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Wrestling with the Word, episode 67: The Resurrection of Our Lord, Year C (April 4, 2010) March 25, 2010

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The Resurrection of Our Lord

How do we talk about the Easter story and all that it means in one sermon? The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the foundation on which Christianity stands or falls. In our second lesson,1 Corinthians 15, the Apostle Paul sums up the meaning of the resurrection: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (v. 17).  The fact of the matter is that we in the church celebrate Easter not merely once each year but Sunday after Sunday. Every Sunday is Easter day, and each week we celebrate by probing the vast mysteries of the resurrection for our lives—now and forever. How odd and how human that on this celebration of the first Easter Sunday we read that the initial announcement about the empty tomb prompted disbelief, even among the disciples. On the other hand, how wondrous and divine that God would enable people, even the gentiles, to believe the news.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 67: The Resurrection of Our Lord, Year C.

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Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

Form: Individual Song of Thanksgiving
A psalm of praise to God after deliverance from a life-threatening situation.  Typical is a cry for help (see v. 5), a description of the distress (see vv. 10-13); most attention is given to the celebration following deliverance (vv. 14-29).

Use in Judaism
The last of six Hallel psalms (113-118) used as part of the liturgy for autumn feasts and Passover (see Mark 14:26).

Use in New Testament
V. 6.   Hebrews 13:6
V. 18.  2 Cor. 6:9.
VV. 22-23.  Matt. 21:42//Mark 12:and parallels; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:7.
V. 24.  Rev 19:7
VV. 25-27.  Matt. 21:9//Mark 11:9-10//Luke 19:38//John 12:13; also Matt. 23:39//Luke 13:35.

Key Words
V. 14.  yešû`â = “salvation”:  The meaning of the root yš‘ is “wide, broad, spacious.”  The entire verse is identical to Exod. 15:2a.

V. 15-16.  yemîn YHWH = “the right hand of the Lord”:  As God’s instrument of deliverance, see Exod. 15:6, 12 (often in psalms).

V. 18.  yassōr yisserannî = “chastened me severely”:  The words describe the act of a parent to a child in Deut 8:5 and in Proverbs and the act of God to Israel or to an individual (Deut. 4:36; Isa. 28:26; Ps. 94:12).

V. 19.  ša‘arê-tsedeq = “gates of righteousness”:  These are the gates of the Jerusalem temple; cf. Ps. 100:4; Jer. 7:2 and often.

V. 23.  niphlā’t = “extraordinary”:  The word appears in the plural exclusively for God’s acts of judgment and salvation, even of the plagues and the exodus from Egypt (cf. Exod. 3:20; Josh. 6:13).

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Acts 10:34-43
Since God shows no partiality, God sent Peter, one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection, to announce to Gentiles that God’s acts in Jesus’ ministry of preaching, teaching, healing right up to his death and resurrection—result in forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes in him.

Context
God had brought together two quite different men for the purpose of spreading the good news about Jesus. Cornelius was a Centurion of the Italian Cohort. Peter was a Galilean fisherman who spent the previous years as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. God spoke to each of them in visions. In addressing Cornelius, the angel of God told the man about Peter who was staying in Jaffa. In a vision to Peter, God taught the apostle that the line between clean and unclean has been erased. That led to Peter’s trip to Caesarea where he preached the sermon to Cornelius and his household. Thus begins the witnessing to the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 10:1—28:28)

Key Words
V. 35 all’ en panti ethnei ho phoboumenos auton kai ergazomenos diaiosynēn dektos autō estin = “but in every nation anyone who fears him (God) and works righteousness is acceptable to him”: The universal nature of Peter’s sermon occurs also at v. 36 “Jesus Christ—he is the Lord of all”; v. 38 “healing all that were oppressed by the devil”; v. 39 “we are witnesses to all”; v. 42 “judge of the living and the dead”; v. 43 “everyone who believes in him.”

