3rd Sunday of Easter, April 18, 2021, 1st John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48
The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas
Not since the trial of O.J. Simpson, in which the famous football and media star was accused of killing his wife, has our nation and world been so caught up in a courtroom drama – this time over the death of George Floyd. Both the defense and prosecution are trying to convince a jury and viewers everywhere as to whether Floyd was killed by a police officer or died from complications related to drugs. The testimony of expert witnesses, along with social media video recordings, will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of this case.
People are becoming increasingly suspicious and unwilling of law enforcement officials or agencies suspected or wrongdoing to police themselves and are demanding a more objective and impartial analysis of events to help them reach a conclusion.
Similarly, the disciples who followed Jesus were suspicious of the eye-witness testimony of the women at the tomb that Christ had risen from the dead. Besides, in the patriarchal world of their day, women were not regarded as reliable witnesses in legal matters. The disciples, knowing this, had to therefore seek the truth with their own eyes. With no bodycams or smartphones at their disposal, all they had was each other to verify their accounts. But they also had Jesus.
It is interesting to note that when the Apostle Paul mentions the chronology by which Jesus appeared to his followers after his resurrection, the women at the tomb who were the first witnesses are not mentioned. His timeline begins with Peter (or Cephas) and the other disciples, followed by his appearance to hundreds of others and, lastly, to him (1st Corinthians 15:5-8). However, for Paul the resurrection was not a physical encounter, but a spiritual phenomenon that struck him from his horse as he went to persecute the church in Damascus (Acts 9:1-8).
The resurrection of Christ was both a physical and spiritual reality, but for what purpose? Was it to promote the majesty of Jesus over those who crucified him? Was it to condemn those who sentenced him to die? Was it to uplift the Christian faith as the most exalted expression of devotion to God? Of course not!
The resurrection, purely and simply conveyed, was God’s disruptive intrusion into the physical matrix of your mortality with the assurance that you are more than physical beings and accidents of nature; that you are children of the most high God; offspring of a divine manifesto that promises eternity as the natural consequence of those whose life and love transcend the need for self-preservation and compassionately extend to the care and preservation of all, especially the most vulnerable and victimized among us. For “just as you did it to the least of these, who are members of my family,” said Jesus, “you did it also to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
This is your witness and testimony to the resurrection. Remember what you have seen.
As we hopefully near the end of a long and devastating pandemic, during which many have suffered the loss of loved ones they could not touch, kiss, or caress in their final moments before death; during this time we are nonetheless called to remember that, as children of God and followers of Christ, those we love will never live or die alone. As we close our eyes to this life, we awaken to another more precious and luminous reality that Christ has prepared for those whose spirit is born of God.
“O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?” said Paul (1st Corinthians 15:55). You are the expert and reliable witness. Yours is the eye-witness testimony that the spirit, life and love of God can never die. Remember who you are and to whom you belong. Amen.