Sermon, Pentecost 22C, Story Week 27
Sunday October 16, 2016, St Petri.
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.
In this Story of God in which we live as his loved baptised people, we hit the crescendo moment of the whole thing today. This is like the soaring notes of some Italian tenor at the opera. This is a cosmic shift in the cosmos. By what these first followers will hear and see and share with the rest of humanity, the world is changed, a billion human hearts has been changed and you and I are changed from a cold, hard, dark, lifeless Saturday to a light filled, joy filled, hope-filled month of Sundays!
The first Easter Sunday was so good because the day before had been so bad.
On that Saturday it seems that all was lost. The ship had sunk. The game was up. The future bleak. Like a Bathurst 1000 race driver putting his blood, sweat, skill and skills into winning the race only to be knocked out of the race by another guy or just simply make a mistake that costs him the race, you are spent.
How was it for Jesus’ close associates that Saturday? They saw it all, heard it all and felt it all – all the blood, the pain, the loss, the injustice. They are scared.
Jesus could not be more shamed and goodness and hope so dashed. He is dead in the rich man’s tomb, thanks to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.
As for the long-held promises of the Lord – a land of their own, a king and a kingdom that will never be defeated, a new era of dry bones made alive (Ezekiel 34), streams in the parched desert, a holy mountain, the Lord ever present and ever caring of his people in Zion, the holy city……. gone. Death seems absolute. It must have seemed that all they now had was themselves. That is where they and we get stuck on Saturday and miss Sunday.
Hearing those Saturday stories in the gospels shows that Saturday was a day God’s people had no hope, and therefore, no courage.
While Jesus’ opponents celebrated his death, his disciples were hiding in fear that they, too, would receive a cross.
The disciples hid behind closed doors in fear. Jesus had told them of this three-day rising a few times. But they could not trust Jesus’ promises of a resurrection on Saturday (Mark 8:21; 9:31; 10:24).
The women disciples were locked into dark Saturday too. They did not intend to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday morning, but embalm his dead body (Mark 16:2-3).
Friend, do you find yourself living like it is Saturday? I can find myself living in a Saturday state of mind. A Saturday state of mind says I only have myself to rely on. I only have things to make lifer worthwhile. I only have what I can do and say and achieve that makes any sense of the day. And Saturday state of mind days have this dark foreboding. There is a pall of meaninglessness that covers a person when they are stuck in Saturday mind and heart.
I meet a lot of people who live in Saturday all days of the week. There is no divine light of change and hope in the day so they just live in this lower story of me; me achieving,; me doing; me trying to figure out the mysteries they face – why bad things happen to people, why it is easier to doubt God than trust his word; why the whole world seems to support me when I reject faith in Jesus and very few back me when I speak a word of faith or tell them I pray to God.
I wonder whether it is also quite easy for a local church to be stuck in Saturday – little courage to take a bold step, little hope that the Lord is with and in his people; little intention to plan, to try, to hope, to love, to keep our hearts and eyes on God’s movement, God’s words. God’s people and God’s gifts.
Without the next Day, the Lord’s Day; the resurrection day this is where we stay – dark Saturday, dead day, me day, only humanity striving day.
But then comes Sunday. Sunday is light day, joy day, new life and hope and peace day. This old bag of bones with its constant self-focus and naval gazing tendency is interrupted. This dark heart with ancient wounds is renewed. This ship of people is picked up by a new breeze – the movement of God’s Spirit proclaiming that Friday has happened, Saturday has happened and now a month of Sunday’s are ours forever.
We can hear the new breeze sweeping into the first Christians….
Mary Magdalene came to Jesus’ tomb stuck in a Saturday state of mind (John 20:10-18). The empty tomb did not take away her despair and grief. The angels did not take away her despair and grief. Mary Magdalene, the one Jesus befriended and delivered from demonic oppression, had the sadness of Saturday covering her heart.
Jesus, alive from the dead, meets with Mary Magdalene.
Mary is stuck in Saturday mind. She cannot recognise him by sight. She thinks Jesus is the gardener.
