2021-04-11 Easter 2
Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!
In recent times there’s really been a solid influx of pretty darn good Jesus movies and shows. The Chosen comes to mind. But back in 2016, a really cool Easter movie called Risen came out. It was starring Joseph Fiennes who also played Martin Luther in the Luther movie from way back in 2003. Anyways, Risen is all about a fictional character, a Roman Tribune who was the right hand man to Pontius Pilate. Now Pilate was the actual historical guy who sentenced our Lord to be crucified. But this Roman Tribune character, Clavius, in the movie is made up. But this character is brilliant because he is doubt personified. In the film he is given the task of finding out what “really” happened to Jesus’ body. I mean, dead bodies don’t just raise up from the dead! So what was the scientific explanation. Was it what the Jews were saying? - That Jesus’ disciples came and stole His body away from the tomb in the night? Or was it was the disciples were saying? - That Jesus truly had risen from the dead, just like He said He would?!
Clavius, the Roman Tribune character, embodies the doubt that all people have upon hearing of our Lord’s resurrection. We have to admit that it takes faith to believe that Jesus can do the unthinkable - to die on a Roman cross but then rise to life again 3 days later. Many people hear this and think that it’s impossible! It’s just a made up fairy tale! An advertising campaign to sell books! How can it be?! Even Thomas, one of Jesus’ own disciples, His hand-picked, chosen twelve, was in the this camp. He doubted the testimony of the other disciples - that they saw Jesus alive and risen from the dead!
In the Risen movie, the most profound moment, the TSN Turning Point, comes when the Romans are doing door-to-door searches looking for Jesus’ disciples. Clavius, upon seeing Mary Magdalene run into a house, follows after her. He opens the door, sword in hand and scans the room where the disciples were hiding out. Clavius cannot believe his eyes as he comes face to face with the very same man he saw totally dead and crucified on the cross … now very much alive. It doesn’t reconcile in his mind. He stares at Jesus in wide-eyed disbelief, unable to come to terms with the reality that is before him. His same eyes saw Jesus dead on the cross and now they see Him alive in the middle of the room. And, adding to the brilliance of the movie, at that exact time, in runs doubting Thomas. He embraces the Lord and touches the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and the spear mark in Jesus’ side. It’s absolutely brilliant because we have Clavius’ skepticism right beside the once-doubting but now-believing Thomas! The same ladder of faith has been extended down to Clavius in order that he may ascend and believe the truth for himself - that Christ is risen indeed!
But doubting is what people do. Even faithful people like Thomas the disciple who had seen first hand our Lord’s miracles which also defied all logic and reason and His mind-blowing healings, even he doubted. Doubt and skepticism can be an incredibly strong force in our lives. It was St. Augustine who said “It is often the case that a person who experienced a bad doctor is then afraid to trust himself to even a good one!” And from here we find that doubt and skepticism can be an incredibly negative force in our lives, driving away hope and eroding peace.
But what were Jesus’ first words to the disciples when He came into the locked room where they were hiding? “Peace be with you” (JN 20:19). Peace. What an incredible message and Word from God. When the disciples lives were completely turned upside down by our Lord’s death and the darkness of doubt was starting to pull them into the depths of despair, Jesus comes into their midst with a message of peace. This message is a message that the world cannot give. The peace that God gives His people cannot be fabricated by the world. It’s more than a simple well-wish. It’s far better than “good vibes.” It is a promise with assurance. Jesus speaks “Peace be with you” and then shows them His hands and side. He shows them the marks of the Christ, the crucified and risen Lord. He shows them the marks that brought them peace.
This peace with assurance is what God gives His people. It’s a gift that must be received by faith to be sure. But the Christian faith is a faith that comes with an amazing track record. Of course I don’t mean our track record, because our track record isn’t that great. We’re poor miserable sinners after all, falling far short of our Lord’s standards. We’re the doubting Thomases in the room! We’re the skeptical Claviuses in the crowd! But God’s track record is 100% faithfulness to His people. So when God gives us His promise of peace, it’s backed up by thousands of years of grace and mercy, power and protection, hope and healing.
Jesus cleansed lepers, touching the untouchable ones, making the unclean clean. He raised the dead to life saying “Lazarus, come out!” He provided abundant food for crowds of thousands in the middle of nowhere with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish! He calmed the storm. He healed the paralyzed. He gave vision to the eyes of man born blind. He drove out demons. He even healed the severed ear of one of the servants who came to arrest and crucify Him! Over and over and over again, Jesus brings His people peace - a blessed assurance, in troubled times.
What a perfect message for us today. As our world is still in the strangle hold of an invisible enemy. Corona madness is still affecting every waking minute of life. And, the populous is still having a lot of issues with fear and fretting about the future. Uncertainty is rampant. Instability is around us on every side! These are unprecedented times for us and all people the world over!
But in the middle of this utter gong-show, what is our Lord’s Word to us? “Peace be with you.” In the midst of tribulation, we take heart that our victorious Lord of life has conquered death! Take to heart the words that Jesus speaks to Thomas “Do not disbelieve, but believe” (JN 20:27). Believe that our risen Lord will get us through this crazy and uncertain time. Take to heart His assurance, shown by the marks where the nails had been. His track record of faithfulness is rock-solid. Do not be afraid. Do not fear. Be faithful. Be at peace.
There was the story of the wealthy man who commissioned an artist to paint a picture of peace. The artist sat at her canvas and masterfully painted a beautiful country scene with glorious green fields with cows standing in them while bluebirds flew overhead and rested on fence posts. It was serene and peaceful in every way! The artist took the painting to the man and unveiled it for him. The rich man had a look of disappointment on his face upon gazing on the artwork. “This isn’t peace” he said. “Try again.” The artist went home a bit dishevelled from his reaction to her work. But she went to work again, this time coming up with a glorious painting of a mother gently holding a sleeping child in her arms. With warm and loving colour tones, she thought the wealthy man would certainly see peace this time. However, he shook his head at this offering too. The artist went back to her studio in a rage, discouraged and angry. She grabbed vivid blacks and greys and navy blues and threw the paint on the canvas in an unbridled fury of creativity! She took the painting to the wealthy man the next day. He smiled ear to ear, paid the artist handsomely for her work and everyone was happy. What was in her painting of peace? It was an intense painting of an ocean storm smashing into the side of an enormous cliff, waves pounding into the side of the rock. The artist captured the graphic violence of the wind as it whipped black rain clouds, laced with streaks of lightning. The sea was rolling in tempestuous turmoil, waves churning, the dark sky filled with the fullness of a powerful thunderstorm!
And, in the middle of the painting, under a small cleft in the cliff the artist painted a small bird, safe and dry in her nest, nestled safely in the rocks. The bird was at peace in the midst of the storm that raged around her. This, dear friends, is the peace that Christ gives in the midst of the storms of life. Smack dab in the middle of our suffering, pain, doubt and uncertainty, Jesus our Lord proclaims “Peace be with you.” Don’t doubt. Believe. For this is the peace that the world cannot give. Your crucified and risen Lord gives it so graciously to you. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen!