I Deny the Resurrection

Pastor Joe Skogmo

St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Lowry, MN

Easter 3 | 05.05.2019 | John 21:1-17

Somebody said to me… ‘Do you deny the resurrection [of Jesus]?’ I went, ‘Okay, this is time to fess up. Yes…I do. Of course, I do. I do deny the resurrection!…EVERY TIME I DO NOT SERVE MY NEIGHBOR, EVERY TIME I WALK AWAY FROM PEOPLE WHO ARE POOR. I DENY THE RESSURECTION EVERY TIME I PARTICIPATE IN AN UNJUST SYSTEM!…

….and I affirm the resurrection every now and again…when I stand up for those who are on their knees. I affirm the resurrection when I cry out for those people who have had their tongues torn out, when I weep for those people who have no more tears to shed.[1]

It is then that the resurrection is expressed in our being, and therefore affirmed.

Those opening words are not mine, but are that of radical philosopher, Peter Rollins.

Now I want to continue with my oft quoted phrase that I borrow from my uncle, Loren, a retired Lutheran pastor:

“Christianity is not about what we have to do for God in order to be accepted and redeemed; it is about what God has already done for us in Christ Jesus.”

The death and resurrection reveal that we are accepted and redeemed already!

The death unremittingly reveals this: as he was being murdered on the cross, Jesus literally forgave his murderers in the act of their killing him (Luke 23:34). It was a blatant example that Christ’s forgiveness is without condition! In fact, in that moment it was even without confession or repentance! He didn’t wait for repentance to die. The cross, therefore, is the pinnacle example of all Jesus’ ministry: from the parable of the Prodigal Son to the prevention of the woman’s stoning—Jesus’ mercy is unconditional.[2]

And the resurrection unremittingly reveals this: we did nothing to earn the resurrection of Jesus, of his defeat of death and his victory of mercy and love. In fact, the last thing that humanity did before the resurrection was betray, deny, abandon, and kill Jesus…certainly did not repent! We did nothing to earn or deserve the resurrection and yet it happened. He is the Risen Christ by his own power and mercy for us.

So, again, Christianity is not about what we have to do for God in order to be accepted and redeemed! It is about what God has already done for us in Christ Jesus which accomplishes and proves that we’re accepted and redeemed already.

Now…if grace and the resurrection is to have power for us within our daily lives, if we trust this, then it will “evoke” a response.[3] According to Martin Luther, like heat and shine from a fire[4], affirming Christ’s resurrection will evoke a response. And Jesus gave his disciples in this 21st Chapter of John a really obvious hint about how to affirm and respond to the resurrection!

He asked them, “Do you love me” (21:15-17)? In essence, do you affirm or deny? Do you trust this? Jesus had spent all 20 chapters of John to this point proclaiming his love for the world, and that love was perfectly displayed in death and perfectly victorious in resurrection, and in these final moments after his resurrection Jesus is charging his disciples with a response to the gracious undeserved love they just witnessed. Affirm or deny?

Affirm?

Well, then…“Feed my lambs.” (v. 15).

“Tend my sheep” (v. 16).

“Feed my sheep” (v. 17).

Stand up for those who are on their knees.

Cry out for those people who have had their tongues torn out.

Weep for those people who have no more tears to shed.[5]

“…love one another as I have loved you” (15:12; cf. 13:34).

Sisters and brothers, as expressed in today’s baptism, God loves us unconditionally. This is fully signaled by beautiful baby Ashton’s baptism. Ashton doesn’t know even know who Jesus is, much less has he accepted him or done anything to earn love and acceptance, and yet Jesus declares his claiming love for Ashton now and forever.

Likewise, our redemption, our acceptance is settled. It is sealed and established forever by the power of the resurrection, and therefore a promise that cannot be killed!

Now, what? Jesus is asking. Affirm or deny this?

Affirm?

Okay…feed the lambs. Tend the sheep. Go. Be God’s people in whom the Risen Christ lives and loves. The resurrection does not just save us, it sends us. Trust the resurrection. Affirm the resurrection. Be the resurrection. Amen.

 

 

     [1] Peter Rollins, “I Deny the Resurrection”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6T8FVaI9Bc0.

     [2] His forgiveness was even proclaimed preceding the cross (Mark 2:1-12).

     [3] Peter Rollins, The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales (Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2009), 148.

     [4] Martin Luther, “Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans,” in Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans and Concerning Christian Liberty (Oxford: Benediction Classics, 2010), 5-6.

     [5] “I Deny the Resurrection.”

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