Sermon, Easter Day, April 21, 2019, St Petri

Less is More (James the Lesser Drama – Skit Guys)

John 20:1–18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!’

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped round Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

 11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

13 They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’

‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ 14 At this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realise that it was Jesus.

15 He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?’

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’

16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’

She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’).

17 Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’

18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.


Who are you in the light of Easter? The ‘lesser’, the “greater”; somebody or nobody – and who makes you that?

James the Lesser, speaks up today. He may have had that strange name that sounds like put-down to our modern ears, but he didn’t stay “lesser” after the resurrection. The resurrection gave him new calling, new place, new name and new hope.  Same for us today.

Many believe this James wrote the letter in the bible that bears his name; James. He was probably a relative of Jesus, therefore called, James the brother of Jesus in some places. He was really important in this fledgling Easter resurrection community.

Paul tells us that James the Lesser was an eye witness of the resurrection of Jesus and a real ‘pillar’ of the early church (Acts 12:17), and a person whom Paul consulted re the preaching of the gospel at least once (Galatians 1:19; Acts 9:27).

But that was only after this day of resurrection. Before Jesus’ resurrection, things were different.

Names matter. The drama suggests that James started not only calling himself what they called him, James the Lesser, but thinking of himself that way too.

I could imagine that being possible in the troubled little community. Power plays and disputes were part of their experience. Even on the very night of the Passover, the one Jesus’ completely reconfigured into the Last Supper, just two days prior, a dispute had arisen as to who was the greatest among them (Luke 23)!

Maybe James did start naming himself, “Lesser” – less than everyone else. This is easy to do when trouble comes your way, as it did for him and this community around Jesus who were devastated at what had just happened.

All the grief and doubt act upon us…… James says he was the last one chosen by Jesus. Remember that experience at school: being the last one chosen? You know – when the teacher picked two captains who then picked their team for the game from the class?

The popular or sporty kids always got picked quickly in order of preference. Then there was the rest. That was a slower process. It came to an embarrassing halt when there was that one kid who was not sporty at all, or did not even place in the popularity race.

But whether you were that “lesser” kid who never got to be the top dog, or if you were the other person: the one who worked very hard to be top dog at the expense of all the ‘lessers”, all of that does not matter on Easter Day. It all changes today. No one is Lesser anymore! The only truly great One is Jesus. All of us just marvel together as one.

THE Top Dog became the lesser for us, so that we now stand with him and share his greatness – not in power over others, but in his free loving embrace of all the ‘lessers’ who ever lived and live now.

How are you this Easter Day? Are you the lesser who has been given the gift of forgiveness and hope by this resurrected Jesus that now makes you great; great as you stand resurrected with Jesus the Saviour in your baptism?

Or, are you still considering yourself lesser; refusing to let this good man with his good news in? Or maybe you are still believing you are actually great enough on you own terms, apart from this man’s cross shaped love?

Friends, we have to go to the scars and the food on that first resurrection day. What really turned things upside down was the wounds and the eating – the scars and the food.

Jesus appeared and they saw those scares and felt those scars and shared food with this resurrected man – more than once too.

Why does that make all the difference? Because those wounds and that eating of real food is the difference between Jesus just being a ghost of no use and the Saviour who transforms human beings by sheer love to be new love for his world.

The fact that his body was still a body and had wounds like ours and ate like we do is it the difference between us scratching around in the dark trying to find some floating spirit man by some means, and him embracing us humanly – in total.

The wounds and the food and the human words are the difference between a future in some far off unknowable eternal void, and the sure future with him living in his new earth and new heaven fully as we are – body and all.

Those wounds and that bread and fish also mean that Jesus was not just a figment of our imagination or a moment of divine trickery by which God only put on some human clothes for a while, and only ever felt those thorns, those strikes, those insulting words, that dark evil enclose him in a second-hand unreal kind of way.

Because he is still human after his resurrection, as Mary discovered near the tomb, we know for sure that he was before it.

We can trust that he went through this hell in all its hell as a human. That transforms him into not just an example to follow but the Saviour that truly transforms our minds to be new humans – new community, new love for a loveless world.

And, what about that meal – the Passover re-born where he says that a new closeness, a new relationship of grace is now given in his body and blood in the bread and wine of the meal we share?

Doesn’t the real presence of this risen Saviour with wounds and who eats make all the sense in the world now?

Doesn’t he revolutionise our faith and give us Easter joy every time we share him?

It I Easter Day. Alleluia!

I am not sure whether you have given up on this hope in the Greatest love the world has ever seen and his real presence with you always beyond his grave and yours.

I am not sure whether you have ever really been touched by this man of love and re-born as his loved woman or man.

I am not sure whether you have pretty much been living on your own manufactured hope.

Either way, we all end up “the Lesser” without this day: without him with his wounds and his meal.

James the Lesser thought of himself as forgettable before all this. You still might think of yourself that way – as if you are not as important as others, not as valued as others, not as memorable as others.

You might feel like you are standing around waiting to be picked by the captain with everyone else laughing about your lack of ability and the captain begrudgingly considering picking you for the team.

Not this captain! He is picking you not because you are good at the game but because he is and wants to help you play well in this game of life with which we love them all.

Easter is the ‘Captain’s Pick” and Jesus is the captain who does not pick people, name people or treat people as loved and accepted on the basis of their skills or status or skill or name.

The only reason James the Lesser and you whoever you name yourself at the moment are in this team is because Jesus picked you on this Resurrection day – the thief, the rich and the young, the old and the struggling, the good and the bad.

Friend, he is unforgettable because he is not dead, not just a memory, not just a dead guru or admirable leader who met an unjust end, not just a floating disconnected and unaware spirit.

He did it. He chose this cross and this empty grave and this human way. He chose you. He still does.

Funny thing is, now I don’t care if I am not picked first by others of this world.

I don’t care if I am ever picked by them.

I am just elated to hear him say, “Peace be with you” and breath his Spirit into me as he calls me to love as he loves.

Less of me and more of him is OK by me.