Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Resurrection is a Hermeneutic: Preliminary Preaching Notes for Easter

So here is the general direction I'll be going for the Easter sermon. Notice that in the resurrection narrative in Luke, the men in dazzling clothes at the tomb say, "Remember how [Jesus] told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." Then it says, "THEN they remembered his words." (24:7-8)

Apparently Jesus' own preaching about his resurrection is forgotten until it is heard again post-resurrection.

But that's not all. Luke keeps going with this kind of theme throughout the rest of his gospel. So on the walk to Emmaus, Jesus says to Cleopas, "Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?" "THEN begining with Moses and all the prophets he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures (24:27).

When the disciples finally recognize him and have a conversation about it, they equate having their hearts burning inside them with Jesus opening the scriptures to them, as if these were basically the same thing (24:32).

Getting the point yet? If not, Luke does it again when Jesus appears to even more disciples. "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you--that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled." "THEN he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. Thus it is written that..." (24:44-45).

A great preaching theme for Easter, and the one I will be running with in some way, is the theme of the resurrection opening the eyes of the disciples to a new way of reading Scripture. In point of fact, even when Jesus preached about his own resurrection prior to his death and resurrection, the disciples were unable to understand or even remember it, apparently because they had a different interpretive lens operating that expected something different of the Messiah based on their (now obviously insufficient) reading of scripture.

The resurrection is a hermeneutic.

It is a hermeneutic in the sense that it helped the disciples understand Jesus' own pre-resurrection life more clearly, but it also sends them back to the scriptures (and in fact Jesus in his post-resurrection appearances TAKES them back) to read differently.

Might it be the case that a major barrier to believing the resurrection is not lack of reading the scripture, but mis-reading scripture, or reading the wrong scriptures?

And we can move beyond a text-based sense of this (although sticking to texts is important) and ask how we are blind and forgetful until Jesus, Son of God, the New Hermeneut, helps us read better. And specifically how he teaches us to read is to read him as the fulfillment of the scriptures. It was necessary... and you are witnesses.

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