April 21, 2019
Categorised in: Sermons
Preached by the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester using Is 43:1-7; Jn 20:19-23 on Sunday 21st April 2019, Easter Day.
In just a few short sentences John’s Gospel captures the mystery of the resurrection. [You’ll find the text on p. 9 of your service sheets.]. Four verbs take us to the heart of John’s account of the living Lord Jesus who reveals his resurrection life in four simple actions: he comes, he stands, he shows, and he breathes.
First, Jesus comes behind closed doors. He comes behind the disciples’ fear and makes himself present. He is just there: more real than fear. Fear motivates so much of our lives – fear of not succeeding, fear of what others think, fear of doing the wrong thing. Behind the locked doors of our fears the risen Lord comes. The reality of Jesus’ presence will turn this fearful group of disciples into a movement that turns the world upside-down. Today the faith of 3 billion people is centred on the reality of Jesus who comes. He comes to each of us, sometimes in the most remarkable way. He is alive and among us this morning.
So Jesus comes, and he stands among his disciples. They would have seen him stand among them like this before. They would be so familiar with his way of standing before others, remembering all those other occasions when he stood before the crowds, stood up to his enemies, and stood before Pilate. And here he is now standing with them. He brings the familiar near-Eastern greeting, “Peace, Shalom”. But this familiar greeting is now, so full of meaning. “Yes, it’s me, standing here. Shalom.” They can hardly believe it. He’s with them again. It’s Jesus. And he’s standing here today, greeting us: “Peace”.
He comes, he stands, and he shows them his hands and his side. We’re not told what Jesus said about his death. But we know that from the very start John the Baptist identified Jesus as the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). The disciples would have known, in those harrowing last few days, that the Passover lambs for the Temple festival were being slaughtered at the very time Jesus’ trials began. So Jesus simply shows them his scars, as if to say, “See, I am the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Yet now he’s risen: he has conquered death. It is only after this showing that the disciples rejoice to see the Lord. To truly know the risen Saviour requires us to recognise that he has dealt with our sin and with evil. Our own response to him this morning must follow the same path.
He comes, he stands, he shows, and he breathes on them. As at creation, when God breathed on the first human beings and they came to life, so now Jesus breathes on the disciples and a new creation begins. Yet without sin being taken away, the Spirit cannot be breathed. And without Jesus defeating the evil one, the new creation is not secure. But now the relationship with God is restored and made deeper and more glorious. Resurrection happens inside creation: inside the cosmos, inside society, inside each of us. Jesus is at the heart of all things; he is the truth about truth. And so he breathes God’s Spirit, saying to each of us, “Receive the Spirit.” The Easter response to the risen Lord is to receive the Spirit in our lives. This is also our commissioning to share this life, God’s deep forgiveness, with others. Jesus who comes, stands, shows and breathes, commissions us, sends us to live his mission in the world.
Of course, to express all this takes more than a few minutes. Each of us is called to give a life-time to show what Jesus is like. But sometimes a work of art can say so much more. So I’ve brought the sculpture that is in the chapel at Wolvesey. You might be familiar with Peter Eugene Ball’s style. I interpret this one as a ‘Christus Victor’: a figure of Christ showing his risen but scarred body. He is Victor over sin and evil, but it has cost him everything, even his very life. It shows us that Jesus’ enthronement took place as he was raised up on the cross, and that as he is raised to life in the midst of creation, he is glorified as the crucified one who reconciles the whole world in a new life of a renewed relationship with God. And so we say, “Alleluia! Christ is risen.” “He is risen indeed. Alleluia.” A short poem to finish.
Doors locked in fear;
Sudden powerful presence.
Pierced hands, Risen Lord!
Then, deep breath.
Spirit-filled, new life.