Last week, i had the opportunity to speak on Easter Sunday at Church. As i prepared it, there were a lot of eliteraations – maybe too many. I thought it was clear but perhaps it was not… There are some things i think i could add… and i may come in here and add some stuff, and i may have missed some things as i spoke.
I much rather write than speak, not because I am a good write but because i feel like a bad speaker. That said, if you would like to listen – you can listen to my sermon here:
I rarely write out my talks- but this one i did- so, if you’d rather read it, here it is.
Where is Jesus?
You made it to church on Easter Sunday. And we are so glad you are here.
Some of you may only be here because someone made you come. You don’t really believe in Jesus or at least not to sure about Him and you’re not expecting much.
Many of you follow Jesus, you want to strengthen your faith or prove your faith, becase this is important to you.
Some of you are here, because it is Easter, and well you’re not quite sure why you are here but you’re hurting, alone and maybe this could make you feel better.
Everyone of us have come today looking for something – maybe it is the free meal after or the easter egg hunt or to find a friend or to gain some understanding or to feel good about ourselves or to find hope. We are all looking for something. Some of you have come looking for Jesus. What are you looking for today?
I will imagine most of us are at least familiar with Jesus. We have heard about Him, and know this Easter story well. We know all about it. You’re not quite so sure what the easter bunny is or the eggs, but you’re familiar with the story of Easter we’ll read today.
But being familiar with Jesus does not mean we have found Jesus, does not mean we have faith in Jesus. Many of us in fact may like being familiar with Jesus. We like the stories. It is inspiring. It is nice. It’s comfortable. There is sense of purpose or belonging… But we’re not ready to fully place faith in Jesus.
Life is full of disappointment & despair and we feel saddness. Where is Jesus?
Life is full of difficulty and we feel scared. Jesus where are you?
Our hearts are full of doubt and we feel skeptical. Jesus are you there?
So instead of seeking Jesus we seek comfort, safety in community and control apart from Christ Himself.
Because I don’t see Jesus anyway.
This morning we’ll read about some people who had some simialr feelings and experiences. We’ll be reading from the Gospel of John, the Apostle, the disciple Jesus loved. A book written to people who were feeling despair, experiencing difficulty, facing doubts as he recalls the story of the first Easter Sunday. And we’ll see Jesus was there with them in the midst of sadness, when they were scared and while they were skeptical. Jesus was there.
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away 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 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’[a]head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.8 Then the other disciple, who had 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 went back to their homes.
Here’s what happens: Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb to see Jesus. But the tomb is open. The body is gone- so she takes off, she finds Peter and John. They go to the tomb themselves and confirm Jesus is not there.
They are not going about saying “He is Risen!” with people responding HE is risen indeed.
No Mary says “He’s not there!” and they respond “He’s not there?”
They weren’t expecting a resurrection, they didn’t yet understand.
It’s kinda like when i misplace my keys and my wife is like did you look under the cushions? This news Jesus is not there is preposterous.
And even here, it says they believed, but then they just go back home. So what they believed at this point is not clear.
Mary on the other hand stays there… by herself… all alone. In other accounts we see she had been with Mary the Mother of Jesus and other women, and she knew where to go to find John and Peter… but now she is alone, all alone. She had probably felt quite alone already. She had just seen her Jesus crucified- one she had been following for some time now, one she had placed hope in, and had felt close to. She was there with Mary watching.
Some of you may have not experienced the death of a loved one. But the feeling of loss, or never seeing someone again, never being able to hold them again – well it can be overwhelming. Perhaps when your favorite tv show is cancelled and you never get to see them again, we get choked up with that. Some of you are dreading saying goodbye to your favorite Marvel hero this next week when the Avengers comes out. But this is more than just someone who we got to know once a week, this is someone we saw all the time. And they’re gone. Death is Final. That’s it. It’s over. Jesus is in the tomb- and we don’t have photos of Him to look back on. We don’t have videos. It’s all in our head and those memories fade, what will we do?
We don’t know much about Mary Magdalene from Scripture, though some have theories about her- but we do know from Luke that she was once posessed by 7 demons. She had gone through terror before. But she was following Jesus, but now He is gone. He had helped her, now He is gone.
Furthermore, This was not just merely death of a person, but death of a dear loved one but not only that is was a death of hope.
When Notre Dame caught fire this week- many lamented. Some wondered what’s the big deal? But i think the fire of Notre Dame was a big deal to many not because it was a building but of what it represented. There was beauty and hope and stability. And for it to fall awoke within people a great sense of loss and despair.
When Jesus died, they lost not just a friend, but their hope. Their hope to be rescued from oppression, their hope to be restored into a people, their hope for a better life. Their hope for something stable.
So when Mary looked into an empty tomb, I imagined she felt empty inside herself. And i say this because of what is recorded.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one 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.”
Pause one second – did you catch what happened? She saw Angels- and what did she do? She kept talking to them. In just about every other instance when someone sees an angel – they fall to the ground. They at least do a double take. They fear. Mary just keeps on weeping. She is full of despair. She is overwhelmed with sadness. Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus?… And John continues
14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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 Aramaic,[b]“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Mary is overtaken by saddness- she is looking for Jesus- just tell me where He is!