How does it change? What has to happen for Saturday hopelessness and sorry to leave and the new light and life of Jesus’ Sunday flood into her soul?
How does you dark Saturday world change into Sunday life and meaning stretching out into your future?
Something has to happen to change the day from me to God; from self-reliance to trust in Jesus; from that sense of gnawing doubt and fear to the release of freedom from fear and hope to get on with my day in his love.
Here is what changes Mary; changes the moment from Saturday sorrow to Sunday singing for joy.
Jesus speaks. She cannot recognise him with her eyes but with her ears. He speaks.
But what does he speak? What makes all the difference and sets her and you and I on a new course for a new day?
He speaks her name. Her name. He speaks her name. “Mary”.
Her body is moved from the darkness of early dawn to the light of acceptance, love and relationship with Jesus – the same Jesus she knows.
Hear the resurrected Jesus calling your name now. He has already done that for you. He has called you by your name and you are his. He has re-named you in the water of your baptism as he resurrected you from a life of self-reliance that leads to dark death forever, to a life in him in his love, his acceptance, his hope, his future, his kindness; his rock-solid promises to be with you to the very end of all things.
Jesus speaks Mary’s name and she realizes that Jesus, her Lord, is alive from the dead.
Jesus speaks your name as he proclaims who he is in his story as you sing and pray and listen here, as you share the journey everywhere with your fellow named travellers in life.
Jesus speaks our name and calls us to follow. He calls us to teach him, share him, speak of him, pray to him, listen to him, love him as he has loved and still loves us. He loves this church and he calls us to be love for this town.
We will have Fridays and Saturdays still: Days that seem dark and days that are lost. But they cannot last now for those baptised into the death resurrection of this mighty king of kings who has authority over life and death. Just the sound of his voice calling our name is enough to change the day.
Because he calls you by name, you can with Mary call him “Lord”. if he is Lord then we are free and we are loved and we are living in a month of Sundays.
Chapter 27, the resurrection
Timeless Truth: he is risen!
Chapter Summary (Have someone in your group read the summary section.)
Ashamed. Afraid. Absent. Mere hours after they pledged never to leave Jesus—even to die with Jesus—the Eleven were nowhere near the cross as the sun began to set. The Roman soldiers were still there though and pierced His side to prove Jesus was very, very dead. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, an unlikely duo, show up at the cross. These two members of the Sanhedrin shed their secret discipleship and took responsibility for burying Jesus’ body. Wrapping Him in enough spices for a king, they laid Him in a nearby tomb. Remembering Jesus’ words, the Jewish authorities and Pilate secured the tomb and posted a guard there to keep the three-day resurrection story from gaining any traction.
Early Sunday morning, a small band of faithful women approached His tomb wondering who could remove the rock that sealed the entrance. Imagine their shock as an angel announced to them that Jesus was not there, “He is risen, just as He said!” Hearing the news, Peter and John sprinted to the tomb. They, too, found it empty. As Mary Magdalene remained weeping, Jesus appeared to her. Later the same day, an unrecognized Jesus approached two downcast disciples on the road to Emmaus. Evidently all of Jerusalem was abuzz with the events of the last three days. The One whom they had trusted to redeem all of Israel had been crucified and they were disappointed. Some silly women even had an unbelievable angelic vision and the tomb was empty. But what’s a guy to do except head home to Emmaus? Jesus admonished the two for their unbelief. Then He used Moses and the Prophets to teach them about the Messiah. Jesus dined with them that evening. When their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, He disappeared from their sight, but they finally got it! So they headed back to Jerusalem at full speed and full of joy to report their experience to the Eleven. They were interrupted there by yet another Jesus appearance. An empty tomb and two appearance reports later, the disciples still cowered and mistook Jesus for a ghost when He spoke to them. “Touch me and see,” He said as He showed them His hands and feet. When Jesus re-explained the Old Testament in light of all that had happened, He opened their minds so they too finally understood.
Thomas was not about to believe these second-hand stories. He wouldn’t believe it until he saw the nail marks for himself. A week later, Jesus graciously appeared to Thomas and the others just so he could touch the scars for himself. Thomas confessed, “My Lord and My God!” Yes, now he believed that Jesus was the God-man and that He was risen indeed.
Sometime later, Jesus appeared to the disciples by the Sea of Galilee. Having caught nothing all night, Jesus told these fishermen to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. The miraculous catch was so great that they could hardly get the fish into the boat. It prompted Peter to bail out and head to the Lord. Over a beach breakfast, Jesus three times asked Peter if he loved Him. Then He told Peter three times to care for His sheep. The Eleven met Jesus on a Galilean mountain where He commissioned them to continue to carry out His mission by saying, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As God, Jesus had all authority to now commission His disciples to carry out the building up of His new community of believers who would be identified with the Triune God. They in turn could accomplish their mission because, as Emmanuel (Matthew 1:23), He would be with them to do so. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ vindicated Him as the Son of God. It is the cornerstone of the Christian faith and the climax of God’s great story of redemption. The redemptive work was finished, but now there was more work to do to spread the good news, and this ragtag group of disciples were just the ones to do it, armed with the supernatural power headed their way.
Icebreaker Question: How did you celebrate Easter when you were a child?
- People have always had difficulty believing that Jesus was God in the flesh. (Read 1 John 1:1, 2:22 and 4:2-3.) What details did John include in the crucifixion story for his readers to know for certain that Jesus, fully human, had truly died? How does knowing that God came to live among us affect your daily life?
- For whose sake did the angel roll away the stone (p. 382)? What other major events have been announced by angels?
- List everything you have learned about Jesus’ resurrection body from this chapter. Why is Jesus’ literal, physical resurrection a non-negotiable teaching of the Christian faith? (See Romans 1:4, 4:25 and 1 Corinthians 15:17.)
- Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-23, 42-49. What does Jesus’ resurrection mean for you personally and for all believers?
- Thomas is frequently referred to as “doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe his fellow disciples’ testimony. Then, a week after the resurrection, he confessed, “My Lord and My God!” Do you think Thomas’ reputation is justified or do you think he has been labeled unjustly? Why or why not?
- What parallels can you find between Peter’s denial story (John 18:17-27) and his restoration story (p. 387-388, John 21:15-23)? What does Peter’s restoration reveal about Jesus’ heart and how does it apply to you personally?
- What does Jesus’ Great Commission on the mountain in Galilee require of all His disciples (p. 388)? Discuss what is involved in “making disciples.”
In the time remaining ask your group members to share any of their personal reflection insights from their journal entries.
Chapter 28, new beginnings
Journal your answers to these questions as you read through the chapter this week. You may wish to read one day and journal the next, or spread the questions over the whole week.
- Just fifty days earlier Peter denied Christ and cowered in fear and shame. Now we find Peter preaching in the first megachurch, facing down Jewish religious leaders, and noticeably full of courage. What factors accounted for this change?
- What was the new church doing to build relationships and to make disciples in Jerusalem (p. 392, 395)? How can our church do the same?
- How did early Christians regard material possessions (p. 395)? What should be the role of the church in helping the poor today?
- Why do you suppose the early believers “enjoyed the favor of all the people” (p. 392) and “were highly regarded by the people” (p. 395)? How critical is this to the mission of the church?
- When ordered by the Sanhedrin to discontinue teaching and preaching in the name of Jesus, Peter answered, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (p. 396). He was also willing to accept the consequences of his stance. Yet Christians are also called to respect and to submit to governmental authorities (Rom. 13:1-7). When do you think it is okay for Christians to resist authority and when is it not?
- Cornelius’ conversion along with his household dramatically changed the direction of the church. What began as a Jewish messianic movement would now cross ethnic barriers. Consider the ethnic and racial barriers that exist in the Church today. What are some ways that our church can promote greater racial and ethnic integration and harmony in the church locally? Globally? Personally?
- What did you learn about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and believers from this chapter of The Story? What does this mean for you?