Story, Week 27, Easter 04/16/17—Highland—Meute
Isaiah 25: 6-9; Colossians 3: 1-4; John 20: 11-18
Pearl: The risen, reigning Lord and God of all comes to each of us personally to make us ALIVE! (He presented Himself to Mary Magdalene personally).
Function: To move worshippers into glorious life with the joy that the risen Jesus presents Himself to each and every one of us to bring us out of a “Saturday state of mind” and into a “Sunday state of mind.”
There is agreement among the gospels that Mary Magdalene and another woman were the first to arrive at the empty tomb on that first Sunday after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. When they found it empty they ran…to tell Peter and the other disciples.
1. These men quickly went to the tomb to see for themselves and amazingly upon examination of the burial site “believed” that Jesus was alive again. And they ran out of that place of the dead changed and animated by this new reality.
2. One person lingered, though. Mary Magdalene was not as upbeat as the others. This is often true of people. Some people are able to accept things by faith quickly and easily. For others, it is much harder. It takes time for things to sink in. Questions need to be asked. Mary Magdalene was a very close follower of Jesus. It is written that Jesus delivered her from the bondage of what scripture described as seven demons. The number seven suggests that her oppression was complete and total.
3. So, her despair over the death of Jesus did not change as quickly as it had for Peter and the other disciple.
a. The risen Lord Jesus knew this. So, he accommodated to Mary and approached her Himself in person.
On that first Easter morning Mary Magdalene experienced first hand, personally, that Jesus was ALIVE! Death lost and LOVE won! From Jesus’ resurrection victory originates the truth that love wins every single time!
1. In a radio sermon Tom Long, my preaching professor in seminary, posed a hypothetical question first advanced by Frederick Buechner. What if God were to rearrange the stars in the sky one night, to spell out the words, “I REALLY EXIST?” The reaction, Long imagined, would be dramatic.
a. Churches would spill over into football stadiums, crime would cease, wars would suddenly stop–an uncanny hush would fall over the world— for a while.
b. But, then, there would be the message in the stars night after night, month after month, year after year. Every night the sky would proclaim “I REALLY EXIST,” and it would become a normal part of nature.
c. What we really need, Long continued, is something more.
i. What we really want in our deepest need is not proof that there is a God somewhere who exists, or even scientific evidence that a resurrection happened some time ago in history. What we need is a God who is right here, knee-deep in the mud and mire of human existence—a risen Christ who comes to us every day to give life and hope. That is, a God who comes not in the evidence but in the relationship of trust we call faith.
2. Mary Magdalene’s “despair of Saturday” over the death of her Lord and Master Jesus, gave way to the “Day of Resurrection” for her; Jesus was ALIVE again!
a. She knew that he was alive because he personally made himself known to her.
b. Life, his life, surged forth to her and surrounded her and lifted her from a “Saturday state of mind” to a “Sunday state of mind!”
Then in his resurrected body Jesus began that morning to go to his followers in whatever way was needed in order for them to take steps of faith to believe that he was raised. He continues to do so still today and he will not stop seeking to bring everyone and all things to LIFE.
1. This Easter morning, your Lord comes to you. He does so in whatever way it takes to get through to you. What does it take to get through to you?
a. Many of the most successful sports teams go by the slogan, “Whatever it takes!” That is how our Lord works to get through to you, in whatever way it takes. After all, Jesus is the Way. So, he is Lord of every way. He uses them all.
2. There is a touching scene in Steven Spielberg’s 1997 historical drama, Amistad. A group of slaves who mutinied and took over their slave ship are sitting in a New England prison in the year 1839, awaiting trial.
a. A missionary visited them, leaving behind an illustrated Bible. None of the slaves could speak English, let alone read it, but they looked at the pictures. One of them, a man named Yamba, became intrigued by the Bible, and spent many hours studying the engraved illustrations.
b. Cinque, the leader of the mutiny, looked over at him and said, “You don’t have to pretend to be interested in that. Nobody’s watching but me.”
c. But Yamba was interested. He urged Cinque over, and began to tell him the story he saw in the pictures.
i. First, he pointed to a picture of Jewish people being attacked by lions. “Their people have suffered more than ours,” he said. Yamba flipped ahead to a picture of the baby Jesus, crowned with a halo of light: “Then he was born, and everything changed.” Cinque asked, “Who is he?”
ii. Yamba admitted he didn’t know, but said the child must be very special. In each picture, Yamba discovered, this man has a halo. “Everywhere he goes,” said Yamba, “he is followed by the sun.”
iii. Yet, all is not sunny. “Something happened,” he said, pointing at a picture of Jesus in chains, surrounded by soldiers with spears. “He was captured, accused of some crime.” Cinque shook his head, “He must have done something.”
iv. “Why?” asks Yamba, in a one-word question that captures all the injustice of slavery. “What did we do?” Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked Cinque: “Do you want to see how they killed him?”
v. Cinque reminded Yamba it’s only a story, but he just shook his head. Evidently, it was more real to him than that. “But look,” he went on. “That’s not the end of it. His people took his body down from….” There he paused and drew a cross in the air. “They took him into a cave. They wrapped him in cloth, like we do. They thought he was dead, but he appeared before his people again and he spoke to them. Then, finally, he rose into the sky.”
vi. “This is where the soul goes when you die here,” Yamba continued. “This is where we’re going when they kill us.” The final illustration is one depicting heaven as a place filled with glorious light. Stroking the picture gently with his fingers, Yamba concluded, “It doesn’t look so bad.”
Yamba received the assurance of eternal life through Jesus Christ by looking at pictures in a book!
The truth of Easter and the resurrection of our Lord from the dead, means that no matter what darkness surrounds you, life will prevail!
1. The place for growth and new life often comes out of dark and difficult places.
2. Time and time again those dark and difficult places are exactly where Jesus will appear to you and bring you into life.
DEATH LOST…LOVE WINS…LIFE PREVAILS… The risen Lord Jesus Christ will do whatever it takes to bring you to LIFE AGAIN. His love is relentless.
By faith, trust God; trust Love who beat death. The “Upper Story,” the message of the Bible says that God doesn’t give up. He keeps coming and he keeps speaking and he keeps pursuing.
A Saturday frame of mind will always, ultimately be followed by a Sunday state of mind. “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b), so be patient and look for Jesus. He will be there in that dark and difficult place! You find him by trusting in Him.
“If the spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
What do modern Jews say? “L Chaim!”
“To Life!” “To Life!” Indeed, “To Life!”