V. 38. hoti ho theos hēn met’ autou = “because God was with him”: At John 3:2 Nicodemus declared that Jesus could not perform the signs (at Cana and in the temple) unless “God is with him.” At John 8:29 Jesus himself that God “who sent me is with me.” The author of Luke-Acts uses the expression or something quite similarly of Mary the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:28) and of John (1:66) and then of Joseph (Acts 7:9), of preachers from Cyprus and Cyrene to people in Antioch (Acts 11:21), and of Paul (by the Risen Lord at Acts 18:10).

V. 39. kai ‘ēmeis martyres = “and we are witnesses”: This first reference to witnessing points to verification of Jesus’ acts healing and teaching. Soon follows the report of the apostolic “witness” to the resurrection of Jesus (v. 41) and to God’s call to the apostles to “preach” and to “testify (i.e., witness) that he is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead” (v. 42). In a sense, this calling continues the way of God ever since OT times when “the prophets bore witness…” (v. 43).

V. 43. toutō pantes hoi prophētai martyrousin aphesin hamartiōn labein dia tou onomatos autou panta ton pisteuonta eis auton = “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins through his name”: Peter demonstrates that God has been in the forgiveness business for the people of Israel through the preaching of the prophets. In actuality, “forgiveness” is relatively rare in prophetic preaching. Passages like Isa. 33:24; Jer. 31:34; 36:3; Amos 7:2 are powerful simply because they are not common. However, in the Mosaic law, a major part of the sacrificial system is designed for the forgiveness of sins, and in the psalms “forgiveness” appears frequently as a statement of what God has done or is petitioned to do. The major point in this verse, however, is that the forgiveness of God that had been given to the people of Israel now extends to “everyone who believes in him.”

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Isaiah 65:17-25
God promises a new creation that will change all things into their opposites and thus establish the original intentions of God for creation.

Context
Dating the passage or, for that matter, any of the material surrounding this pericope is difficult indeed.  What is clear is that the return from the exile in Babylon did not establish the Reign of God as Second Isaiah had prophesied, and so the vision for the Reign of God to come was still the major source of hope for the people of God.

Key Words
V. 17.  kî-hinnî bôrē’ šāmayim chadāšîm wā’ārets chadāšâ = “For lo, I am creating new heavens and a new earth”:  The terminology is the same as that of Genesis 1:1, except, of course, for the “new” and the verb tense.

V. 20.  kî hanna‘ar ben-mē‘â yāmût = “for a young lad shall die at the age of a hundred”:  While the message is good news compared to early deaths, this new creation does not promise eternal life nor does it even reach the limit announced by God at Genesis 6:3.

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1 Corinthians 15:19-28
Having been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ is the first to experience the resurrection promised to all.

Context
Paul had indicated at the beginning of this chapter that the gospel he had delivered to the Corinthians was not his own invention but one which had been given him (see also 11:23-26). That gospel consisted of the vicarious death of Christ, his burial, and his resurrection appearances to Peter first, then to the twelve, then to five hundred people, and finally to Paul himself (vv. 3-11). The witnesses attest to the resurrection, a testimony so strong that Paul cannot comprehend how some of the Corinthian Christians contend there is no resurrection (v. 12).  Paul sets the matter straight: If there is no resurrection, then faith is useless and forgiveness of sins has not been attained (vv. 13-18). Now he deals with the “fact” of Christ’s resurrection as the beginning of the eschatological hope for all who believe.

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Luke 24:1-12
God calls us to repeat from one to another the message of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, as Jesus himself told of it prior to his death.

Context
Because of the beginning of Sabbath at sunset on Friday, the women could do no more than observe where his body was laid out in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. They prepared the spices and ointments for anointing, and then rested according to Sabbath requirements.

Key Words
V. 4.  astraptousē = “dazzling”:  The verb form of this word appears in the account of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:29).  Note also the two men in white robes at the Ascension (Acts 1:10).

V. 7.  dei = “it is necessary”: The word of necessity is common in Luke:  2:49; 4:43; 9:22; 13:16, 33; 17:25; 19:5; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44. All the passages tell of the necessity of fulfilling the mission of God.

