Happy Easter

JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED HALLELUJAH

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:16-18

If anyone was to make up the story of the resurrection of Jesus the would have chosen some better witnesses to the events
We just had Joseph of Arimathea giving a prestigious new grave away so important it is in all four Gospels. He was a member of the Sanhedrin, an influential Jewish religious leader. He was with Nicodemus and is prominent in the Gospel of Nicodemus who had secretly enquired of Jesus at night John 3:3 You must be born again or from above.
We could have had the Roman centurion who said “He was surely the Son of God!” Matthew 27:54 who could have been guarding or visiting the grave We could have chosen King Herod who had Jesus tried and executed his brother James Acts 12:2, a different Herod to the birth narratives but a poetic bookend to the Gospels to match the start. Or the Magi or other important figures to provide the story with some evidence or credence

Instead John chooses the worse and least reliable witnesses
Mary Magdalene was a woman in a society where women could not testify, their evidence in a Court of Law was worthless. On top of this she had been a prostitute, a fallen woman who presumably had been so poor and desperate she sold he body, her sex to eat and live. The Church has linked her with propositioning or having a relationship with Jesus and so has never liked her. John has her anointing Jesus feet at the start of Holy Week, a waste of good perfume and a morally reprehensible act. She wept and did not act or dress appropriately to be seen in public. She alone was a witness to Jesus resurrection: the first to the empty tomb, the first Jesus speaks to, the only one to see him before he returns to Heaven. The Beloved disciple, possibly John is the next at the grave. Again he is unnamed and the one to lay his head on Jesus breast at the Last Supper, a sexually inappropriate act. He is of no consequence in the teachings of the Church, young and foolish in a society that respected wisdom and age
Peter again failed Jesus as he had done so many times in his lifetime. Jesus said Get behind ne Satan Mark 8:33. He denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed at his trail. He again arrives at the grave first but is too frightened to go in.

So what is the resurrection story about?
We have the reading from Isaiah 65:17-25 For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth
We have a return to the prefect creation of the Garden of Eden before the Fall
We have Jerusalem with no crying or distress just love and delight; an ideal world yet fully material and hear on earth. The new Gaia, the restored world with lions and lambs eating straw together.
It is a physical world that the Judeo- Christian traditional teaches not a world of dualism where the Spiritual Realms and Heaven are superior to this world. It is not pie in the sky when you die
It is important to this theology that Jesus body was incarnation, a real human body not veiled in flesh which remains after the death and resurrection. Jesus was real, he could ear fish, have Thomas put his hands in Jesus wounds etc.
Yet it was a renewed changed body where he walked through locked doors and was not recognised by Mary and the disciples on the Emmaus road. With modern physical laws mater cannot be created or destroyed. It transmutes from energy to material. All atoms are essentially energy in a vacuum only appearing solid. So our bodies are cremated into vapour and carbon or return to dust in the soil. Traditionally these atoms are reunited and our bodies are reconstituted and resurrected on the Last Day. We talk about souls, auras, and spirits. May be our essence can change between energy and matter? May be were are essentially energy?

So what of the Easter message?
This is merely a story, myth in the popular sense, a story which inspires and has meaning but it not based on historical facts. It was invited by the early Church to promote Jesus as a spiritual rather than earthly Messiah. The Kingdom of Heaven replacing the Kingdom of earth. Jesus died and appeared as a ghost, a spiritual apparition. He came back from the death to communicate his message and then disappeared again Jesus was resuscitated as was Lazarus after three days in the grave. The body brought back to life shocked with paddles as in an emergency room in hospital. Presumably this was temporary and was with all others he subsequently died again latter. He was a sacrifice to save us from our sins and died as a Pascal Lamb that we might be acceptable to God. Jesus was resurrected with is new spiritual body, as we will all have at the New Heaven and New Earth. He was recognisable and yet substantial changed. Admonished as God and yet feared. This is celebrated with the crucifix. Jesus on the cross either dying or alive as in the cross of St Francis.
Jesus is Divine, spiritual, a mystery beyond understanding and belief. The symbol of an empty cross: he is gone and yet ever present. Now fully God yet closer than our breath.
These are comprehensive or exclusive. You may find parts of each helpful or confusing
It is important to think how these apply to our life now. What difference does each theology make to the way we live and love others?

The early Church believed that Jesus was important and his message of liberation of the poor and weak into being included into valued members of society. His Gospel is of peace and justice
Jesus teachings were misunderstood by his disciples until after his death. They gained new insights by seeing that he was not going to lead them into victory over the Romans as a military Messiah. His death showed his way of non-violent victory as we also have seen in Ghandi The incarnation is important. God wanting to relate to his created world so much that he came as a human is a message that appears central to Christianity and other faiths like Hinduism. The Gnostic heresy that the spirit is divine and the flesh is evil is one the Church has constantly fought against
The resurrection body gives hope to us all. Death is not the end of our existence, our spiritual bodies continue. We dont need to fear but live courageously in the Love of God. Death is not to be feared. Jesus has conquered death! In the West death is often a taboo subject and as people of faith we can bring something to others allowing and encouraging them to talk about this unmentionable subject. See http://www.deathcafe.com The mystery of our faith is essential. we know we cannot fully comprehend God, we only see glimpses of Divine truth. We may be content to explore and reveal in this glorious searching for God.

JESUS CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED HALLELUJAH

Happy Easter
Rev Stephen Bentley

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