And where was Jesus?
Right in front of here, speaking to her, looking at her. With her.
Like Mary, In our despair& saddness, we can miss Jesus- even when He is right in front of us.
Have you ever felt despair & saddness like this? Have you felt alone? Have you felt like all hope is gone? Maybe it has been death of a loved one or someone who is deathly sick currently. Or maybe you feel empty because of failed relationships. OR maybe you feel no hope is really out there for Muncie or yourself.
Take note Jesus does not rebuke her for weeping, for beind sad. But He asks her- what are you seeking?
When life is disappointing, when you feel sad- what do you seek? Where do you look? Do you see Jesus?
Jesus is working in all those moments. Jesus used the most disasterous thing to accomplish something good.
Jesus is speaking. He asks us what are we seeking.
How did MAry miss Him?
Mary was not seeking a ressurected Jesus.
She wanted to be comforted, not necessarily a bad thing, but not what Jesus had in mind.
Jesus is right here with us in the midst of our saddness
And He reveals His Power
Saw this quote last night
Mary didn’t simply need comfort and love. She didn’t need stronger faith. She needed a ressurected Jesus. And So do I, and so do you.
Love- the feeling – is not stronger than death.
And our faith has nothing to stand on without the Resurection. Paul say if the Resurection did not happen we are of all men most to be pitied!
No, Jesus did come back to life. And John wants to make this clear to his readers. Jesus was not a mere aspiration or a ghost or a good feeling. The disciples did not carry around his memory so he never died. Jesus. really. did. rise. from. the dead!
And in His resurection – there is Power.
And if JEsus rose from the dead. If HE has power over death! Then He has power over anything in our lives that cause us despair and saddness. This isn’t just some wishful thinking. This isn’t a vague hope. Thi isn’t a hope that gets us through the day. It is hope grounded in something, hope grounded in evidence of an empty tomb. A hope that has power. Power over death. Death is Final. But not anymore. Death could not stop Jesus here, it will not stop Him later. And So we have hope for this life and the next. Nowadays people don’t talk much about eternity because perhaps it has made me not think about the present. But in our eagerness to see light in this world, may we not forget that Jesus promises a better future. A hope that is sure, where all pain and brokenness will be taken away, So i do not fear death or And so though my sister has died, i know i will see her again. When my mom gets cancer, i have hope in God’s power, that He will be with her now, but we will both with Him for all eterntiy. This world is not the end. My life will not end her and neither will relationships with others for those who know Jesus. HE resurrected hope. He will make things new. He will redeem. HE will restore. HE will rescue. HE can work in us.
That power comforts us but is not just to comfort us. This power is displayed so Christ is exalted. Power at work in this world, power at work in me. It is not my faith, not some love, it is Jesus, the Resurrected King. The One who has Conquered death. He is the one who is exalted this day and every day. He is Risen!
17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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 that he had said these things to her.
Now, let’s look at his disciples. What are they feeling? They had been following him, learning from Him, seeing Him perform miracles and even doing some themselves. They had placed hope in JEsus but now what?
19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews,[c]
Where were they when Jesus appeared? They were hiding. Behing locked doors. Their lives were in danger. They were afraid. After all they followed JEsus, and he was killed – perhaps they would be next. What would happen to them. They are being mocked by others. Theatened. They’re scared.
The oringinal readers would realte as they were still mocked and persecuted.
Where is Jesus now?
But the disciples they’re not even looking for Him
What are they looking for? Safety.
Here is another thing to consider… At this point they know Jesus is not in the tomb. They have heard from Mary He’s alive even. They’re hiding so they are scared. But Jesus is alive and they know His power, but… they’re still hiding
Well… i imagine their minds are racing. MAry says Jesus is alive…So… why hadn’t Jesus appeared to them?
The last they saw Jesus…
- They had been arguing about who was greatest
- They had fallen asleep when He asked them to pray
- They had run away when He was taken
- They denied knowing Him
- What feelings might they be feeling? Guilt, shame – they are not just disappointed in Jesus, they are now disappointed in themselves
One of the most dominant feelings many people have when someone dies is regret. I wish i would have spent more time with this person, i wish i would said something different. I can’t believe my last words were… How could i have not been there with them… i know i had these feelings when my sister died. I worry about that now that my mom has cancer.
But now Jesus was alive! – so they get another chance… but
- They were hiding- afraid for their lives.
- Where’s Jesus? Can He take care of me?
- Where’s Jesus? Maybe now Jesus wouldn’t be there for them
Will Jesus look at us – and see our failures, see our weakness and see our sin- and go somewhere else? Will HE contonue to bother with me. I snapped at my kids. I didn’t care for my spouse. I didn’t stand up for my faith.
Have you ever felt that way? Do you feel scared Jesus will now abandon you?
When difficulties mount up it is easy to think Jesus has abaondoned me bc i messed up too much.
Or do yoy feel scared that the difficulties against you are too many to handle?
… Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
When we’re Scared. Jesus gives Peace, His peace.
