“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.”
Paul’s description of his own personal experience of the resurrection reveal the most surprising grace of all. How did others experience the risen Christ — and the ultimate expression of Grace?
The Resurrection of Jesus was experienced in many different ways. There was the discovery of the empty tomb, mentioned in the gospels, but that didn’t convince anyone. When the women discovered the empty tomb, they assumed the body had been stolen. It wasn’t until Jesus spoke Mary’s name that she experienced resurrection. The disciples thought the report of resurrection was “an idle tale,” until they experienced the Risen Christ in their midst. Thomas didn’t believe it until he himself experienced the Risen Christ a week later. For Paul, who never knew Jesus during his ministry, he experienced the Risen Christ in a dramatic flash of light and an auditory vision on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-5). In 1 Corinthians 15:5-8 Paul refers to some other experiences of the resurrected Christ: “He appeared to Cephas (Simon Peter), then to the Twelve, and then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at once — most of them are still alive to this day, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me, as if I were born at the wrong time.” Up until a certain defining moment for each of them, it was idle talk — and then each experienced the risen Christ in his or her own way.
The point of telling all these different stories, it seems, is to portray how everyone is different in how they experience the risen Christ. For the community of faith, this experience is part of being the body of Christ — and sharing it is what draws us together as a community of faith.
The truth that this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of experience really reveals the power of this ultimate act of grace. Every year on Easter Sunday we each leave our worship experience with a new layer to our own exploration of this very personal experience of the risen Christ.
Far beyond being just a 2000-year-old news event to remember and celebrate, the Easter story is a living experience that continues to bring this ultimate grace into the lives of those who are open to receiving — and embracing — the presence of Christ in their lives. As we approach this celebration of Easter, it is important to ask: What does the grace of the resurrection of Jesus mean to me today? What does the presence of the risen Christ mean for my life? What can it mean?
The grace of the Resurrection can mean a lot of different things — and be experienced in a lot of different ways. That’s what makes it both communal and personal. I look forward to exploring with you all the ways in which we experience the grace of resurrection and what that can mean in each of our lives this Sunday. Our Easter celebrations in Sanctuary worship are at 8:00, 9:30, and 11:00 am.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster