He is Risen! (He is Risen indeed).
As you might have expected, this morning we’re looking at the story of the resurrection as told in the gospel of John.
There are three things I’d like to bring to our attention from the text this morning.
There’s a lot more in the story that I’m not going to talk about, but these are three things that I think are important for us to hear at this point in time at Millersburg Mennonite Church.
Those three things are the race, the revelation, and finally an invitation.
First, there’s the race. I don’t know about you, but it’s my favorite part of the resurrection story, when Peter and the mysterious “disciple whom Jesus loved” (who was probably John), they hear about the empty tomb, and so they hit the road running.
You heard the story already; Mary goes to the tomb, finds the stone was rolled away, and so she runs and tells Peter and John.
When they hear the news, they run back to the tomb at full speed.
They don’t waste any time once Mary tells them what she found.
I like this part of the story because I think it describes the pace of life most of us lead.
We go full throttle! It’s what we’re used to.
How else do you describe “Fast Food”?
Between our spouse and our kids or our friends and our job and our church and our home…we’re lucky some days if we have time to grab lunch.
*I know you know it’s true, because I’ve eaten with some of you hunched over the sink right here in the kitchen!
We run at break-neck speed most of the time and we congratulate ourselves for it.
We mean well. We have the best intentions.
We start off on this race with the right people at our side.
Peter and John had known each other for about 3 years. They were close friends who had gotten to know each other because of following Jesus.
I hope we all have friends like this as well; fellow disciples who can be trusted with our lives.
They had the same goals in mind; not just on Easter morning, but in the rest of life as well.
But you know, at some point along the road, John pulled away from Peter; or you could say Peter lagged behind John.
It’s not uncommon at all that we pull away from our loved ones in our rush towards the goal.
It’s easy to start the race with our close friend right beside us; that person who shares our vision and knows Jesus just as well as we do.
But before long, one or the other will pull away or fall behind.
(never mind that we’re just heading towards an empty tomb; the important thing is to GET THERE!, right?)
There’s nothing wrong with running the race…but before you know it, you’ll be standing at an empty tomb like John, scratching your head and panting from your effort.
Or else you’ll blunder straight in to the empty tomb, like Peter.
Either way, you’ll find out there’s nowhere else to go!
Sometimes we call this ‘hitting the wall’.
It happens when we run and run and run for so long and so far until we finally come up against the cold, hard reality that we just can’t go any further.
It’s a hard place to be, because it’s hard to admit that no matter how fast we run and no matter how many people we leave behind in the process, Jesus isn’t going to meet us at the finish line!
No matter how hard we work or how much activity we cram into our days…when it’s all said and done we’re still just running towards an empty tomb!!
It doesn’t matter how fast we run, or for how long…we’re not going to find Jesus!
…Until …we …stop.
(pause for an uncomfortable amount of time)
She won the race without even running.
Peter and John both saw the tomb. They even went in and saw the grave clothes.
But Mary is the first one to fully encounter the risen Christ.
If there’s a lesson to learn here, it’s that no amount of running around is going to bring you any closer to Jesus than you already are.
So just stop it!
Stop trying to get to Jesus.
He’s right behind you.
He’s in the face of the gardener. The janitor. The cashier, the cook, the waitress.
Jesus is right there!
It’s easy to miss him, because he never looks like we expect him to.
Everyone in the story this morning was expecting him to be dead.
*But everyone was wrong!!
Last week, the crowds were expecting him to lead a revolt!
But the crowds were wrong!!
See, that’s the Easter message I’m hearing this year, more than any other.
Our best and brightest expectations can’t be trusted any further than the crowds on Palm Sunday!
Discipleship is a long kind of sacrifice.
It requires an almost constant laying aside of our expectations so that God might replace them with something completely different.
He revealed himself to Mary, not because she ran so fast or jumped so high or said the right things.
Rather, He revealed himself to Mary because she was the only one who stopped long enough to talk to the gardener!
Did you ever wonder whether just maybe Peter and John passed right by Jesus on their way back home?
If he was standing right there, it makes sense to me.
Maybe they just weren’t looking for the gardener.
God isn’t interested in fulfilling our expectations.
He’s interested in revealing himself in unexpected ways.
Mary turns around and the first thing he says to her is “Woman, why are you weeping?”
And I think it’s the same question he’s asking us today.
Church, why are you weeping?
Who are you looking for?
I guess I misspoke earlier; see, the revelation is the invitation.
Whenever we are invited to share our pain or our journey, Christ is revealed.
It’s our choice whether we stay, like Mary, or walk past Him on our way back home, like Peter and John.
Now, there’s a part of this passage that I haven’t really paid any attention to, and I’d like to as I close. It’s verse 8, where John finally follows Peter into the tomb.
It says “he went in, and he saw and believed”.
But then in the very next verse, without skipping a beat, it says “for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that Jesus must rise from the dead.”
We’re given the impression that John believed before he understood!
That simple fact gives me some hope!
We don’t have to have it all figured out before we believe.
In fact, when it comes to love, forgiveness, and matters of faith, believing will often come before understanding.
That’s the whole point of baptism. Caleb, and Amanda…if you pretended to have your faith all figured out, Christine and I would probably have some questions about baptizing you this morning.
Faith isn’t about having it all figured out; it’s about belief and commitment. It’s about stopping our race long enough to find Jesus revealing himself right behind us, for he is not trapped in the tomb; He is Risen!