Watercolor painting by E. J. Kirsch

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Apr 1, 2018

“Peace Be With You” 4-1-18 Easter Sunday

John 20:1-20
April 1, 2018, Easter

This is the great day, the anniversary of one of the greatest events in God’s labors, and one of the pivotal points of human history.  This is the day when we celebrate God’s unleashing of his ultimate weapon.
Last Sunday as I spoke about Lazarus and the enemies of Jesus’ decision to kill him, I described the ultimate weapons of Satan and his minions and God and his forces.  Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, demonstrating that he had the power to give and restore life.  The enemies were planning to kill Lazarus and Jesus.  Their ultimate weapon was death.
We do not know if Lazarus was killed or if he later died a natural death. But we do know that the enemies of Jesus were successful in having Jesus put to death.  And then God brought Jesus back to life.  In the earthly sphere, death ends life.  But in God’s kingdom, Life triumphs over death.
The reason for this is the death of Jesus himself.  By his death he took care of the deaths that we needed to suffer forever because of our sins. 
On Easter we celebrate that as Jesus rose from the dead into a new life, he has the power to do the same for us, and has decreed that he will do so when He returns to earth.
But there are some specifics of the event of the resurrection of Jesus that I want to look at this morning as we look at John’s account of that great day.
John agrees with the other gospels that the first to know about Jesus resurrection was a woman.  The other gospels speak of more than one woman, but John is only interested in the experiences and words of one, Mary of Magdala.
When Mary saw the opened tomb and knew that the tomb was empty, she reported to Peter and the author of the gospel.  But what she is recorded as saying is most interesting to me.  She said “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Today, I take this as a reminder that the people of our time are not the only ones who like to divide up the world into we and they or them and us.  Now in her case, the we was probably she and the other ladies who went to the tomb with her, but who was the they?  Since she is reporting their bad or mysterious behavior to Peter, it is obvious that she suspected those who had been opposed to Jesus and his followers.
But the reality is that she was wrong.  It was God who was responsible for the tomb being opened and the body being gone.  The enemies of Jesus were responsible for Jesus death, and his body being in a tomb, but God was responsible for the empty tomb, and I think he was rather proud of doing it.
Sometimes I think we give our enemies and the enemies of God too much credit.  We need to understand and admit that it is not just us and them in our world, God still operates with power in our world and we need to step back before we blame or credit us or them, and try to see if God might be working in the latest strange developments in our world.
The writer of the gospel tells us that he believed when he looked into the empty tomb and saw the way the grave clothes were arranged.  But then he wrote that he and Peter did not yet understand the scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead.  He had a faith, but it was not yet informed by an understanding of the scriptures.
You can have a faith in Jesus without reading the scriptures, but an informed faith keeps one from making certain mistakes.
When the two apostles left the cemetery, Mary remained, and then saw two angels in the tomb who asked her why she was crying.  She answered them by blaming them for taking the body.  Then she turned around and saw someone.
She thought he was the Gardner, and he asked her whom she was looking for.  And that, I think revealed one of her problems.  She was not at that moment looking for a person, she was looking for a body, a thing.
One of the things that Jesus pointed out in his ministry and even after his resurrection is that God is not a thing, He is a loving father, He is a self-sacrificing son, and he is an inspiring Spirit.  He is not an impersonal power; He is a three personal almighty being.
Jesus told Mary not to grab hold of him, because he had to ascend to the Father.  He wanted her and the apostles to understand that Jesus, as he rose from the dead, did not yet represent the final product of God’s plan for Jesus or for his people.  The final product will be the eternal kingdom of God which will begin when Jesus returns to earth.
Later that day, Jesus appeared to his Apostles and he started his visit with the word “Shalom, or Peace be to You”
This was probably important to them, because the last some of them saw of Jesus was when they were running away from him as he was arrested.  Now the one they abandoned to death has returned from death, and he might want to deal with their abandonment in his hour of need.  But No, Jesus had risen from the dead to give them eternal life, and to give to them, and to us, real peace.
It is our custom to celebrate the death of our lord with his supper, on the day we also celebrate his Resurrection.  It was by his death that he paid for our sins and by his resurrection that he announced eternal life for all who believe in Him.  We celebrate his death this morning from the other side of death, from Life.  And we remember that as he granted to his Apostles on that day, whatever we have done, however we might have abandoned Jesus in the past, He has returned to us, and offered us forgiveness and Peace.  Forever.

Pastor David Horner
Faith Presbyterian Church
West Lafayette, IN 47906