The Easter Story
The Resurrection of Jesus
20 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.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] 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.
John 16:17-33 Common English Bible (CEB)
17 Some of Jesus’ disciples said to each other, “What does he mean: ‘Soon you won’t see me, and soon after that you will see me’ and ‘Because I’m going to the Father’? 18 What does he mean by ‘soon’? We don’t understand what he’s talking about.”
19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, so he said, “Are you trying to find out from each other what I meant when I said, ‘Soon you won’t see me, and soon after that you will see me’? 20 I assure you that you will cry and lament, and the world will be happy. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman gives birth, she has pain because her time has come. But when the child is born, she no longer remembers her distress because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 In the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy. 23 In that day, you won’t ask me anything. I assure you that the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete.
25 “I’ve been using figures of speech with you. The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in such analogies. Instead, I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I’m not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and believed that I came from God. 28 I left the Father and came into the world. I tell you again: I am leaving the world and returning to the Father.”
29 His disciples said, “See! Now you speak plainly; you aren’t using figures of speech. 30 Now we know that you know everything and you don’t need anyone to ask you. Because of this we believe you have come from God.”
31 Jesus replied, “Now you believe? 32 Look! A time is coming—and is here!—when each of you will be scattered to your own homes and you will leave me alone. I’m not really alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”
“I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.”
These words have formed our entire Lenten Series. Jesus knew his disciples – and us – needed some very special things in order to withstand the trials and thrive in our partnership with God in ministry to the world.
In John chapters 13-16 Jesus talked about our need for Cleansing, Belief, Connection, Love, Strength, and a guide, The Holy Spirit. Each of these facets of our Christian life is essential. Each of these facets adds to the richness of our relationship with God and our ability to follow as God’s disciples.
Above all we need a conquering power – a power beyond ourselves, limitless, just the right power at the right time. In our current situation we need a conquering power to help us deal with isolation, and loneliness, and the limitations imposed by this pandemic. We need a conquering power to allay our fears, and help us do what is necessary to protect ourselves and others.
What good is a power if it is not accessible? Janna’s dad, Doyle Mitchell was one who enjoyed the outdoors and camping. On one such trip he had relatives from Oklahoma accompanying the family on a camping trip. One brought an electric razor on the camping trip – a plug in type. Janna’s dad also had a great sense of humor. He convinced them that aspen trees had a unique property of being a source of electricity. By cutting two slits in the aspen tree they could plug in their razor and shave as normal. Not being familiar with camping, or aspen trees, they gave it a try. Of course it didn’t work, but it made for a good laugh by everyone. The razor was an unusable power because the source of its power was so far away.
Now, think about the ancient Jewish mindset. God was far away and totally unapproachable. Any kind of communication with God was strictly for the special chosen ones who were in leadership roles. The Spirit only inspired the leaders. Remember, this was still the disciple’s mindset, until they met Jesus. Old habits die hard. Even after being with Jesus for three years it was still difficult for the disciples to fathom the power of God accessible to them in every day in every way. Peter failed his first attempt at conquering a situation. Flash back to the courtyard of Caiaphas, the High Priest. Jesus is inside being questioned by the council. Peter is in the courtyard. ‘You are one of them!’ Three times different people questioned Peter about his knowing Jesus, being on of Jesus’ followers. Expediency led him to deny even knowing him. He was still unable to tap into the conquering power. Fast forward to Acts 4:1-3 after Peter and John healed a crippled man. While they were in the Temple teaching, the Sadducees became irate at their teaching about resurrection since they themselves didn’t believe in resurrection at all. Peter and John are arrested. Follow the story a little further. Acts 4:8, inspired by the Holy Spirit, Peter witnesses to Leaders in the Temple. Then, in 4:13 the text reports that the “Council caught by surprise” at Peter’s boldness and confidence. Peter had learned to call on the conquering power – the power of God!
Twelve times in the four chapters of John we’ve been studying Jesus uses the word “abide” or “remain” in the CEB. Jesus is telling us that God is always there, accessible, but it is up to us to “abide” with him. In Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus is always faithful. Our schedules, our circumstances, our challenges, the culture we live in – all can divert us from remaining in Jesus. All can supplant the presence of the Holy Spirit – if we let them. What is it that Jesus invites us to do in order to prevent that from happening? Look at John 16:33 again. “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” If the peace of Christ is within us, we will be connected to the conquering power. We will have what is necessary to defeat the things that would draw us away from God.
When I was in seminary, I was doing summer camps at Camp Rosalie outside of Bailey, CO. It was the third and fourth grade camp. It had been a long week. There was one particular camper that didn’t really want to be there. He hadn’t wanted to participate much in anything, much less anything strenuous. One of our traditions was to hike to the quarry that was on the property. It was a little challenging but not that bad. This camper drug further and further behind the rest of the group. I stayed with him. Finally, he just sat down at the side of the trail. He was not going any further! As I sat next to him my thoughts raced. Should I encourage him, maybe cajole, or maybe it was time to get tough and demand that he get up and get going. After all the wellbeing of the group and his safety were very important. As I was processing what could be done or said, I said nothing. Soon, with a much more willing attitude (while I was still pondering the best course of action), he got up and started up the trail. I think he just needed to know I would sit with him. That I wouldn’t yell at him. That I wouldn’t make him feel like a failure.
Our Conquering Power is with us. Do you remember when Peter and Jesus had their conversation on the beach after the resurrection? In John 21 the setting is that Peter and others had gone fishing. They had Fished all night with no luck. Jesus (though they didn’t recognize them asked about their luck. Finding they had had none, he said, “Cast the net on the other side of the boat. When they did, they caught such a great catch of fish that their nets were breaking. Peter recognized Jesus, dove into the water and swam to shore. Jesus has breakfast ready and they share a meal together. John records a conversation that Jesus had with Peter. The gist of it was, “Do you love me?” Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Did Jesus scold Peter about his denial in the courtyard? Did he warn him that he had better not do that again? Was he cold toward him, treating him maybe as he deserved? NO! “Do you love me?” Jesus invited Peter to try again. Essentially, he was saying, put this behind you (three denials, three “do you love me”). Not only that but Jesus entrusts him with “feeding God’s sheep.”
This is the first and most important thing we can learn from Jesus – our Conquering Power is with us – always. Let’s look at John 16:21-22 for a minute. “When a woman gives birth, she has pain because her time has come. But when the child is born, she no longer remembers her distress because of her joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 In the same way, you have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and you will be overjoyed. No one takes away your joy.” In using the analogy of childbirth, notice the imperative “will”. We will “see” him, we “will” be overjoyed.
With Peter, will we learn to rely on God’s conquering power? Jesus invites just that in 16:24, “Up to now, you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will receive so that your joy will be complete.” When we ask, we receive, and God makes our joy complete. Our asking comes out of our abiding relationship with God and therefore our asking is for what God is ready to give.
As I close today, I am reminded of a quote by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She said, “Remember that the passion of Christ ends always in the joy of the Resurrection of Christ. So, when you feel in your heart the suffering of Christ, remember the Resurrection has to come – the joy of Easter has to dawn. Never let anything so fill you with sorrow as to make you forget the joy of the Risen Christ.”
Remember what Jesus said in John 14:18-19. “I won’t leave you as orphans. I will come to you. 19 Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too.” We have the conquering power of Jesus Christ. Praise God!
Pastor Paul Grossman