disciples still do not understand. And are afraid to ask. And when he is raised, Luke tells us that the women ran from the tomb to tell the disciples, who didn’t believe them because their words seemed like nonsense, an idle tale, made-up wish-fulfilment.
We do not believe Jesus is and was and will be the only one to experience resurrection. Every funeral I pray about our ‘sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life'; not our sure and certain hope of drifting vaguely on a cloud somewhere having tea with our granny.
Jesus was provocative. His life was provocative, and his death was provocative. But it does not end there. His resurrection was provocative, daring death and all the powers of darkness to have a go and declaring the gates of hell will not prevail against… us. Which doesn’t mean they bang on our gates; it means we bang on theirs.
Let’s go provoke.