Yes! Jesus has risen indeed!
Sermon: 12 April 2020
Text: John 20:1-10
Title: Yes! Jesus has risen indeed!
The Easter message is a gospel about a New Life . . . In this Gospel, everyone is offered a New Life, no one is rejected nor special. Everyone is given equal opportunity to renew an old life . . . The tradition of egg hunting at Easter Sunday is very good practice, because everyone can look for an egg that symbolizes new life. However, we will miss that tradition this Sunday, and everybody knows the reason why, but I recommend do it in small scale within your own family at home.
Rev Mary-Jane Norton, Associate General Secretary of Leadership Ministries in London, states that; "there is something about going to hunt the eggs, just as we might go to hunt for Jesus in the tomb. And when we find Him, it is that joy that Mary Magdalene found when Jesus was no longer there because He has risen from the dead."
There are people or organization today that does not believe Jesus' resurrection. They said: "it didn't happen." I know, their mean goal is to prove that Jesus did not die. Their argument is that, if, at any point, Jesus appeared to be dead because of crucifixion, he could have been revived while at the tomb. Or, if Jesus has fully died, the women and the disciples who visited the tomb, could have gone to the wrong tomb, since it was still dark, the reason why, followers of Jesus called it an empty tomb . . . And I tell you they will never run out of skeptic reasons out there as Satan sustained them.
The tradition we make to walk early morning on Good Friday around the block was a form of protest against these skeptics, that we Christian, believed Jesus Christ has died and after three days rose from the dead . . . Our belief is based on historical evidences: (1) The testimony of the eyewitnesses from Jesus’ appearances, (2) The transformed lives of the disciples who fled in the night during Jesus arrest & also during the crucifixion, (3) The empty tomb which the women knew very well, because they were there when Jesus was laid, (4) The inability of the Jewish leaders to disprove these claims, and (5) The conversion of the skeptics such as Paul and James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of Jerusalem Church. And, Paul, himself wrote in his letters which was much earlier than the 4 Gospels said: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthian 15:3-5) . . . By preaching this theme around Asia Minor & in Europe, he too was crucified in Rome.
We believed that, Resurrection is both the central doctrine of our Christian theology and the major fact in the defense of our teachings. Because, if Jesus did not literally rose from the dead, what happen? . . . Our entire Christian faith is false; our preaching is no value at all, it will be like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal; our Christian testimony is false, and our sin is not forgiven. The title of our message today is a resounding "Yes! Jesus is risen, indeed!"
Engaging The Text
Our passage this Easter Sunday from John 20:1-18, is a testimony from one of those eyewitnesses of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The passage consists of two important parts: the empty tomb, (vv.3-10) and Jesus’ appearance to Mary Magdalene, (vv.11-18).
John and the other gospel writers told stories about people who died and was restored to life by Jesus. In each case, the one who died lived again, but still going to face death. However, the resurrection we celebrate at Easter is a testimony to Jesus, the Christ – who died, was raised, and will not die again.
The event of the Jesus’ resurrection begins on the first visit to the tomb. The visit occurs early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark—that is, on Sunday morning. For the Jews, the first day of the week was sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday. Mary Magdalene was accompanied by other women in the Synoptic Gospels but in John Gospel, she came to the tomb alone (v.1). In Luke 8:2 Mary Magdalene is identified as a Galilean woman from whom Jesus had exorcised seven demons. There is no biblical foundation for her as a “sinful” woman or prostitute. Instead, she is the first disciple to proclaim the good news of Easter (v.18). She was the first one who found the stone removed from the entrance of the tomb, although, she thought Jesus’ body was stolen. She was the first one who reports of the empty tomb to the disciples and the first one who saw the resurrected Jesus in person.
Peter and the beloved disciple rushed - to the tomb to verify the report of Mary Magdalene . . . Actually, this was the only time when the disciples reacted, after they have deserted Jesus when he was arrested at the garden of Gethsemane.
At this instance, there are three witnesses of the empty tomb: 1) Mary discovered the stone was rolled from the tomb and thought the body of Jesus was stolen because it was no longer there. (These days, graves are desecrated, vandalized or broken to steal something.) 2) The beloved disciple saw, from the outside of the tomb, strips of linen lying, but was not specified where. 3) Peter saw the linen and the burial cloth folded, because he went into the tomb. These were sufficient evidences that the body of Jesus was not there. However, the empty tomb could suggest that Jesus did not rise from the deed . . . There is great possibility his body was stolen as Mary Magdalene thought. In fact this was the concern of the Chief Priest in Matthew 27: 64, as they requested Pilate to post guards at the tomb, so Jesus’ disciples couldn’t steal the body and then tell everyone that Jesus has risen from the dead.
