It is Easter. Resurrection is still going on! Another resurrection happened up at Joppa.
In scenes reminiscent of many ‘raisings’ we hear of in the Bible, we now get to the 8th individual we know of (in the bible) who was raised from the dead.
There was the raising of;
- the Widow at Zeraphath’s son by Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24),
- the child of the couple from Shunum (2 Kings 4:18-37),
- an interesting raising of an Israelite man not by anyone in particular except by the touching of the now deceased himself, Elisha (2 Kings 13:20-31),
- the son of the widow who lived in Nain (Luke 7:11-17) by Jesus,
- the daughter of a Jewish community leader, Jairus (Luke 8:49-56), by Jesus,
- the close friend, Lazarus (John 11:1-14), by Jesus,
- Jesus’ own glorious resurrection from death on Easter morn (Matthew 28:1-20) along with an unknown number of already at rest loved people of God who were raised with Jesus that day (Matthew 27:50-54).
This resurrection up in Joppa is not the last. There is one more to come. That is the guy named Eutychus up in Troas at the hands of Paul (Acts 20:7-12).
God seems very able to raise people from the dead!
God might be able to raise dead people, but we know we can’t raise people or ourselves. We know that we won’t escape death. I guess that is why this day up in Joppa, resurrection was such big news.
But friends, even though we know these accounts and we confess faith in a man who claimed to be the Son of God himself who predicted his own death and his rising from death and actually pulled it off in our human history in real time with hundreds of first-hand witnesses to it, we are just not used to people being raised from the dead.
The news of resurrection can seem something that is ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’.
I guess it is because we still live with death. We see it all the time. We see a lot of death here in our community – sometimes expected, sometimes tragically unexpected and traumatic, always difficult and painful.
We have lost many in our own family and among friends and associates and from this, our home faith community. This will continue. One day death will be a journey I will take, and so will you. We all instinctively know this.
Sometimes we are scared by this. Fair enough. Sometimes we are not scared of death because of our faith in this Jesus and his resurrection and his ability to raise dead people, and therefore, us from our graves. I suspect we Christians all waver between fear and faith.
And then we hear the accounts of Tabitha and others from the Apostles and prophets and wonder, what it all means for us now. What about us and what about me and what about now and what about all the people we know who are still pretty much dead to this Jesus and his victory and this movement of his Spirit moving here?
And how does this new life from old come to us? How do we experience this new life that Tabitha was given? How do we pray like Peter?!
Maybe all we can do is just wait for some experience of the risen Jesus. Maybe we just have to take our chances that one day we will be in a room somewhere when someone like Tabitha is raised, or we will be driving on the road to somewhere and be blinded by the light and hear Jesus’ voice, like Paul did, or touch the bones of some holy person or kiss a relic or visit a holy place and be raised to new faith; new heights? Is that how we get faith and joy and confidence and courage and everything else we would like to have?
Everything in the New Testament says, ‘No’! Resurrection is not chance or something from a sci-fi movie that has nothing to do with how you live and breathe today. Resurrection is our now; our living and breathing now.
We don’t need to wait for some super spiritual experience to fall upon our resistant children or unknowing grandchildren or neighbours or ourselves to live as raised people now.
We have it here in this account and in the whole account of God moving in the world from the beginning to Easter Day and to now.
We already have trustworthy eye-witness accounts of this great resurrection event of this great human Son of God and this movement his resurrection begun that is still moving by his Spirit in our time.
We have all three things needed for the freedom and joy of living in this Saviour’s victory over our death and the love and courage it brings to living.
- The empty tomb
- The many sightings
- The changed lives of Peter and the others and Tabitha and……
I know that so many will not believe this empty tomb, these many sightings, these first-hand witnesses and the many changed lives since.
Some people are very much of the view that Jesus was a possibly a noble person, but who was either unhinged, deluded or an unbalanced person who met a tragic end.
Others take a very hard line and charge him and people like Peter and Tabitha and Luke who tells us about them with being complete liars who need to be called out and cancelled.
Bu, I wonder if it is more the case among your circle of people that Jesus is not a lunatic or a liar but a peace-loving good man who we should listen to. He should be one of many good people we should listen to in order to imitate his goodness. We should listen to him to find motivation to do good, find wisdom enough to be kind and etc… and therefore be better, progress somewhere good….
Jesus is a sage or Ghandi kind of figure. This sounds all very nice. But it isn’t. In this belief, Jesus is diminished to nothing that he actually is or that really counts.
See, if Jesus ‘fulfils you” then, good for you. But don’t tell me he is anything more than a good person or possibly a ‘personal Saviour for you’ if you think you need a Saviour, because I don’t.
But as Peter, Tabitha and the widows found out this day in Joppa, Jesus will not remain in that box. He is not dead to you!
Peter did not raise Tabitha. No human being can raise a dead person to a whole new life. This is Jesus’ work. This is his Spirit doing the heavy lifting.
And this raising is not private but public. Tabitha is raised and then she is publicly shown. The whole region hears of this.
This is no toothless nice Jesus reduced to a sage whom we should imitate. This is the once dead man raised storming into a dead world and raising the dead to life and then telling everyone about in public view.
And now, as Tabitha took Peter’s hand and got up from that death-bed, the resurrected Jesus extends his hand to you as he jumps out of these pages confronts you with a new life to be had. Resurrection life.
Tabitha and Peter will tell you Jesus not only did good, he is good itself. He is not only good bread, he is bread that fills and lasts. He is not only a healer, he is full and lasting healing beyond tragic or aging death. He not only knows about death. He has killed it and is now life in all our life and far beyond it.
We know that death still exists, for sure, but as Paul puts its so straight