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Bishop Richard's Weekly Video Message - Transcript 21/04/2022

Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week's video. A churchwarden of mine once told me that if they were to dig up Jesus bones in Jerusalem, it wouldn't affect her faith very much. I suspect that view isn't that uncommon, and it does raise the question about how important is this resurrection that we celebrate on Easter Sunday actually is. Is it one of those superstitious dogmas that enlightened people like us can dispense with?

Surely it stretches credibility in a rationalistic society like ours. Can't we find a way to drop it and focus on the things that have more universal appeal like Jesus moral teaching? It sounds very reasonable until you look more closely at both Jesus moral teaching and the claims he made about himself.

Given that human beings are at root quite selfish. Jesus teaching doesn't actually make much sense if it has no eternal perspective or reference. No moral teaching of itself can compel moral behaviour Jesus is no different. We may admire his assertion that love of our neighbour is the basis of the most fair and just society, but why shouldn't I act selfishly if I can get away with it? When Jesus drives out the moneychangers from the temple and he's asked Who on earth do you think you are smashing up our business? What authority do you have to do this? Show us some sign of your credibility. Well, says Jesus, go ahead and kill me. And three days later God will raise me. Or in that context, he says, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

This is one of the times Jesus says something which is plain bonkers. Unless it's true. He promises the resurrection in several places in the Gospel. Most of the time, the disciples have no idea what he's talking about. It was quite clear, even on the Resurrection Day itself, that they couldn't really comprehend what had happened. Generally, we would treat someone who promised they were coming back to life three days after they had died with a healthy skepticism. We would be unwise to accept anything else, they said either. If they were capable of such self-delusion. This is not the sort of person from whom we would receive moral teaching.

But, And the but is important, If he truly did rise from the dead as we joyfully proclaim at Easter, he is proven to have precisely the authority he claimed to challenge distorted religious practices and indeed show us the best way we could live. But it goes much further even than that. As the disciples looked back at the Old Testament, through the lens of the resurrection, they realized they had been in error about their interpretation of the Scriptures.

They could see that in a real sense the authors were the mouthpiece of Jesus himself. They see in the business disruption in the temple New insights into  Psalm 69 in verse 9 'Zeal for your house will consume me.' As they remember this incident, they saw in that passage written hundreds of years before the very voice of Jesus himself, the driving out of the temple traders was Jesus putting it into practice And yet He goes further still. All of the Jewish ritual practice, bizarre as it looks to us and probably very onerous to them, is shown to be a figure and symbol of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus himself.

When Jesus says, Destroy this temple, He's making the radical claim that all that the temple worship symbolizes is a picture of His work, and in his work it now becomes completely redundant. No longer is it necessary to have an elaborate ritual system to come into the presence of God, receive assurance of forgiveness and restoration. This is now achieved by the death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the most poignant signs on Good Friday is the veil in the curtain, the temple torn in two from top to bottom. This was the curtain that prevented access to the holy of Holies, the place Jewish people believed God dwelt. In a graphic image, it says, Christ's death makes all this rigmarole unnecessary. Anyone can now have access to God anytime and anywhere.

The more we return to the claims of the New Testament about the resurrection, the more we see how the whole Christian enterprise unravels. If it isn't true, if there is no resurrection, we can't take anything Jesus says seriously. He linked this forthcoming fact about himself with the moral teaching in a way you can't untangle. He based his outrageous claim that he would judge the world on it. Christians have seen new depths of prophetic insight in the Old Testament because of it, and because of it, the crucifixion is shown to have been promised and indeed analysed hundreds of years before Jesus was even born.

So what would happen if they could indeed find the bones of Jesus in Jerusalem and prove undeniably that they were those of Jesus of Nazareth? It should affect your faith. It should undermine it fatally. But fortunately, that isn't going to happen because Christ is indeed risen from the dead. Not a symbolic resurrection or a resurrection in people's hearts, but a dead man coming back to life and not a mere resuscitation, but a new plane of existence all together. Eternal life is made visible and we are promised a participation in the life of God himself through it. More than enough reason for joy on this day and every day.

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