The evidence of the burial cloths came to play. It suggests that Jesus’ body has not been stolen, because the thief would not have unwound the body from its wrappings and carried the body naked out of the tomb. Think about Lazarus' rising from the dead. He emerged from the tomb still wrapped with his grave cloths, and waited Jesus’ command to unwrap him with the linen . . . So from these collaborating evidences, we can see Jesus' body was not been stolen.
Mary Magdalene, who saw it all, the crucifixion and burial of Jesus was compelled to go to the tomb early in the morning on the third day. And she was devastated at what she saw. The stone has been rolled away and have taken Jesus away. So she ran to inform the disciples and then came back standing just outside the tomb crying, desperate and confused as to who stole Jesus body? Peter went home perhaps confused and the beloved disciples, though believed, went home, too. But Mary stayed at the tomb, weeping. Then suddenly, she's talking with the angel, and then with the risen Jesus himself. "Woman why are you crying?" the angels asked. "They have taken my Lord away and don’t know where they have put him, " she said (v.13).
The angels did not tell Mary that Jesus has risen, nor tell her that they are messengers from God.
Who are these angels? What is their purpose in this event? . . . Some scholars today said, that they are the forerunners of the "inbreaking new age" promised by God. Meaning, the empty tomb is no longer a place for the "new age people" who died, but they will go directly to God; no stopover in Purgatory as other tradition teaches. And, those who are still alive at the sound of a trumpet call their bodies will be change from perishable to imperishable to meet Jesus in the air without passing death at the Second Coming (1 Cor 15:52-53).
Then, when Mary turned around, she saw a man and talk to him. She thought, he was a gardener and asked him: "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Actually Mary’s words and actions inspire us Christians today, because she has shown an example of a clear profession of faith. Though at first she was unaware of whom she was speaking to, like the Samaritan woman at the well, Mary was honest and willing to offer services even to the dead body of Jesus. And, as a result of her willingness to serve Jesus, as a sign of her profession of faith, Jesus revealed himself to her first, not to anyone else, by calling her name: “Mary!” . . . Only then that Mary recognized Jesus. Remember Jesus as a "Good Shepherd? He knows his sheep by name, and they respond to his voice." Mary recognized Jesus' voice and responded by saying: “Rabboni!” Then the resurrected Jesus told her: "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (v.17).
What a privilege and responsibility Jesus entrusted to a woman, of all people! Many scholars considered Mary to be the first apostle of the church. She is the first to witness of the risen Christ, and the first one sent to proclaim the good news. Then she testifies: "I have seen the Lord" . . .
Many scholars considered Mary Magdalene as an apostle, because she experienced the resurrection and received the charge to preach the gospel – these are, in fact, the two pre-requisites to be called an apostle according to Pauline tradition.
As for me, this commandment, "Go! tell my brothers," as the first seed of the missionary endeavor of the new age people, given to a woman. The fact that the word, "Do not hold on to me" is meant not to waste her time but go as she was told, because Jesus knew Mary was emotionally affected by the unfolding events at the time. The unfolding event of Jesus’ glorification, consists of his death, resurrection, and ascension. The meaning is clear: Jesus, their Master, the head of the mission is alive and by his glorification it enables the disciples and us today as the modern disciples and as such part a part of worldwide missionary endeavor.
At the resurrection, Jesus incarnation as human has ended. Jesus’ commands for Mary to go and proclaim the good news, is not actually about resurrection, but about returning "to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God," so that the Councilor, the Holy Spirit can be sent to teach them all things for their mission (14:39) . . . This is not to minimize the teaching of resurrection, but rather magnify the purpose of resurrection to go back to his Father in order to confirm his identity as the Son of God . . . Remember his word to Nicodemus in 3:13, when Jesus said: "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man." His return to the Father is a moment of great rejoicing (14:128; 17:13), because Jesus has promised to “prepare a place for you” (14:2), for those he loves. In returning to the Father, Jesus makes it possible for his disciples to share fully in the expression: "my Father and your Father, my God and your God," which means Jesus confirms that what was true of Jesus’ relationship with the Father is now true of the disciples’ relationship with the Father; and so with you and me, in our relationship with God. Jesus confidently says in John 14:23: "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with Him." (cf. 14:23; 15:8-11, 16; 16:23-27; 17:20-26).
This early words of Jesus to his disciples has now come true as the identity of God’s "new age" people, the Church, after the resurrection. Mary’s instruction to announce the good news of the ascension to "my brothers" does not mean only to the male disciples, but all members of his new family . . . Likewise, we, as New Age People must also be able to bear witness to the resurrection message. That is the real joy of the Church of Christ when it exults on Easter Sunday. God who is in heaven says "YES" to the resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us proclaim with a loud voice "Christ is risen!" "He is risen, indeed!" Amen
Go to proclaim to the world that Christ is risen!
Go to declare the death is not the final word!
Go to affirm that God says "Yes" to all that is good!
Go and be Easter people.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
the Lord make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you: The Lord lift
his countenance upon you, and give you his peace. Amen