Resurrection reality

April 5th, 2021

John 20:19-31

Do you remember how Walter Cronkite used to close his broadcast by saying, “And that’s the way it is”? Such is a world vision that reflects the painfulness of reality. It is an echoing of the somber words of agnostic Bertrand Russell: “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark.”

Life on Easter evening for the disciples opens in a somber, fearful mood. John reports, “When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews.” Huddled behind locked doors, the followers of Jesus are struggling with the reality of the resurrection.

Today, we struggle with reality. In fact one of the biggest venues on television is the genre of so-called reality TV. I’ve got this great idea for reality TV. It would be the ultimate survivor show. Take a guy who is obviously a religious fanatic. So much so that he believes he’s the messiah, the savior of the world. Then you could have authorities who are out to get him. Let’s say they succeed and put him to death. But how’s this? He rises from the dead after three days. Now that is a survivor! His reality changes our reality. He didn’t just survive. He triumphed! Now that is real reality, resurrection reality. It is way beyond the survivor. Now comes the really great part; you can be a part of the show.

Resurrection reality takes us way beyond the survivor. “Peace be with you,” the Savior said. Jesus offers reality that is so much better than just struggling to survive. In resurrection reality, our Lord and Savior offers a spiritual peace that triumphs in the midst of the raging storms of modern living. Reality TV says that the purpose of life is to claw your way ahead, to do everything you possibly can to make money, to win in the end, to survive by being number one regardless of what happens to others. Resurrection reality with Jesus offers a purpose that is far beyond just looking out for number one or just advancing your career or just earning money.

Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Resurrection reality is about living your life to the mighty purposes of God. It is about advancing the kingdom of God through evangelistic witness and the deeds of love and mercy.

Reality television is about living life for insignificant goals. Resurrection reality is about the opposite—living life for the greatest goal of all, the advancement of God’s kingdom here on earth, the sharing of the gospel of Jesus Christ by words and deeds. To what purpose are you living? Is it reality TV or resurrection reality?

One thing that strikes me is how powerless reality TV seems to be. People work hard to survive, but only one makes it. You can be voted off the island through no fault of your own. The only energy you have is your own energy; and when that is spent, when you’ve reached the end of your rope, you are out of luck.

Resurrection reality is just the opposite. It is not all up to you. Jesus “breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’ ”

Many of us live with the functional atheism of reality TV. Resurrection reality is completely contrary to that. It is living in the conviction that God is not asleep or in a coma but will act with you and through you, empowering you to accomplish the impossible for God’s kingdom. We are not alone. God is with us, in history and in our lives, transforming them with a resurrection reality. “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Which do you choose? Will you live on your own power, exhausted and struggling, or will you open yourself to the mighty power of God?

Peace, purpose, power—three things we all desperately need. TV reality offers no peace, only the running of the rat race. It offers no purpose beyond the accumulation of money, place, or pleasure. It offers no power beyond your own limited resources. Resurrection reality offers peace for a purpose with power. It breaks through locked doors and banishes fear. This can be yours. You won’t be voted off the island but rather have reality shaped day by day and moment by moment through the risen Lord and Savior who, in the power of the Holy Spirit, stands in our midst this hour.

"Resurrection Reality" originally appeared in The Abingdon Preaching Annual.

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