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What Are We Longing For?

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What are we longing for?
Good morning! Today is Sunday April 2, 2020! This is Easter Sunday. But around the world this is a very different Easter! For many of us we are stuck in our homes. Listening online to Easter services. Visiting with family via zoom! Instead of the new Easter clothes. We have Easter pajamas. If you are like me you have been inundated with news. Which can be a source on endless anxiety. And while we need to stay informed. We do not need to be caught up in the endless cycle of 24/7 information. So today, this resurrection Sunday, I am proposing that we turn a corner. Away from the stress, anxiety, isolation, frustration, and for some, the boredom of having to talk about what is happening around us. But towards what we truly are longing for. So, I want to stop here and ask the question. WHAT ARE WE LONGING FOR? Right now, we long to be together. But this pales in comparison to what we should truly be moving towards and ultimately should be our hope as believers. At this point when I ask many believers this question. The answer would often be heaven. But that would technically be incorrect. To be sure attaining Heaven is somethings we aspire to have. But that only occurs as a secondary benefit. What we should be longing for is the glorious hope of Resurrection. Which is what I want to talk about today. The resurrection sits at the pinnacle of Christianity. So, I want to begin by introducing the resurrection, the significance of the resurrection and the finally what it means to attain to the resurrection.

INTRODUCTION TO THE RESURRECTION

Resurrection is the essence of the Christian hope and message. In a nutshell the“vindication of Jesus and His claims to be God”.
God was ultimately responsible for Christ. And Christ goes to be at the right hand of God. Resurrection is central to the Gospel accounts. But the resurrection is also controversial. It was controversial in the NT. Just as it continues to be so to this day. It remains the central miracle of Jesus’ ministry and His message. It is the most major miracle of the NT.
But it also remains a major stumbling block for the skeptic. So, we have to take that into account. This is wrapped around the idea of if miracles exist. If God is the Creator of Life. Then He is able to restore it. So, any doubt about the resurrection would require some explanation as to where the resurrection came from. For the skeptic the difference in the gospel accounts becomes a bone of contention for questioning the validity of the event.
Now we have to acknowledge that there are differences in the Gospels accounts. But those differences are rooted in the use by the author and grounded in the message that the author is conveying to his intended audience. Not in what is added or left out of the account. This is key in understanding the variations in the way the Gospels tell the story of Jesus.
The difference in the accounts such as Mark. Who only has an empty tomb. But no appearances of the risen Jesus are to be found in Mark. And Mark is generally viewed as the first of the Gospels to be written. The other Gospels have the appearances. And to the skeptic are seen as later additions by the church.
Now obviously, as we have said before the resurrection is central to the Christian hope. This encompasses the idea of life after death. And the idea that we will live with him for all eternity. But the more important aspect that is often underappreciated is the vindication of the claims of Jesus that he made. Not only about himself. But also, that He would go to God’s right hand and share in His rule. Sitting at God’s right hand is a way of saying He would share power with God.
The Jewish leaders saw this as blasphemous. Jesus was in effect saying He would one day be their judge. Obviously, they did not like this. But ultimately the resurrection is about God’s vindication (or way of validating-which is important for the skeptic) of Christ and his message. And the kingdom hope that He brings.
Now back to the issues of this skepticism about Jesus resurrection. This was something that was not foreign to the ancient world. Paul actually addresses this in 1 Cor 15:12-19 very directly.
PASSAGE
In this passage Paul is addressing the fact that if there is not a resurrection then there is no hope. The problem with viewing the resurrection as a fabrication is that it does not consider why Paul is addressing the skeptics of his day, if in fact it was not an issue he had to deal with.

SIGNIFICANCE AND MEANING OF THE RESURRECTION.

So, if the resurrection is the vindication of Jesus. His ministry, His message and His claims. What is the significance of that event? To truly get at this question, we have to understand how it was viewed in Jewish thought. We cannot assume this is an easy question to answer.
In Mark 9:9-10 we hear Jesus disciples not understanding what he is talking about when he says he will die and be raised in 3 days.
PASSAGE
Jesus said on the third day I will rise from the dead. The question we need to ask is how could they not have known what Jesus was talking about? It was not that they did not understands what it mean for a dead man to become alive again. So, when we work to place the resurrection the context of Jewish thought, it is here that we can truly begin to understand, and appreciate the significance and meaning to the resurrection.
It is not that Jews were unfamiliar with resurrection. It was part of their belief system. But resurrection for the Jewish audience meant “new creation”. That is a key term. This meant that the “new creation” had arrived. That the inauguration of the kingdom was complete. So, in the Jew’s mind the word “resurrection” would’ve meant the arrival of a new creation. I hope you can begin to see the significance here. This for them was an event when “all people” were raised. Some to life. Some to death. So, we can begin to see why the disciples were so consumed by Jesus’ words about dyeing and raising in 3 days. They did not know what he was talking about.
In Jewish thought the arrival of the new creation was a communal, corporate resurrection. Not just one man rising from the dead. But all people rising form the dead.
The next question is what does it mean to rise form the dead? Especially when for the Jew this was to occur at the end of redemptive history. For them this was the culmination of the entirety of the biblical story. Yet Jesus is talking about rising from the dead in the “middle’ of history. What does rising form the dead in the middle of history mean? This why the disciples could not make sense of it.
One man rising individually in the middle of history did not fit with all people rising together at the end of history. The significance can begin to come into clearer focus. The resurrection represented the “dawn” of the beginning of the new creation.
Two images help us understand this better.

1. Firstborn (Rev. 1.5)

PASSAGE
Jesus is called the firstborn form the dead. The first one born in the age to came. The first one born into the kingdom of God. Jesus is the one born into the resurrection. And many more will follow.

2. First fruits (1 Cor 15.20)

PASSAGE
This is an agricultural metaphor used to describe the first part of the harvest. When farmers bring in the first of their crops. The anticipation is that more is to follow.
Both these terms or images in the Bible both point to the resurrection of Christ as the beginning or the dawn of the new creation. And there is more to come! Jesus is stepping though the door. The new creation has begun in the resurrection of Jesus.

ATTAINING TO THE RESURRECTION

Now finally I want to talk about what it means to attain the resurrection. In Philippians 3.10-11 Paul writes…
PASSAGE
“if perhaps”. This phrase of uncertainty is actually conveyed in the original language. What appears to make Paul seem to be so uncertain. The answer is found in a parallel text of 1 Cor 15:51-52.
PASSAGE
Paul talk about 2 categories of the followers of Christ at the time of His return. What is clear is that the resurrection takes place…. not at our death…as we will sometimes hear. We do not receive our resurrection body upon death. But resurrection always takes place at the time of return of Christ. In 1 Cor 15;51-52 Paul hints at an additional mystery that Paul wants to address the question of our resurrection body. This came up on Corinth because they had various different kinds of beliefs pertaining to the resurrection body. So as Paul points to the resurrection of the body points to two categories of Christian people who will experience this transformation or resurrection at the return of Christ. So, there are two types of resurrection. 1) those who are alive. 2) those who are already dead. So, he talks about how those who are living will be transformed. And those who are dead will be raised to life. Everyone will receive a resurrection body like the body of Christ. Some are transformed while they are alive. Others will be transformed from out of the realm of the dead.
While there is one resurrection body. There are two realms from which the resurrection body is received. Always at the return of Christ.
So, Paul is not uncertain that he will receive a resurrection body. So, he is uncertain of which type he will receive. Because as he sits in a Roman prison it is becoming increasing clear that this could be, for him, a resurrection from the dead. He may well die before Christ returns. Paul is not unsure about resurrection. There is no uncertainty for Paul.
1 Cor 15:20-23 conveys that message
PASSAGE
In Phillip 3:11 Paul says the following:
PASSAGE
Here he uses an unusual word for resurrection. This is the only time in all of Paul’s letter that he uses this word. The normal word that Paul uses for resurrection is

Anastasis=resurrection

Here Paul uses the word

Exanastasis=from resurrection

This literally means “from resurrection”. He combines it with the word “the”. So, he is expecting to obtain to the “from resurrection” or resurrection from the dead. At this point Paul is anything but uncertain about his destiny. In fact, he is so conformed to the image of Christ that he expects his resurrection after his death.
So, in this time of uncertainty. When things change so rapidly and we feel lost in the sea of chaos around us. May we take comfort in knowing that just like Paul could be certain of his own destiny. We can be certain of ours as well. That we will all one day be totally and completely conformed to the image of Christ like Paul was. And we will attain that glorious hope of resurrection, the transformation of our pain into joy. The discomfort of this time will pass. We will one day rule and reign with Christ at the completion of his kingdom. But for now, we are in the process of growing his kingdom. But while we wait for our glorification. We must reach out to our friend and neighbors with love, gentleness, patience, goodness and self-control. Though that may look different right now….it is our charge to do that in the way we can.
Prayer.
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