Seward United Methodist Church
Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Seeing the Resurrection

John 20:1-18
            In John’s telling of the resurrection, he is very intentional about his choice of words. In verses 5 to 8, when Peter and “the other disciple,” John himself, arrive at the empty tomb, there are three different Greek words to describe them looking at the empty tomb.
            Mary Magdalene and the other women followers had gone there at first light to prepare Jesus’ body for burial, something that was not done properly at his hasty burial on Friday evening, and which could not have been done during the Sabbath. They find the tomb empty, and they return to tell the other disciples.
            Both Peter and John run to the tomb to see. John, probably the youngest of the disciples, gets their ahead of Peter, who, as the leader of the Twelve, may have been the oldest of them. John looks into the tomb, but he doesn’t yet go in. Maybe he was afraid to, or maybe it was just out of respect for his elder. 
            When John looks into the empty tomb, the Greek word used there is BLEPO. BLEPO is the most basic word in Greek for seeing or looking. It’s a literal word. It means to look with your eyes, and nothing more. John looks in. He sees what’s in there. But that’s it. So far there is no kind of evaluation. The tomb is empty, but there is no speculation yet on what that might mean.
            Then Peter arrives and true to his nature, he just goes right in. Peter was an act first and think later kind of guy. Inside the tomb, he observes what’s there. The Greek word used here is THEOREO. It’s the same word that comes into English with our word theory. What is a theory? Well, a theory is a supposition based on observation. Newton observed the motion of the planets and the motion of an apple falling from a tree, and he supposed a theory about gravity. He came up with an explanation. 
In the same way, Peter came up with an explanation for the empty tomb and the grave clothes out of which Jesus seems to have just vanished. He didn’t just look at them. He looked at them thoughtfully. He observed what could be seen and he thought about what it might mean. 
            The only shame of it is that we are not told what he thought. 
            And finally, John went in. He saw and believed. This time it’s a third Greek word for seeing. This word is HORAO. HORAO is seeing with understanding. It’s the least literal of these three words. It’s the revelation kind of seeing, the epiphany kind of seeing. It’s the “Aha!” moment! “Now I understand!” 
            John is telling us that at the moment when he went into the tomb and saw the empty grave clothes, somehow the words of Jesus came back to him, and he saw, and he understood, and he believed. And from that moment on, nothing in his life was the same.
            How do we see the resurrection? 
            For many people, it’s just a day on the calendar. “This Sunday is Easter.” “What’s Easter. Well, Christians believe that there was a man named Jesus. And he was the Son of God. And he died, and he rose from the dead. And Easter is the day when they remember his resurrection from the dead.” “Oh, okay. What’s for lunch?” “Ham.” The news will probably have a few stories today about Easter. They’ll stand out in front of a church as people are leaving. Someone will probably have something to say about what the Pope did or said today. And for many people around the world and in our community, that’s all they’ll see today. Easter is bunny rabbits, egg hunts, chocolate, and oh, yeah, some people go to church.
            Some see the resurrection as a historical curiosity. There was a man named Jesus. He died by crucifixion. His followers said he rose from the dead. No one was able to produce a body to put the story to rest. Numerous theories have been proposed to explain these claims: A stolen body, the wrong victim, the wrong tomb, mass hallucination, or even that Jesus never died at all. Easter is a curiosity, a strange moment in time, about which people speculate.
            But for others, the resurrection is a life-changing event. When you have a HORAO moment, nothing is ever the same again. If Jesus died and rose from the dead, that is truly unique. It has never happened any other time in a verifiable manner. Certainly there are legends of people rising from the dead, but there are no historically credible stories of resurrection, other than Jesus.
            Can it be doubted?  Certainly. There does have to be some faith involved in believing in the resurrection. But if it’s true, if Jesus died and rose from the dead, if his most famous prediction came true, then there is good reason to believe that all his claims are also true. “The Father and I are one. No one comes to the Father except through me. I have come that you might have life in all its abundance.” 
            But it all starts with one question: How do you see the resurrection? 

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