What to do with the Resurrection and the Life?

John 11:45-12:8
After the raising of Lazarus, we see various responses to Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life:

It’s personally appropriate to believe in him

It’s politically expedient to blame him

It’s prophetically necessary to kill him

It’s universally right to serve him

It’s cunningly selfish to betray him

It’s devotionally fitting to adore him

The Resurrection Of The Son Of God… NT Wright

There’s no question that NT Wright is a controversial figure. I wouldn’t read or recommend him on justification. But his book on the Resurrection is not much short of pure gold. I decided to fork out for a copy a couple of weeks ago. I’m hoping to preach from Mark 16:1-8 during Easter week and his small section on that passage is so helpful.

16 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Wright shows that Mark’s account of the resurrection is full of the unexpected, which smacks of authenticity. His argument:

First, remarkably, Mark has no problem telling us that the main witnesses were women. This is not a feature you’d want to highlight if you’re trying to peddle a new religion on a society where men’s testimony holds far far more weight. More significantly though, it’s clear that the women themselves do not expect to find an empty tomb. None of them says, “Ah yes, we were expecting this”.

As Wright puts it, ‘the fact they don’t expect, fits with what we should expect’. This fact shows us that the empty tomb was not an idea necessitated by a later belief in Jesus’ resurrection. Wright goes on:

‘It is not that these women believe in the resurrection and then go and search for an empty tomb to back that belief up. It is rather; that they, have found an empty tomb and are offered the startling and totally unexpected explanation that Jesus has been raised. For them, the resurrection, is in itself a puzzle that needs a solution. It’s totally unexpected.’

It is interesting in the narrative that the initial problem for the women (how to move the stone), is replaced by a greater problem: ‘where is the body?’ The point I think is this: The problems of life and death are overshadowed by the unexpected problem of the resurrection.

Looking at the narrative, the women have come to expect the presence of death and seem resigned to its finality. They expect to be anointing a dead body. So, they naturally think that they’re biggest problem is the heavy stone. They discuss that problem because they are already resigned to the problem of death being a problem without a solution. Unexpectedly, God’s answer is not to give them bigger muscles, but to give them another problem! A missing body. What fills their minds now is the weird and unsettling prospect of Jesus returning from the dead. The wonder of it all though, is that God’s new problem removes all others. Suddenly the stone issue is much less of a concern. Their fears over their physical weakness and the difficulties of a routine graveside visit are completely drowned out by their fear of what they’re told by the strange young man. Ironically the problem of the missing body turns out to be the grandest solution of all others problems in life and death.

Problem: The body is missing
Solution: The body is missing

Brexit… and the Bible

We’ve seen some pretty astonishing events unfold in the House Of Commons of late and I can’t think of anyone who writes more helpfully on public matters than Matthew Roberts, Minister of Trinity Church York. I really couldn’t do better – his latest blog entry is here.

In other news, we’ve had a mixed week of not much sleep and some encouragements. The Lunchtime talks seemed low on numbers this week, but I enjoyed going through Galatians 2:15-21 with them.
Emma has been able to get out to a few more things at church, which has been better for everyone…

Met with a church member in London Bridge yesterday for lunch, such a crazy place. Just next to Borough Market.

I’m planning on starting a course at Adult Sunday School to try and excite newer Christians and folk who think it’s all bit too above their heads. Based in the book Dig Deeper by Andrew Sach and Nigel Beynon.

Stephen Brown

Have been reading Stephen Brown’s When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough recently whilst preparing for Adult Sunday School. I realise he’s a controversial figure and a quick search online brings up plenty of reasons to take a bit of extra care with him, but this is honestly one of the most helpful modern books I’ve read on Christian Liberty.

Sunday was good this week. Paul L preached on Matthew 13:44-46 in the morning. I was in crèche in the eve so missed most of the evening sermon on Numbers.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that fiel

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

Really helpful on if you don’t think the kingdom of heaven is better than anything, you haven’t understood the kingdom of heaven.