V. 7. huios tou anthrōpou = “Son of Man”:  Elsewhere in Luke the title describes Jesus’ earthly ministry: 5:24; 6:5, 22; 7:34; 9:58; 11:30; 12:8, 10; 19:10; 22:48; suffering and death:  9:22, 44; 18:31; 22:22; the Parousia: 9:26; 12:40; 17:22, 24, 26, 30; 18:8; 21:27, 36; 22:69.

V. 11. kai ephanēsan enōpion autōn hōsei lēros ta hrēmata tauta, kai ēpistoun autais = “But these words appeared to them to be an idle tale, and they disbelieved them”: The word lēros appears only here in the Greek NT, but disbelief is another matter. Disbelief is also the response of Jacob when his sons returned from Egypt with their report that “Joseph is still alive” (Gen. 45:26). When the sons reported his words and showed him the wagons of gifts, then Jacob believed that “Joseph my son is still alive.” As for the disciples of Jesus, they also disbelieved when the Risen Christ appeared to them at 25:41, but there their response is attributed to joy.

Wrestling with the Word, episode 16: The Resurrection of our Lord, Year B (April 12, 2009) March 23, 2009

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The Resurrection of our Lord

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The words express the way Christians greet one another on this Easter Day. However, much more than a greeting, the words define our faith and what it means to be Christians. Paul wrote, “… if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain” (1 Cor. 15:14). Everything depends on the truth of what God accomplished this day. At the heart of the matter is the trustworthiness of God and God’s ability to accomplish whatever God promises. In the resurrection of Jesus and in God’s word of promise that we will join Christ and one another, we find comfort and a future with hope. That joining begins even here and now as we eat and drink together in Jesus’ presence as a community of faith. This community consists of all people who believe in Jesus, confess his name, and go into the world as witnesses to what God has done.

Download or listen to Wrestling with the Word, episode 16: The Resurrection of our Lord, Year B.

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Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Use in Judaism
This psalm is the last of six Hallel psalms (113-118) used as part of the liturgy for autumn feasts and Passover (see Mark 14:26: “and when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”).

Form: Individual Song of Thanksgiving
The psalm is one of praise and thanksgiving to God after deliverance from a life-threatening situation. The tone of thanksgiving sounds clearly right at the outset. That both a lament and the Lord’s answer has preceded the thanksgiving is stated at v. 5. The answer from the Lord appears again in our verses at v. 21. The description of the distress that pits the “nations” against Israel is understandable from the perspective of Passover but it runs counter to the other lessons for this day (see vv. 10-13). The attention of the verses selected for us is focused on the celebration of thanksgiving following the deliverance (vv. 14-29). Of particular significance for Easter are the words of vs. 17: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.” Then, of course, is the resounding announcement, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Use in New Testament
V. 6. “With the Lord on/at my side, I will not be afraid. What can mortals do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)
V. 18. “The Lord has punished me severely, but he did not give me over to death” (2 Cor. 6:9)
Vss. 22-23. “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes…” (Matt. 21:42//Mark 12:10-11//Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11-12; 1 Peter 2:7)
V. 24. “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Rev 19:7)
VV. 25-27. “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord” (Matt. 21:9//Mark 11:9-10//Luke 19:38//John 12:13; also Matt. 23:39//Luke 13:35)

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Isaiah 25:6-9
Against all the hunger, suffering, death, and mourning of the present age, God promises in the kingdom to come a banquet and the end of death itself, in response to which the people of God rejoice.

Context
The so-called Apocalypse of Isaiah begins at 24:1 and continues through chapter 27. Because of the apocalyptic themes, it appears to be the latest section of the Book of Isaiah. The heavenly battle occurs in 24:21-23, and the victory of YHWH over the heavenly and earthly foes leads to the Lord’s enthronement on Mount Zion. Such a sequence of victory–reign–feast is common in the mythology of the Babylonians and the Canaanites.

