My First Easter Sermon

Written by Joel on April 6th, 2010

April 4, 2010
Easter Sunday
John 20:1-18


It was still dark. A morning darkness – before the sunrise, before others have awoke. It’s a mourning darkness – Mary was heading to the her Lord, not to worship but to grieve at his tomb. The kind of darkness that was heavy, deep, and alone. Mary is still faithful to go to Jesus, though not with our resurrection faith; she was fulfilling her duty to the Lord who is dead and gone. It was still dark but Christ is risen.

But as she arrived at the tomb to pay her final respects – her heart stopped. The stone had been rolled away. The first thought that went through her mind was not, as you and I know it this day – “He is Risen, praise the Lord!” No, her heart sank “They took away my Lord.” It would have been like taking your eyes off your child for just a moment, only to turn back around and see that they are no longer in your sight. Your heart stops and your mind immediately worries about the worst. She thought that Jesus’ body had been stolen and now he was truly gone. Resurrection was the furtherest thing from her mind. Mary didn’t have a clue, but Christ is risen!

Even the two disciples Peter and John, upon hearing the news – not that Jesus is risen, but that the body is gone – ran their hearts out so they could see for themselves. They looked in the tomb and saw the evidence with their own eyes. This gospel account goes to some length in describing the funeral linens. The evangelist recorded this detail for our benefit as evidence for us of the resurrection. If his body was simply stolen or the grave robbed, the thieves wouldn’t have bothered to remove his funeral clothes much less neatly fold them at the head and the foot of the tomb. And yet the disciples remain blind. Scripture tells us “they believed” but not what they believed. They believed but they did not understand the scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead. They believed but they went right home. They didn’t have faith in the resurrection, they believed Mary’s account – simply that the body of Christ had been stolen. The evidence right before them; they still lacked belief. They lacked faith but Christ is risen!

Then Mary, still overwhelmed with the shock of loss, with nothing left to do – weeps. In weeping she looks over again, one more time at the empty tomb. Like when confronted with loss, something of great value, perhaps like a [wedding ring, your keys, something valuable you couldn't live without]; after looking in every conceivable place you could think, tearing your house apart, looking where you would least expect, and when you believe it is truly truly gone – you look where you have looked already with just the glimmer of hope that it will be there. Mary looks again at the empty tomb. Angels are befuddled at her weeping because they know the truth that Christ is risen!

Then, finally through her tears she sees him, but she still doesn’t know it. She thinks he is the gardener. Again, befuddled at her weeping, because he knew the truth – asks her again “Why are you crying?” And yet she still did not know that he is risen – until he speaks and calls her by name.

In this Gospel declaration, the first account of the risen Lord, the words “He is risen” are not found. The good news is expressed not with words but rather the personal call by name. Then and only then, looking into Jesus’ eyes and hearing him call her by name did her loss turn to inexplicable joy – that he is risen.

When sin has us entangled and entrenched in its lies and its traps, and we are even blind to the Lord – he is still risen, he is still calling your name. And sometimes coming to this realization that he is risen is a slow or gradual process, one with peaks and valleys. But I believe in a resurrection of our faith just as Mary took time to see Christ for who he truly is, Christ offers himself to us each and every day, calling us by name that one day we may more fully hear our name and recognize the risen Christ before our eyes and we can join in the Easter proclamation – He is risen! He is risen indeed!


1 Comments so far ↓

  1. G. David Shreeves says:

    THANKS,Joel,for a clear statement of the truth about Jesus
    and Easter. The ending of each
    paragraph with repetition of the
    major thought is very effective.

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