beautiful-sunriseOn Sunday we read from John 20:19-31. It’s the famous passage of Thomas the doubting disciple. It’s also the text set for us by the lectionary every year for the first Sunday after Easter, and contains that wonderful and terrifying passage in which the resurrected Christ appears to the disciples in the locked room. Showing them the scars on his hands and his side (the marks of his crucifixion) he then says to them “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Quite the offer really.

During our worship at Hope Uniting we spent time discussion what we thought about the resurrection. We pondered what questions we held, what doubts stayed with us and what joy it gave us. As we talked together many of us wondered how the cross and the resurrection could speak to us in ways that were not only framed by the model of penal substitution (Christ’s sacrifice washing away our sin to restore us to God). Now there is a great wealth of truth and wisdom to be found in penal substitution – particularly if we wrestle it in depth and subtlety beyond its usual stereotypes.

It does however, lead us to a clear focus on the cross of Christ – often to a disregard or diminution of the place of the resurrection.

There are some wonderful writers and resources that can help us think through some broader possibilities. A few of them are listed below. In the meantime here is a very simple schema to help us begin to reframe our questions about the resurrection that I offered to us on Sunday. The schema uses past, present and future as three ways to view the resurrection.


PAST. The resurrection is God’s affirmation, God’s YES to the life of Jesus. The resurrected Christ is no abstract, identity-less being. He is Jesus of Nazareth – the One who announced the Kingdom of God, who embraced lepers, fed the poor and called us to turn our lives around. All that Jesus lives and works for is upheld by God in the resurrection. THIS is the life that God chooses and this is the life that God calls us to emulate in our contexts.


PRESENT. The resurrection is about the real, living presence of Christ to us now, today. Across each of the gospels, when Jesus appears to the disciples he offers a common refrain, “Do not be afraid/alarmed” (Matthew 28, Mark 16), “I am with you to the end of the age” (Matthew 28), “Peace be with you” (John 20, Luke 24). The resurrection is God’s YES to us today – Jesus is indeed with us. He is not simply an historic figure to be admired and studied but a real and present companion.


FUTURE. The resurrection is also God’s YES to the future of the whole creation. Death is not the final word. Our human ability to degrade our environment, to continually descend into violence and to live out of fear is all too real to us as we look around today. However the resurrection is a promise, a witness to the love of God that transcends even the worst that we can bring. It was not the end of Jesus, it will not be the end of us and it will not be the end of our creation.

This is no excuse to keep living in brokenness and violence. It is a clear call to live in the light of God’s great love and seek that hope for our own lives and that of our planet. And in the end, as I have stood with families in grief at funerals, as I have watched the horror of war, and as I have pondered my own departed Grandparents – I trust in the love of God which has overcome all things.


The resurrection remains a mystery to us in many ways.

But this much I can hold onto. Death is not the end – for Jesus, for our world or for me. The love of God will not cease. May I keep listening to its song and turn my face to its light.



Some resources:

“Resurrection and Discipleship”  – Thorwald Lorenzen, Orbis Press 1995.

“In the End – The Beginning. The life of hope” – Jurgen Moltmann, Fortress Press, 2004.

“Be Not Afraid – facing fear with faith” – Samuel Wells, Brazos commander sildenafil pfizer inc Press, 2011.

“Surprised By Hope. Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection and the Mission of the Church” – N.T.Wright, HarperOne 2008

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