He gives us PEace with God and PEace of God.
We have Peace with God because through His death and Resurection HE has paid the penalty for our sin. HE has overcome death. I don’t need to be afraid of God. I am forgiven. I do not fear death for I know i will see Him face to face. Trouble yes. Pain perhaps. Difficulty sure. But what can man do to me? What can the world throw at me? Jesus has conquereed death. I have peace with God for eternity.
And i have peace of God because HE will be with me in my difficulties.
He doesn’t take them out trouble. He doesn’t take away the difficulty. He doesn’t stop the problems. HE gives peace.
A few chapters earlier John records these words of Jesus: 33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)
When life is disappointing, we hide. We look at ourselves- our circumstances, our failures- we live in dread. We wonder where is Jesus?
We can seek safety hide with a group of people, rath/;h f t66tfgtger than trust in Jesus
We can seek safety hide with a politcal party
We can seek safety hide wth a bottle of alcohol
We may feel like Jesus won’t show up for me – But He will. His love and grace abound.
In our disappointment Jesus brings peace when disappointments stack up
In this world we will have trouble, but take heart Jesus has overcome the world
We need Peace – but What are you seeking? Safety? Absence of trouble? OR are you seeking Jesus and the Peace He provides
Lastly we come to Thomas- he is often referred to as doubting Thomas. But let’s be honest, all of them had doubts. Perhaps though he was a bit more cynical. Thomas had missed everything. HE had been disappointed before. HE would not let it happen again. It was easier to be skeptical than to be hopeful. Why get hurt again? Why feel stupid again? He’s not evil, he just wants a bit of control. And it is easier to trust what He knows than to have faith.
24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin,[d] was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
To Thomas and those filled with doubt and feel skeptical- Jesus offers proof. And that proof is in His presence.
There are many reasons we could give for why we believe Jesus resurection is true, that Jesus is God and that He Saves.
The changed lived and testimony we read here are perhaps the best.
When Thomas believes – he exclaims my Lord and my God. He is no longer seeking control over his life. He is no longer trusting in his own knowledge and experience. He has experienced the presence of Christ and submits to Him as Lord. And His life is changed. Jesus is now Lord.
You may have doubts too.
- Maybe there has been too much difficulty or too many disappointments
- Maybe you haven’t had the experiences others had
- Maybe you have questions
Jesus comes alongside us in our doubts.
He doesn’t fear Thomas’ questions or seem annoyed by them
He comes next to Him
Like Thomas we may hvae doubts, we may be skeptical about trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior- but HE will come alongside us – His presence is wonderful, and He is worth trusting.
Most of us only have faith when we have all the answers. When i know everything, when there is no more unknonw, no more uncertainty- then i’ll believe.
Jesus comes along side our doubts.
Sure Thomas got to see Jesus, Yet he also says blessed are those who believe yet have not seen.
When we trust Jesus even when we don’t have all the answers, even when we don’t have it all figured out – we will be blessed with even greater experience of Jesus.
What are you seeking?
These are also the first recorded words of JEsus in John’s Gospel- what are you looking for?
- Do you just want comfort from your pain, despair, saddness
- Do you place all faith in a significant other to take those problems away?
- Are you seeking safety, deliverence from problems & disappointments?
- Do you place your faith in money, plans, politcal parties
- Are you seeking to avoid all unknown & confusion – to be free of doubt?
- Do you place faith in yourself?
Jesus is seeking you. He wants you to find Him. He appeared to Mary, to the disciples, to Thomas. He is calling out to you. HE wants you to experience His presence, reveal His power and give His peace.
Will you repsond in faith today
- Maybe you need to give your life to Jesus and say Jesus i need your peace, i want peace with you and i want a relationship with you. I don’t just want to know about you, i want to know you. I thank you for dying on the cross for my sins, thank you for overcoming death. Come into my life I invite you to be my Savior and Lord today
Some of you may need to surrender and submit to JEsus as Lord and confess sin and ask for faith. Lord i do believe, help me in my unbelief. You are my Lord and God- may i seek you and hope in you.
The primary call of John in writing is the Call to Faith
- Seek Jesus
- Trust Jesus
- To find life in JEsus
30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
However for Further Application in Response to the Resurection – let me show this.
After He appeared to Mary Jesus told her to go tell his brother. HE tells the disciples to preach forgiveness. He foreshadows to Thomas there will be others who will believe – and how? by them being witnesses.
As they had experienced Jesus, they could be His witness to others – and so can we. We have experienced something wonderful and powerful. We have peace with God and others need Him too.
Furthermore- for all these people present, none of them really believed until they saw the risen body of Christ. Well, John Perkins has pointed out- We are the body of Christ. When we reach out to others, when we love and serve others and care for others and go into their communities- they see the body of Christ. And the words we share will be even more convincing. We are His body, We are His witness. We have seen Christ. We can be active in telling others.
Jesus really did Rise from the Dead.
Reveals His Power
Gives His Peace
HE is Present with us
We can trust Him.
We can move beyond being familiar to faith.
HE is RISEN!
(HE is Risen indeed)