Emma’s mum and dad were with us in church which was good to see.

Adult Sunday School was a tough one… I got slightly muddled at one point, but they are a very patient and gracious bunch. I’m hoping to bring things back down to earth next week or else risk killing probably the most glorious doctrine of the Gospel!

Emma and I have been slightly discouraged at home with usual children challenges…although we can’t help laughing at some of the hilarious antics of our three year old. There is a strange happiness in the relentlessness.

March Presbytery

Was shattered this morning after a pretty bad night with not much sleep. Put Kit back down to bed after his last night feed around 5:30am then didn’t bother going to bed before Gabriel got up at 7am.

Emma was more shattered.

We had our March Presbytery meeting with a great sermon from Gray Santano who was later examined for ordination. He preached from Habakkuk 2:1:
I will take my stand at my watchpost
    and station myself on the tower,
and look out to see what he will say to me,
    and what I will answer concerning my complaint.


He took each line as a point for the sermon… the last point was particularly helpful. Despite the sin of Judah, God would still rather they go to Him with a complaint against his righteous anger, than complaining to false gods and seeking gratification from them. He applied it really well. In suffering neither go all stoical and pretend you’re OK nor seek help from illicit pleasures, but go and complain to God.

Got home after some good chats with guys at Presbytery, shaved off the partial beard and took Gabriel to a kids party of the afternoon. It was a good chance to meet some other dads.

Emma and I managed to grab an hour to talk about our strategy for a 3 year old who is developing quickly.

Galatians, Identity and Redemptive History

When you are, tells you who you are…

I’m hoping to preach through Galatians at the Lunchtime Talks from next Tuesday. I remembered there’s a really helpful chapter on Paul’s eschatology in Galatians by Moisés Silva. He highlights a collection of verses in the letter, and proves that Paul grounds the subjective experience of a Christian in the eschatological achievements of Christ.

Silva agrees that the traditional Protestant emphasis on the contrast in Galatians between works of the law and faith is certainly there. But this contrast is underpinned with the contrast given between ages in Redemptive History: The present Evil age (Gal 1:4) and the age that comes in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), the Age of the Spirit. This second age is brought in by Christ work on the cross, resurrection etc.

It wasn’t until I was introduced to the giants, Vos and Ridderbos that I began to appreciate how big eschatology is in Paul’s thinking. When a Christian asks, “Who am I?”, the question is as much about ‘where’ or ‘when’ we are in Redemptive History. Indeed, the “who” feeds off of the “when”. On the personal, “subjective” experience of justification for example, Silva says:

Personal present justification is set in the context of cosmic, eschatological realities. The subjective experience of justification is grounded in the objective judgment at the end of the age. Assurance is not a pscyholical strategy that by-passes reality but a proleptic  (anticipatory) manifestation of God’s righteous verdict.

What affects us as individuals is whether we’re on the right side of Redemptive History. Christ has brought in a new age, of which membership is indispensable for our personal righteousness, justification and assurance. In Galatians it’s an age that is characterised by faith and obedience in the Spirit. This comes in sharp relief to the dogged efforts of the ceremonial box tickers, the Judaizers. If we haven’t been caught up into this break through of salvation history upon the world in Christ, we are still floundering around in the past, in the world destined for judgement. We are still living according to the ‘elementary principles of the world’ (Gal 4:3;9).

Individual Christian Conversion is Grand, based in the movement of the ages of salvation. But that doesn’t take away from the personal experience of the individual. Actually, it’s made more solid and assurance is greater when see personal salvation in this cosmic, historical light. As Vos says:

The Christian state is centrally and potentially anchored in heaven (Vos Pauline eschatology 39)

Sunday 24th Feb.

I was really grateful to those who looked after Gabriel in creche at church. I could hear the last of Ian Hamilton’s sermons from his two week stint with us. He preached on John 8:1-11 on the mercy of God and the satanic harshness of the Pharisees. He was in Psalm 44 in the evening.