SERMON from 4-8-12 (Easter Sunday): “Indeed!”

John 20.1-18

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. ’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Indeed!

When you open the internet browser on your computer, you usually wind up on what they call a “home page.” This is either Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Pinterest or some other site. In the early days, you would probably have had it on a news aggregating website. This would be a site where top national, local, weather and sports headlines would be located–in one convenient place. Anymore, they all do something like that.

The bad thing about that is it is still the news. The particular story’s importance or size on the screen is based upon the old adage, “if it bleeds, it leads.” So, no matter what it is, it is typically bad news for someone or something.

The other bad thing about all that bad news is that you really have to dig to find any type of good news. Honestly, you are more likely to run into websites which cover weird news. For example, this week, the town of Buford, Wyoming (population: 1) sold for $900,000 this week. The plot of the movie Snakes on a Plane nearly came true when a man saw a snake come out of his plane’s instrument panel. And, Australia is considering changing the mascot of Easter from a bunny to a marsupial that looks like a cross between a bunny and armadillo.

Typically, the good news sections online are located in such a way as to make them difficult for the untrained eye to find–but it can be done. Some of you may have seen the video of the excited dog welcoming home his master, after having served 3 overseas deployments. There was a lost cat returned home after 16 years and someone’s wallet was returned to them with all $10,000 dollars in it. That’s good news, right?

Now’s the time when the diligent and enterprising pastor makes the turn to his exegetical material. Typically, a sermon that begins like this will turn to something like, “but today, we don’t have to go looking for good news, do we?” Or, I might be like, “the resurrection is just like finding a stray wallet with $10,000 in it–only you get to keep this one!” I have sat through some of those sermons–it can be brutal.

Look at the day through the eyes of those who experienced it.

Mary Magdalene is the first to make the shocking discovery. I say “shocking” because that’s exactly what it was. It’s easy to take for granted, but the fact that Jesus was no longer in the tomb wasn’t automatically greeted as a sign that he was no longer dead.

Think about it. In the span of a week, Jesus was welcomed into town with the welcome of a conquering hero. To be sure, this was an edifying experience for those who followed him to this point. If you didn’t love Jesus, you certainly had strong feelings about who he was and who he claimed to be. To see this type of reception in the thriving metropolis of Jerusalem, must have relieved his disciples. As if to say, “now everyone knows what we already knew about this man.”

Once he’s in, he begins his greatest stretch of preaching and teaching–possibly in his whole life. He blazes a trail through the temple that leaves no one with any doubts about his courage and character. He makes sure to tell the pharisees that their teaching does nothing that cannot be undone by the power of God. That’s one of the things they nail him for in his “trial”–he claimed God’s authority for himself and his followers. Good to hear if you are a disciple, bad to hear if you are one of those who have been claiming this type of power for yourself.

He gives the greatest command–to love God and neighbor.

In his waining hours, he gathers with his disciples. He washes their feet. He feeds them. He teaches them. He has foretold of his death, but he is busy making sure his disciples understand what needs to happen and what is truly important after he leaves. He truly is the loving teacher who teaches them that the most important personality trait for his followers is love. That right there is the final lesson Jesus gives his disciples before he is arrested in the garden.

That’s where things begin to take a turn for the worse. Jesus’ disciples–and other followers–become witness to an amazing turn of events. The plot which was launched against Jesus begins to unfold when Jesus is arrested and dragged away by soldiers. This man–their teacher (or “rabbi”)–has been arrested. He was supposed to be their hope for a better tomorrow, but he has been chained and captured.

The religious leaders and various other Jerusalians were trying this man for blasphemy. Some of the same people who had welcomed him with jubilation a week prior. His followers had scattered and begun fending for themselves. Peter couldn’t handle it, and did exactly what Jesus said he would–denied knowing him. Imagine what he must have felt.

The trial moves before Pilate, where Jesus is found to have done no wrong. Yet, the people keep calling for his death. The crowds yell through the dusty expanse of Pilate’s courtyard that he should be crucified. As a follower, that had to have been a frightening and disheartening experience. In an attempt to satisfy the crowd’s desire for this man’s life, Pilate has Jesus beaten. It does nothing to slake their thirst. Pilate gives Jesus over to the people to be crucified.

Along the trail, the loyal ones who remain are treated to another show of the depravity of human life. The innocent Nazarene is being brutally marched to die on a cross. He is made fun of, spit upon, struck and humiliated. It’s at that point–or thereabouts–that our minds skip forward to Mary Magdalene making the discovery of the empty tomb. However, those who are left watch as the lifeless body of their teacher is pulled down from that cross.

There’s not much about it in scripture, but the rest of the day and the next must have been just as torturous as watching the events of the cross. What was going to happen next? Were the same people who tried Jesus going to put them on trial? Were they going to face the same death?

Have you had your breath taken away? Not the “I love him he takes my breath away” kind, but the kind where you truly feel like you may never get another breath? Have you ever been playing around and had someone get you with the arm or leg right in your diaphragm? You’d better have just taken a breath, because that’s all the air your lungs are going to see for the next few seconds–which feel like minutes. What’s going through your head? Panic. It’s like drowning, without the water. You try to lift the rest of your body off of your lungs in order to make room for oxygen, but it just doesn’t happen.

And just when you begin to feel light-headed and faint, there’s a burst of light–that first breath of fresh air! How amazing is that air when it enters your lungs? Not only amazing, but it’s a relief to know that you aren’t going to die–though you may very well feel like it.

Cut to: Mary Magdalene making the discovery. That imaginary light that goes off in all our heads when we envision the resurrection is now going off in that of Mary’s. After the traumatic events of the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life, Mary–as well as all the rest–are seeing that bright light. They are getting that oxygen to their desperate lungs. As Luke’s gospel states, “He is risen indeed.” “Indeed.” That’s your good news, right there.

Quite simply, God’s son has died on the cross in order to show us that the power–and the last word–belong to him. After being lost in the desert, God provides the water to quench. After drowning, God parts the waters to allow us out. As we are suffocating, God provides us with fresh air. All of this, from the light of the world.

Thank God for the light which he provides. Thank God for the water which quenches our greatest thirst. Thank God for rescuing us from drowning. Thank God for the air that we breath.

Thank God for everything. Indeed.

AMEN

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