Key Words
V. 6. we‘āsā YHWH tsebā’ōt lekol-hā‘ammîm bāhār hazzeh mištēh = “And on this mountain the Lord of Hosts will make for all peoples a feast”: In the Canaanite religion Mount Zaphon was the place of the banquet for 70 gods and goddesses that celebrated the victory of Baal over the chaos of the Sea. The mountain of God’s holiness serves as the scene for banquets throughout Israel’s history. Mount Sinai/Horeb is the scene where Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders of Israel “ate and drank” (Exod. 24:9-11). Mount Zion, the home of the temple, is the place where the people of Israel offered sacrifices and “ate and drank” together (Deut.12:18; Ps. 22:26; 116:13, 17). The banquet of the Day of the Lord will be open not only to Israel but also to “all peoples.”

V. 7. billa‘ hammāvet lānetsach = “he will swallow up death forever”: In the Canaanite poetry, Death (the god Mot) “swallows up” the fertility god Baal. In this prophecy, the Lord will have Death for dinner—as the entree.

V. 8. kî YHWH dibbēr = “for the Lord has spoken”: The words of this promise can be believed because the word of the accomplishes what it promises.

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Acts 10:34-43
Since God shows no partiality, God sent Peter—one of those who ate and drank with Jesus after his resurrection–to announce to Gentiles that God’s acts in Jesus’ ministry of preaching, teaching, healing right up to his death and resurrection—result in forgiveness of sins for everyone who believes in him.

Context
God had brought together two quite different men for the purpose of spreading the good news about Jesus. Cornelius was a centurion of the Italian Cohort. Peter was a Galilean fisherman who spent the previous years as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. God spoke to each of them in visions. In addressing Cornelius, the angel of God told the man about Peter who was staying in Joppa. In a vision to Peter, God taught the apostle that the line between clean and unclean has been erased. That led to Peter’s trip to Caesarea where he preached the sermon to Cornelius and his household. Thus begins the witnessing to the gospel to the ends of the earth (Acts 10:1—28:28)

Key Words
V. 35 all’ en panti ethnei ho phoboumenos auton kai ergazomenos diaiosynēn dektos autō estin = “but in every nation anyone who fears him (God) and works righteousness is acceptable to him”: The universal nature of Peter’s sermon occurs also at v. 36 “Jesus Christ—he is the Lord of all”; v. 38 “healing all that were oppressed by the devil”; v. 39 “we are witnesses to all”; v. 42 “judge of the living and the dead”; v. 43 “everyone who believes in him.”

V. 43. toutō pantes hoi prophētai martyrousin aphesin hamartiōn labein dia tou onomatos autou panta ton pisteuonta eis auton = “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives the forgiveness of sins through his name”: Peter demonstrates that God has been in the forgiveness business for the people of Israel through the preaching of the prophets. In actuality, “forgiveness” is relatively rare in prophetic preaching. Passages like Isa. 33:24; Jer. 31:34; 36:3; Amos 7:2 are powerful simply because they are not common. However, in the Mosaic law, a major part of the sacrificial system is designed for the forgiveness of sins, and in the psalms “forgiveness” appears frequently as a statement of what God has done or is petitioned to do. The major point in this verse, however, is that the forgiveness of God that had been given to the people of Israel now extends to “everyone who believes in him.”

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1 Corinthians 15:1-11
God (through the Risen Christ, the Spirit, the apostles) delivered to Paul the content of the Christian faith, the message about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and this is the tradition that Paul transmits to the Christians in Corinth and to us.

Context
Paul moves rather abruptly from the discussion about prophecy and speaking in tongues in chapter 14 to a profound discussion of the resurrection from the dead. These verses provide the background for the following presentation on the resurrection of the dead as essential to the faith.

Key Words
V. 1. parelabete = “you received”: The verb tense indicates they received this message over a period of time. In v. 3 Paul indicates that he himself received the gospel tradition but not its source; at 11:23 he reports that he received from the Risen Lord the tradition of the Lord’s Supper.

V. 3. apethanen huper tōn hamartiōn hēmōn = “he died for our sins”: reference to the Suffering Servant at Isa. 53:5, 8 (LXX).

V. 4. tē hēmera tē tritē kata tas graphas = “on the third day according to the scriptures”: The expression is identical to Hos. 6:2, the only reference in the OT to a resurrection from the dead on the third day.

