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04.21.19 Amazing Doubt Isaiah 65.17-25 Luke 24.1-12 Sermon Summary

by on April 24, 2019

“Jerusalem” means “City of peace”. I can’t remember it ever being that, which is why Isaiah’s prophecy about Jerusalem is so hard to believe.

When Jesus returned to Jerusalem, there was little doubt what could happen. It was Passover week, the most important Jewish holiday celebrating their liberation from foreign powers. Thus occupying Rome already had an itchy trigger finger. This in addition to the fact that Jesus’ conflict with religious authorities was reaching its peak.

Jesus went knowing the very real possibility that he would die. Even his disciples, as they reluctantly joined him on his journey, said, “Let us go and die with him.”

Jerusalem was the center of corruption. A greedy priesthood was collaborating with Rome and disenfranchising the common religious people. Some Jews separated themselves. Others planned rebellion. Some emphasized ritual purity. Others urged spiritual renewal. No one was looking to Jerusalem for leadership. And yet that is where Jesus insisted on going.

Jesus went to Jerusalem because Jesus was a believer in Isaiah. On one hand, Isaiah is easy to believe in. He is quoted throughout the Bible and throughout Christian worship. “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God almighty.” “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.” “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” “To us a child will be born, and his name shall be wonderful, counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting father, the prince of peace.” “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” “He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities.”

These verses make it easy to believe Isaiah. But these are not the verses Jesus believed most. He believed Isaiah’s prophecies about Jerusalem. God would create a new Jerusalem, a whole new earth, even new heavens! Jerusalem would be a joy. A place of life instead of death. A place of justice instead of exploitation. A place of answered prayer instead of religious commerce. A place of peace instead of strife. A place of healing instead of hurting.

This is the Isaiah Jesus believed in. This is the Jerusalem Jesus came to save.

Sounds like a pipe dream, doesn’t it? If someone told you this is how it ends in Jerusalem, given the history of Jerusalem, it would seem like an idle tale.

So it makes some sense that the women came to the tomb having prepared spices. They witnessed Jesus executed and buried outside of Jerusalem despite all his faith. They didn’t have Jesus’ faith in Isaiah anymore, Jesus’ faith in God’s creating something new, Jesus’ faith in Jerusalem.

They had lost faith. When our faith is shaken we do as they did. We do what we can. We go back to what works. We lean on tradition. We remember the “good old days.” We prepare spices, like Mary, Joanna, and the other women. At least it’s familiar. It gives us something to do.

And then there, right in the middle of our coping, though we’re convinced our dreams are dead, in the midst of our tradition, God’s promises come to us anew. And we hear a gentle and familiar admonition: “Why are you searching for the living among the dead? Do you not remember his words?”

Then they remembered. And they believed. More than belief, they had conviction. Still Isaiah’s visions were true. Still God has power to create. Still Jerusalem, and the earth, and the heavens can be saved. For still and again, Jesus is alive.

So they told the other disciples, and the other disciples heard. Maybe they also remembered. But they considered it an “idle tale.”

Sometimes hearing and remembering aren’t enough. How many of us have heard and remembered the stories, Christmas after Christmas, Easter after Easter? Sometimes we need an experience. Like the scent of a candle. Like the splash of water on our face. Or the warmth of wine in our chest. Or the gentle touch of a Good Samaritan.

And even then for some people it takes more time. For Peter chased an experience. He ran to the grave, saw that it was empty, then “went home amazed at what had happened.”

Peter had amazing doubt. At least there is doubt. Doubt suggests at a minimum we’re asking questions. Amazing doubt may be closer than doubt to conviction, but it has some ways to go. We know Peter eventually got there. Maybe we will too.

This morning you’ve heard that on this third day since Jesus’ death he has risen from the dead. Maybe you’re like the women that morning. Grieving a loss. Resigned to reality. In spiritual despair. Don’t worry—you’re on the path.

Maybe you’ve heard Isaiah’s vision this morning, and God’s plan to create all things new, and a little hope has stirred within you.

Maybe this morning your belief has strengthened into conviction and you know beyond knowledge, with a peace that transcends understanding, that God can recreate your life just as God resurrected Christ from the dead.

Or perhaps you’ve heard and experienced something here and you don’t know quite what to make of it, but it is amazing to you. You have amazing doubt.

Wherever you are, this morning you’re on the path. You’ve joined other disciples of doubt who are trying their best to follow Jesus—Jesus who has resurrected from the dead to lead us into God’s peaceful city.

It is the resurrected Christ who is our host at this Table. He invites us to rejoice in his presence, to receive his life, and to have our faith strengthened so that we may see as Isaiah saw, and work for peace in the world.

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