John 20. 1 thru 18 He is Risen...Indeed!
He is Risen…Indeed!
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, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus' head. The cloth was folded up by itself, 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.)
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
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." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "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."
Jesus said to her, "Mary."
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "
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.
He has risen!…(He is risen indeed!) Ah, but there comes the question that every sermon ought to try and answer at least in some small way: “So what?” I mean no offense, no disrespect, no flippancy. I don’t mean to shatter anyone’s faith, or imply that what we celebrate together today in worship is without meaning. I simply put the question to you. I have proclaimed: "The Lord is Risen." You have responded to this statement of faith with: "He is risen, indeed." And so, I again put the question to you, as well as to myself: “So what?” Do we understand what this means? Do we just go home?
Let’s look at what happens in our text. John and Peter see the empty tomb and the grave cloths “folded up” and from the physical evidence they “believed”…But it also says, “they did not understand the scripture”…the scriptures tell us that He must rise from the dead. It is remarkable to us that they didn’t understand that He would have to die and rise again. They had been told this very truth by Jesus Himself multiple times in no uncertain terms. He had explained this in many ways; he had compared His death and resurrection to the story of Jonah as an illustration. In the days just prior He spelled this out for them no less than three times as to how He was to be betrayed, condemned, crucified, and on the third day rise again. Yet this only seems to have made a faint impression on their minds. They seemed to have been so absorbed by their own expectations and situations that they did not really receive His express teaching.
This point is made even clearer by the verse that tells us, “Then the disciples went back to their homes”! This is obviously not the response of someone that understands that the one who had come to save the entire world had done exactly what He had said He was going to do and what had been prophesied throughout the Old Testament had come true! This would be pretty big news! This might warrant a shout from the rooftops, but not just a trip “back to their homes.” Now, we have to take into consideration that, had they shouted from the rooftops, they might have found themselves crucified themselves…but He had risen! Not, “he was not there anymore”, but He had risen! The disciples acknowledge that he had been resurrected and they “believed” that fact, but they did not fully understand that He had risen and all that it implied through scripture! He was the risen Lord that was the Messiah that all Israel had been waiting for!...And this was for sure!
You have to hand it to the disciples. They did admit their own failings quite openly. There is, in their language throughout the Gospels, a confession of ignorance and a lack of sympathy as to the purposes of their Lord. John, who you would think would be the one to understand the spiritual meaning of Christ’s words, admits through the text His lack of understanding. This is in contrast to the priests and rulers who had put Him to death. These men seemed to understand all to well and, remembering the words attributed to Him, placed guards at the tomb to guard against any attempt on the part of His followers to remove His body and give credence to a claim of His resurrection. This is what the enemies of Christ do. They thwart any possible report of Jesus’ resurrection.
What about us and our “faith” or…in many ways…our lack of faith. Maybe this is why we are taught to say it twice back and forth with “indeed” at the end, “He has risen…He has risen indeed!” We know this to be true yet we don’t necessarily shout it from the rooftops. Do we leave His house ready to tell everyone who He is and what He has done or do we just “go home”? Yet the gospel, and the understanding of it, is what saves all of mankind! We believe but yet do we really believe? On this Easter day we should ask ourselves do we believe this truth enough to lead others to it. Look at the interaction of Peter and John in our text. They play off of each other. One leads in the race up to the tomb but then stops at the entrance. Then Peter leads into the tomb and John follows then he “saw and believed.” This may not have been a conscious effort on either’s part, and could have been just the result of their independent natures. Peter might have been hindered in his run to the tomb by the memory of his denials the night before. Or John’s contemplativeness may have stopped him at the entrance to the tomb and Peter’s brashness may have been the factor in him stepping right on in. Nevertheless, each of their actions affected the other’s actions and their resulting belief. It is important as to how strongly we proclaim the message of His resurrection in our world today.
