B.C.P.Easter Day : John 20:1-10
John tells us the events of the Sunday morning after Jesus died and was buried. Mary Magdalene has witnessed Jesus' death on the cross and has been present at his burial in the tomb hewn out of the rock. The positioning of the linen wrappings shows that the grave has not been robbed. Today's gospel features the first of many pieces of evidence that we can piece together to show that Jesus did rise from death that first Easter Sunday.
But did she, and the other disciples really see Jesus after his death ? If they did what significance does this have ? We may re-phrase these questions by asking :
Is the resurrection true ?
What does it mean ?
Is the resurrection true ?
Different theories have been put forward.
1) The disciples thought that the spirit of Jesus lived on in their hearts and lives.
Typical 'liberal' stance because they cannot accept that such a thing can happen !
Yet, if this was so why did they proclaim that Jesus had defeated death and record stories of having a breakfast of fish with them ?
2) Hallucinations. Yet 1 Cor. 15 tells of the risen Jesus appearing to over 500 people at the same time. Couldn't be hallucination, happens to individuals. Also don't eat fish and leave bones behind !
3) Jesus wasn't really dead, he had been unconscious on the cross and recovered in the cool of the tomb.
Firstly, Jesus did die on the cross. Soldiers professional executioners, they didn't break his legs because they only needed to do this to facilitate death, and they knew Jesus was already dead. Also when they put the sword in His side blood and water flowed out separately, which is a sign of death.
Even if Jesus had swooned on the cross, how did he in a weakened state get out of the heavy cloths and spices, roll the stone away, and sneak past the guards without being noticed. Then how did he convince the disciples that he had conquered death rather than escaped it ? How did he manage to appear and disappear at will if he still had his, now rather weakened human body ? Unlike someone who collapsed Jesus was not resuscitated. He had been raised from the dead.
4) The Romans and/or the Jewish leaders had the body. If they did, and the disciples started to claim that Jesus had risen then all they had to do was to produce it. Relegating Jesus to the role of another failed revolutionary who would be soon forgotten.
But they didn't. They couldn't. And the risen Jesus has transformed human history.
5) The disciples had the body. To get this they would have had to get past the guards who would face the death penalty if the body was stolen. Yet when we read of the disciples we discover that they didn't expect the resurrection. They didn't really understand Jesus' teaching about this until after it had happened. The resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit transformed them from frightened people hiding from the authorities to bold spokesmen who would face death for their belief in the risen Jesus.
Why would they die for a lie ? And, if it was a lie why would they make up a story that the risen Jesus was first seen by a woman ? In that culture a woman's testimony was not accepted in court because they were second class citizens. So who would invent such an account ?
6) This is the theory that I favour... IT IS TRUE !
The evidence points to it. The experience of millions of Christians throughout history points to it. The existence of the church proves it. Eleven frightened, uneducated, lower class, irreligious northerners spread a message that has changed history. Today you will find millions of Christians who will claim that Jesus has transformed their lives and that they have met with him. How can you say that of a dead person ?
Is the resurrection true ? Of course it is !
What does it mean ?
a) A New creation.
Old creation was spoiled by the fall from grace cf Adam & Eve. Spoiled by sin and death.
God was unhappy about the way that the world was flawed after he had created it to be faultless. He wanted to restore it to it's original state. The way he had planned it from the start. To bring in this new creation God had to deal with the sin and death that had ruined the old creation.
The new creation heralds the victory of God in Christ over sin and death. Jesus is the gardener who brings in the new creation for those who are united with him.
2 Cor. 5:17 . 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Therefore, death need be feared no longer. Sin need enslave no longer. Whilst Jesus has brought in the new creation we will not enjoy the full benefits of it until he returns and takes all who trust in him, living and dead, to be united with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that we should not strive to live in a way that reflects our new status in Christ.
Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Where is Christ now ? If we have been raised with Christ where are we ?
Now this is talking about our hearts and minds. But if our hearts and minds really are with Christ and he is in heaven why do we hold on so tightly to the things of this world ?
Jesus is alive today and can be known, served, and followed in the new life that he has for everyone who trusts in him.
b) A New Covenant.
The Old Covenant had not worked out. God had chosen a people, the Jews. He had delivered them from the slavery of Egypt and promised them their own land because of his undeserved favour. God wanted his people to live for him, to worship him and follow his ways. That is why he gave the O.T. law. However, the Israelites consistently worshipped other gods and disobeyed the commandments.
By the time of Jesus many Jews thought that because they were Jewish and had the O.T. law that this made them right with God. Some thought that they could obey all the O.T. law. However, Jesus taught that the law exposes our sinfulness and our need to be saved, rather than giving us a way by which we may be saved.
God works by saving first by his grace, then calls his people to respond in worship, love, obedience and service. Under the new covenant God sent His only Son to earth. Jesus obeyed God's will for all of his life and was, therefore, able to offer himself as a sinless sacrifice in the place of sinners. The way to God is now open. The curtain in the temple has been ripped in two to symbolise this. The stone of the tomb has been rolled away to show that the way to God is open through Jesus.
The resurrection of Jesus underlines the truth of his claims, his teaching and his death. It is God's 'Amen' to all of these. Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to teach the ways of God. He claimed to be sinless. He claimed to be the only way to God by offering himself as a sacrifice for other people's sin on the cross. He claimed that he would rise from the dead. If the last claim had not become true how can we believe the others ? If Jesus had not risen from the dead we would have to deduce that he was either deluded or evil. In fact we would have deduced nothing because he would have been buried in human history amongst all the others who have failed. The resurrection brings alive Jesus' promise of forgiveness and a new, right relationship with God
c) A New Hope.
Jesus denounced the Jewish religious leaders because they hindered their people's walk with God. Giving them no real hope. The Saducees offered less hope than the Pharisees because they didn't even believe in life after death !
The resurrection offers a new hope. The word hope in the Greek was more certain than the way we use the word.
It offers a new level of being. Jesus, in talking to Mary in verse 17 is saying, 'Stop touching me for I have not ascended permanently to my Father. So, you do not have to hold onto me as if I am about to disappear permanently. Go and tell my disciples that I am in the process of ascending to my Father.'
We should not think of Jesus' resurrection as though he had returned to life and then later ascended into heaven. Rather, Jesus has passed into an entirely different reality. From the time of his resurrection to the time we call his ascension he was with God exalted in heaven but would return to earth on occasions. This is why he could suddenly appear and disappear. So Jesus had already ascended temporarily. Fifty days later he would ascend permanently. After his permanent ascension Jesus will show himself to the disciples in terms of love and the presence of the Father and the Son through the indwelling Holy Spirit (14:22).
Revelation 21:5 God says, 'I am making everything new !' We have a certain hope that one day we will be with God with new, perfect resurrection bodies like Jesus. Bodies that have continuity with our earthly bodies but are radically different. Not subject to ageing, disease, sickness, infirmity, or death.
We will live with God and with Jesus, serving him and reigning with him forever.
Jesus is there now, waiting for us. How can we respond to this ?
- In praise, adoration, worship, and service of Jesus in this life.
- By setting our minds and hearts, our hopes, and our treasures in heaven.
- Telling others about the good news of Jesus