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Changed.


It was just small talk after glorious Easter services. The music had inspired us, the crowd was expectant, and the Scripture message was challenging. A group of us were talking about what had been a very busy and often hectic week. Grandchildren, family feasts, travel, multiple church services, choir rehearsals, Easter egg hunts, and other seasonal rituals had marked us all as worn and tired. One of the men in the group said, "I'm looking forward to tomorrow and getting back to normal." All of us knew what he meant and nodded in agreement. Sometimes the routines of everyday life are relief from the the hurried pace of our holiday observances. While few words were added most of us were ready to get back on a schedule paced by the norms of daily living. Back to normal sounded good.

So, let me quibble. That morning my text had been 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8, the Apostle Paul's defense of Christ's resurrection and summation of his appearances following the empty tomb. Of course Paul was addressing first century skeptics who denied that Jesus had been raise from the dead. Three of those post resurrection appearances had registered something powerful in me---Christ's encounters with the Twelve, Simon Peter, and James. Those meetings resulted in far from normal interchanges that changed the people that he showed his hands and feet in resurrection splendor. Let me comment----

Encounter 1: He Appeared to Simon Peter.

Yes, you know Simon Peter, perhaps the closest of Christ's intimates, and the disciple who denied Jesus three times before his crucifixion. Peter was bold and vocal in his defense of Jesus up to the critical moments of denial. He spoke courageous words of giving his life for the Lord. In one incident Jesus had told him, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you will follow later" (John 13:36, NIV). Before the resurrection Peter wasn't ready to go the distance with Christ. Yet, the appearance of Jesus to Simon Peter was a moment of change for him. Later in his two Epistles he identified himself as "Peter, and apostle (eyewitness) of Jesus Christ..." (1 Peter 1:1, NIV), and "Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ..." (2 Peter 1:1, NIV). Prior to the resurrection he never knew the man. After the resurrection he claimed to be a bond slave and eyewitness of Jesus. The resurrection had changed him. Later, he was crucified on an upside down cross, not worthy to die on a cross like Jesus. Life, was anything but normal for Simon Peter after his encounter with the resurrected Savior.

Encounter 2: He Appeared to The Twelve.

Yes, in reality, Christ's appearances to his closest disciples was to eleven of them not twelve. Judas, the betrayer, had hanged himself. But, his appearance to the Twelve noted in the Corinthian letter was a change point for them as well. Matthew 26:56 is a notable reference regarding the change the resurrection of Jesus brought to them. After his arrest, prior to his trials and crucifixion, Matthew wrote "Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." Fear and uncertainty had reduced their bold talk and boastful words to motions of flight. There was a change in every one of them, however, after he appeared to them. They all, with the exception of Beloved John, died martyrs deaths. The resurrection of Jesus and his appearances to them elevated their emotions to genuine passion and they died horrible deaths as a result of their living faith. There was nothing normal about the aftermath of their post-resurrection experiences.

Encounter 3: He appeared to James.

It's a controversial topic, the identity of the James mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.

In my mind Jesus specifically and intentionally sought out his brother James, who later was the author of the Epistle of James. It is noteworthy and inspiring to me because John reminded us that the brothers of Jesus had initially rejected him. During his earthly ministry James, the brother, had been an unbeliever. But, when Jesus appeared to him, everything changed. In his Epistle James identified himself as "James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" (James 1:1, NIV). After the resurrection he knew he was a bond slave of Jesus, and that Jesus was his Master. Life was never normal again.

So, yes, it's a quibble, to think of a comment about getting back to normal as anything but some desire for the routines of daily life to resume. Our holidays, even our spiritual ones, have the unique character of movement and velocity, people, places, and events of meaning. But, to wish for normal after celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ seems to make little of the greatest event in human history.

To the Romans Paul wrote, "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of the Spirit who lives in you" (Romans 8: 11, NIV). Meaning that the resurrection of Jesus will change us too. Nothing will ever be normal again.

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