The confession that He has risen is an important one. The disciples, after they had understood it fully, made it a cornerstone of their witness. Anyone that reads Acts can see that they based all of their teaching on this truth. They preached the risen Savior! If you remove the resurrection, Christianity has no power, no purpose; it would be as if you took the engine out of your car. It might be nice to look at, but it is useless. Paul tells us, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” The phrase, “He has risen” is found in three of the four gospels and has been proclaimed by Christians throughout history. It was a traditional Easter greeting in Russia before the Communists seized control. An unnamed priest used this phrase to win a debate. Lunatsharsky, the Bolshevik commissar for popular education, delivered an eloquent public lecture in which he proclaimed that the Christian religion was now completely defeated and that the Bible could be easily disproved. He felt so sure of himself that he put it to the large auditorium and challenged anyone in it to find a flaw in what he had just presented. This young priest came forward, turned to the audience, and said, “Brethren, Christos woskresse”-(which means Christ is risen) and with one accord the vast audience replied, “Woistinu woskresse (He is risen indeed!). The priest then said, “I have finished, I have no more to say.” The meeting was closed immediately and Lunatscharsky’s eloquent presentation had availed him nothing. This is the power that this truth holds. The significance of His rising is profound in the way that it affects our lives.
Let’s look at the change that takes place in our text. Jesus tells Mary, “Do not cling to me.” But this is an encounter of love. He is expressing that their relationship has changed through His death and resurrection and now He must ascend to the Father. She and the disciples were His servants, His friends, His children, before His death. Now they are His brothers and sisters announced by His words to Mary, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” Through the resurrection they are now part of the household of God with Christ as brothers and sisters. Through the resurrection they are invited to enjoy the same dynamic relationship that Jesus personifies. The new community he founded during his ministry became a new family at the cross with Mary and John, and now the disciples are to enter into this new form of relationship. As a disciple of Jesus they are now in a mutual knowing, loving, and abiding relationship as children of God the Father through Christ’s death and resurrection. When they finally do believe and understand their belief is all the stronger because of the unbelief it contended with and vanquished. This is evident in the life they led. They were able to undertake the labor and persecution, and even accept martyrdom because of this belief.
God has given us that same gift of faith through the Spirit! The message Jesus gives Mary illustrates the Christological basis of the new relationship we have with God through our faith in Jesus. Because God is Jesus' Father, he is also our Father; because he is Jesus' God, he is also our God. We are taken up into the fellowship that unites Jesus and the Father. Jesus is the point of contact between us as believers and the Father. The Father is now our Father in this new intimacy precisely because he is Jesus' Father, for we are now Jesus' brothers as were the disciples.
... and because he is risen, we share in his new existence. We are an Easter people. We are not a people of a spring-time celebration of eggs and bunnies, of bonnets and clothes and chocolates, although those things are all OK in their own place and way. But that is not what it means for those who follow Jesus to say that we are an Easter people. For us to be an Easter people means that, more than the day of celebration, it is the resurrection that counts.
More than calendar observances, it is the daily realization that the very power of God which raised Jesus from the dead is also the very same power which flows in and through us as followers of the Risen Lord. To be an Easter people means that even as the long dark nights come, even it becomes no longer a calendar holiday and is relinquished to “spring break”, even as the daily grind wears at us, even as the tugs and bumps of the problems of each day come our way, we know that it is not our own strength which sustains us. It is not our own wisdom and cunning on which we must depend. It is not only by our own wits and resources that we struggle to survive. Rather, "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow." Because he lives, and lives in a new way, I also can know a new way of life. Because he lives, and lives in me; because my true life is hidden with Christ in God, and will be fully revealed in that great day of His return, I can live today with grace and power no matter what comes…that’s our answer to, “So what?” And when the echo comes down the hallways of the workplace, through the silent nights of worry in hospital rooms, through the grief of funeral parlors and cemeteries; when the echoes come from all those who surround us in the great cloud of witnesses, we who are Easter people will know how to respond.
"He is Risen….("He is Risen, indeed")