Easter 2024: The Death of David and the Resurrection of Our Lord

Sermons

Easter 2024: The Death of David and the Resurrection of Our Lord

Published: 3rd April, 2024

Easter Sunday
31st March 2024
John 20.1-18
c.f. 1 Kings 2

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen

In preaching through Holy Week we’ve been focusing on the Old Testament character of King David, and reflecting on the various ways in which he can be understood as prefiguring Jesus. We’ve noted incidents that point to his humility and to his capacity for forgiveness, his courage and his steadfastness under persecution, and we’ve particularly noted the story of Absalom’s rebellion, and the features of that story that point to the Passion and Death of Jesus.

But for me possibly the saddest of all the stories of David is that of David’s death. Before he dies, David charges his son Solomon to take revenge on some of his enemies. Among those David commands Solomon to kill are people who feature in the high points of David’s story: those he forgave, those he treated kindly even when they abused him; in short, some of those episodes that encourage us to see Christ prefigured in David seem to be negated by David’s charge to Solomon at his death. “You must bring his grey head down with blood to Sheol”, the dying king says to his young son. More mafia boss than prefiguration of Christ! Whilst it is true that David prefigures Christ, David also remains a profoundly flawed figure.

One important way of thinking about the life and death of Jesus is recapitulation. In Jesus, humanity is redeemed by as it were rerunning human life without succumbing to the temptations that are our common lot. Whilst Adam grasps at immortality and equality with God, Jesus humbles Himself, taking the form of a slave, assuming human likeness. Whilst David commits adultery with Bathsheba, Jesus treats women respectfully and kindly. And whilst the dying David charges his son to take vengeance on his enemies, the dying Christ prays for forgiveness for His killers. Christ’s redeemed and redeeming humanity triumphs over sin, in His life and in His death.

But at the Resurrection we see that redeemed humanity in Christ triumphs not only over sin but also over death. We see that the Divine Image restored in Jesus Christ and revealed in His perfect love is something that the Father will not allow death to hold, and so He is mysteriously and gloriously raised up. And His Resurrection reveals the expansion and perfection of redeemed humanity, to the extent that He is not initially recognized by those closest to Him.

Thinking about the Risen Christ in comparison with His ancestor David, what strikes me is His total lack of interest in His enemies. He doesn’t say: “Right, now Pilate and Caiaphas are really in for it”. It sounds ridiculous even to say it. But let’s be honest, that would be the normal human response. But the Risen Christ isn’t interested in any of that; even the disputatious side of Jesus that we often see before His crucifixion seems to have become subordinated to other concerns.

The first words of the Risen Christ in John’s gospel are “Woman, why are you weeping?” And then the name: “Mary”. His focus is not on Himself but on others; He addresses Mary tenderly by name. His next concern is to commission her with a task, with a mission, to tell His brothers what she has seen and what He has said. So different to David’s charge to Solomon!

And later, meeting His disciples, He says simply “Peace be with you”.

We live in disputatious, pugnacious, polarized times. And as followers of the Risen Christ we often feel beleaguered and under pressure, we often feel ourselves to be the victims of prejudice and misunderstanding, we often feel sorrow and distress that the things that we value seem not to be valued by wider society. And there will be times when we are called to enter into disputes, to argue the case for Christ and for His Church, and that is a part of our calling.

But may we never forget that we are called to witness to redeemed humanity revealed in Christ Jesus. And in the power of the Holy Spirit that redemption really does mean something in the life of the Church. And just as we see that the Risen Christ is totally uninterested in raking over old feuds and getting even with His enemies, so we too must focus on concern for others, on the mission that He entrusts to us, and on that peace that He proclaims, to whom with the +Father and the Holy Spirit be all praise and glory now and for ever.
Amen.