J. L. Moseman
At the beginning of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings we see the Shire in an uproar over the disappearance of Bilbo Baggins. This, of course, is for a good reason. Baggins does do something quite bold: He uses he One Ring to vanish in front of all his guests at his birthday party. This is why the first chapter of the book is called "An Unexpected Party." It would be quite a feat to see someone do that and I think this is why it there was so much uproar in first century Jerusalem. The body of Jesus had disappeared and people wanted to know why. After all, this was a person who became famous doing miracles and for those paying attention He was also making bold claims. As fantastic as it would be to see someone disappear we can only imagine how much greater it would be to see someone reappear. Imagine the amazement the first witnesses of Jesus's resurrection: the women at the tomb. As a child I often wondered what my reaction would have been if I had been there. I thought about how incredible it would have been to see the risen Christ on Easter. What I did not know then, was that one day I would. In fact, ever since my first communion twenty years ago I have been coming to the risen Christ and every time it has been on Easter.Every Sunday when we partake in the Body and Blood of Christ we are celebrating Easter. We know this because as Lutherans we believe in the Real Presence. That means we do encounter the risen Jesus. It's not just that we actually take and eat the risen Jesus. The Lord's Supper is a celebration of Easter--a feast given to us for the remission of our sins. So in other words, it is a party where all the saints gather and for a brief minute we encounter heaven. We get to be renewed by the Holy Spirit and we get something unexpected and undeserved: We get salvation through Christ. How do we know this? A good answer for this question is found in Luke 22, in the Words of Institution. We also see it in the Gospel of John when Jesus tells us that He is "The Bread of Life". Yet we all so often forget this or worse we start trying to reason this amazing gift away. The Lord's Supper is an unexpected party because reason would tell us that a dead man from 2,000 years ago can't be found in bread and wine. Perhaps this is what G.K. Chesterton meant when he wrote in his book What's Wrong with the World, "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."
It is indeed difficult to reason such things, but the empty tomb and the risen Christ are more than mere symbol or allegory. The resurrection was a real historical event that impacts us. It is the cornerstone of our faith and it is perhaps a reason to why people struggle with their faith especially in the college years. It is an unexpected climax to an unexpected story. It is though, more than a story--it is the truth. God Incarnate came down and died for our sins. That is something remarkable and unexpected. It is also unexpected that Christ the King would come to serve us rather than being served. This though is all true and while we might struggle in understanding how all the mysteries of God work, that knowledge only comes through the Holy Spirit.
But there are doubters when it comes to the Easter party. The first doubter says that there was no real bodily resurrection. The other doubter says that Easter is really not happening in the Lord's Supper. On one side we have amazing miracles and events that seem like they might come from a Tolkien book. The secular skeptic says that the resurrection did not occur despite what we know of that event. In some ways this easier to combat. The other side is not as overt and harder to detect; it is often said often by well-intentioned Christians. At times it might seem that we cling to a very controversial doctrine as Lutherans--that Jesus gives Himself to us and we do nothing to receive Him. Some of our Christian brothers and sisters might ask us questions like, "Does Christ really forgive us in the sacraments?" or "Are we really unable to merit life and salvation from God apart from the free gift of grace?" These questions can do as much damage to the faith as those of the secular skeptic. However, it is important that we never fail to uphold both of these doctrines: the resurrection of Christ and His Body and Blood given to us for the forgiveness of sin. Thankfully, along with that unexpected gift of salvation, there is also the gift of faith which we receive in our Easter feast. So take heart my brothers and sisters, especially those of you who are struggling. Christ has risen and He did it for you.
J.L. Moseman lives in Grand Junction, Colorado and is a member of Messiah Lutheran Church and School.
Created: March 28th, 2016