V. 5. ōphthē = “he appeared”: The term is used for post-resurrection appearances; cf. Luke 24:34 (to Simon); Acts 9:17 (to Paul); 13:31 (to the apostles who became witnesses); 26:16 (to Paul).

V. 8. tō ektrōmati = “as to a miscarriage”: The word in LXX refers to a premature birth (Num.12:12; Job 3:16; Eccles. 6:3).

V. 10. chariti de theou eimi ho eimi = “But by the grace of God, I am what I am”: God’s grace defines Paul and assigns him the commission to preach what he had received, namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ. The expression is similar to but not identical to God’s definition of self to Moses, “I am who I am” (egō eimi ho ōn) at Exod. 3:14.

V. 11. houtōs episteusate = “you believed”: aorist tense, that is, a spontaneous act.

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Mark 16:1-8
In confronting us, the Risen Christ calls us to respond to the miracle of his resurrection with fear and trembling, even ecstasy.
OR
Jesus affirms his divine authority by fulfilling the promise he had made earlier, namely, his resurrection and his reunion with the disciples in Galilee.

Context
The story of the crucifixion of Christ (15:21-39) is followed by the request of Joseph of Arimathea for the body of Jesus so that proper burial could occur in Joseph’s tomb (15:42-47). Singled out as knowledgeable about the location of Jesus’ body are Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses.

The details of the Easter story are sufficiently different in each of the four Gospels that it impossible to determine exactly what occurred. Each account is an expression of faith rather than a historical record, and so each account takes on the living faith of the evangelist and/or the community in which the evangelist lived. What stands out as consistent, however, is Mary Magdalene, the empty tomb, and the time as Sunday morning.

Key Words
V. 1. hēgorasan arōmata hina elthousai aleipsōsin = “bought spices so that they would go to anoint him”: Their mission was not possible because the tomb was already empty, but the unnamed woman in the home of Simon the leper had already anointed Jesus’ body for burying (14:3-9).

Vss. 1- 2. Kai diagenomenou tou sabbatoukai lian prōi tē mia tōn sabbatōn = “And when the sabbath was over … and very early on the first day of the week” The timing of the resurrection has resulted in the church’s assertion that the first day of the week is set over the sabbath as the day to celebrate God’s mighty act.

V. 6. Iēsoun zēteite ton Nazarēnon ton estaurōmenon ēgerthē = “you seek Jesus the crucified Nazarene; he has risen”: Jesus had predicted his suffering, death, and resurrection at 8:31; 9:9-11, 31; 10:33-34. The “young man” announced to the women that what Jesus had been telling the disciples had come to pass, that is, he had spoken with the authority of God. (Recall the discussion of Isaiah 25:8: “for the Lord has spoken.”

V. 7. ekei auton opsesthe, kathōs eipen hymin = “there (in Galilee) you will see him, just as he told you”: This conclusion to the messenger’s report further confirms that Jesus had spoken with the authority of God, that is, his word effected what he promised. Strikingly, we have no record in Mark’s Gospel of Jesus’ words concerning a reunion in Galilee.

V. 8. tromos kai ekstasis … ephobounto gar = “trembling and ecstasy … for they were afraid”: “The words “fear” and “trembling” appear together at 1 Cor. 2:3 as Paul’s style of ministry; at 2 Cor. 7:13 for the Corinthians’ reception of Titus; at Eph. 6:5 for the attitude of slaves toward their owners; and at Phil. 2:12 for the attitude in which to work out “your own salvation.” As for ekstasis, the word occurs at Mark 8:23 to describe the crowd’s response to Jesus raising from the dead the synagogue leader’s daughter. At Luke 5:26 the crowd is ecstatic over the healing/forgiving of the paralytic man. Likewise, at Acts 3:10 the word describes the crowd’s “astonishment” when Peter heals the man “lame from birth.” On the other side, at Acts 10:10 and 11:5, the word describes the “trance” that came upon Peter to make him receptive to the vision, at 22:17 Paul uses the same word for the “trance” in which Jesus warned him to leave Jerusalem.