KNOWING THE RISEN CHRIST
JOHN 20:1-18 APRIL 16, 2017
CHILMARK COMMUNITY CHURCH REV. ARMEN HANJIAN
“To know him is to love him.” That truth applies not only to some of our dearest friends. It applies to Jesus Christ.
To know someone is quite an interesting process. You have heard statements such as these: “After 18 years I’m just getting to know my wife. We have been together for 30 years and I still don’t know him.” As soon as I met him I knew him.”
To know someone has to do with:
-being able to predict what she will do in a given situation.
-being aware what that person’s priorities are.
-being aware of his attitude towards himself, life and his place in it, towards others and towards God.
To know someone has to do with being aware of relationship – am I close to him or distant.
The Bible abounds with illustrations related to knowing – be it knowing a truth or knowing a person. In John 20:9 we read, “As yet they did not know the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” Now Jesus had said this to the disciples, but to hear words is not necessarily to know them. Jesus spoke to the woman at the well; then she ran back to her community saying, “Come see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?”
When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do men say I am?” That is, “How do people know me?” Peter responded: some say you are Moses, some say John the Baptist or a prophet. But to him none of these fit. Peter said, “You are the Christ.” In each case, and it seems in most cases, knowing something or someone is not as simple as 1,2,3.
A curious common thread runs thru the narratives describing the appearances of the risen Christ. In each case, no one was expecting a resurrection – no one initially recognized the risen Christ. Even when the tomb was found empty, they did not assume he had risen – only that someone took his body. When Jesus spoke to Mary Magdalene, she didn’t know him. She assumed he was the gardener. When Jesus called her by name – then she knew him.
When the two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and the Lord drew near to them they did not recognize him. It was only later when he broke bread with them in their home that they recognized him, knew him.
On another occasion, Jesus stood on the beach and disciples who were fishing did not know him. Jesus asked if they had caught anything and they answered no. Jesus said try on the right side of the boat. They did and caught a big catch. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved concluded, “It is the Lord.”
I assume your experience is similar to mine; namely, each day I know the people around me a little bit better. To know someone is not the end of a process. I can say “I know that my redeemer liveth,” because I know I have had parts of my life redeemed, but I’m sure there is more redeeming to do, thus there is more for me to know about my Lord. “I have been redeemed, I am being redeemed and I shall be redeemed”, all can be said. Likewise, I can say, I knew him, I know him now, and I shall know more of him.
How do we know people? That can give us a few clues to knowing the risen Christ. We know them as we love them, as we are open to them, as we take in their love. We know them as we work with them – not just sharing the fellowship, but as we yoke together there are times when our power is needed and there times when the other’s power is more needed.
We know people and we know the risen Christ as we share pain, concerns and joys.
When you get down to it, how do I know anything? Recall the line of the song, “How do I know? The Bible tells me so.” One way of knowing is by what others tell us. It is an avenue of truth but we have also received some misinformation from others too. A second avenue of knowing is thru our reasoning minds. Occasionally we come to some wrong conclusions because of mistaken or partial information coming into our brain.
So take the resurrection of Christ. Certainly the Bible and others have said it is so. Our reason gives us mix signals regarding it. On the one hand we have not seen or experienced anyone come back to life – how does a heart stop and start again? On the other hand, how could a church last for 20 centuries on only a wish that there might be a resurrection?
-How come the Sabbath day was changed to Sunday?
-How come so many have and still do commit their time and money and energy, their lives to that affirmation?
-How come the New Testament was written?
-How come all of Jesus teachings ring true to life?
All we can do with reason is what St. Paul did with it. He made plain to himself and others (slowly), “now we know in part.”
History and reason can only confirm and point us in this direction or that. The real knowing of a person or a truth comes from our own experience. You and I can only affirm Christ is risen in a way that is full of power when Christ is alive and operative in us. “Christmas is God in Christ. Easter is Christ in us.” (repeat)
As St. Paul said, If Christ is not risen then our faith is in vain. Both history and reason invite us to test the hypothesis that God is, that God cares about us, that God has given us the freedom to choose closeness with God and that closeness comes as we surrender and let the risen Christ come alive in us.
Those who have basically surrendered to Christ, and I count myself among them, have found:
-peace with the universe – not a false escape from life but a harmony of faith and work.
-an inner guidance system that is reliable.
-energy sufficient for life’s loads.
-love as the operative principle of life.
The only way you can more fully know the risen Christ is to surrender your heart to him. Say with John Wesley:
“I am no longer my own but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee; let me be full, let me be empty; let me have all things, let me have nothing; I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal…Thou art mine and I am thine.”
As the days go by we can know for our selves better and we can affirm with his disciples thru the centuries: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” We can affirm: “Because he lives I too shall live.”
Resurrection will not be merely a symbol of activity. Years ago I saw a sign in the offices of the Board of Global Ministries. It said, “Resurrection. Anyone who does not believe in the dead coming to life should be here at quitting time.”
Instead, resurrection can mean for us: initially a bold assurance. We can follow in the same tradition of Jesus. Virgil Kraft noted his incredible audacity:
“He addressed the Creator of the universe
He nicknamed a flabby fisherman
He called the rabble in the streets
He called the hated Samaritans
The incredible audacity of this man!”
We too can have such boldness.. Initially a bold assurance and eventually a growing relationship with God and God’s children in a love that knows no limitation in this life or the life to come.
“To know him is to love him. To love him is to serve him.”
Christ the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!