To be Continued... Easter Sunday

Notes & Transcripts

lass=MsoNormal>Heavenly Father, we thank you that you loved the world so much that you gave your one and only Son so that we that believe shall have eternal life – Amen 

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . ."

This is an entirely fitting dramatic beginning for our gospel reading today – the stage is being set…

            It is the stage on which we will hear the greatest news of all time

                        We have come to the most dramatic conclusion of our Lenten journey

                                    We have arrived at ‘the moment in which all time leans into’

We are, of course, celebrating today - Easter

            We are celebrating the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ

We all know the story; we all know the good news of its conclusion

            Jesus, after a brutal execution by crucifixion – rises on the third day

                        Thus securing a victory over death… and all that is death

                                    It is the triumph that all the earth groans to hear

Yet…If death is defeated once and for all – why don’t we always feel the elation of that victory?

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . ."

This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins -- darkness.

While it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to a tomb, because earlier in the week Jesus had been killed.

With Him, her hope died.

On the surface it might appear to be a twilight preceding darkest night.

In fact, it is a twilight preceding a new sunrise, and the dawn is imminent

Twilight; a term that refers to an intermediate state, between night and day – between darkness and light

And for Mary Magdelene, the light of Jesus appears to have gone out, this twilight seems to be before a darkness where no light is possible

"Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark. . ."

Earlier this week, an old couple received a phone call from their son who lives far away. The son said he was sorry, but he wouldn’t be able to come for a visit over the Easter holidays after all.

"The grandkids say hello." They assured him that they understood, but when they hung up the phone they didn’t dare look at each other.

Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor’s office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. "So sorry."

She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician.

Earlier this week someone else heard the words, "I have never loved you."

Earlier this week, someone’s hope was crucified. And the darkness is overwhelming.[1]

We may all know the story of Easter; we may all know the good news of its conclusion

            But do we really grasp the implications of it

No one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen.

Where Easter is the last thing anyone is expecting

Each of the four gospel accounts of the Resurrection, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – all are quite short, John being the longest at only 18 verses

To tell the news of the risen Lord is a short message

                        …It is the implications that are limitless

The resurrection is the fulcrum of faith.

The resurrection is the axis, the center, the core,

The pivot point of faith for a Christian

If there is no resurrection of Jesus, then Christianity is just another ancient religion with its own particular form of spirituality and morality

For a Christian, as important as the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth are

Without the signs and wonders, how fragile might our belief be in those ideas and concepts…

Thomas is not the only disciple that needs help, that needs something more

And so our Lord provides for us ‘The Resurrection’ - the greatest of all His signs and wonders, the miracle of salvation…

And it is with the trust in the certainly of the resurrection, all Jesus’ teaching about the ‘Kingdom of God’ take on an understanding beyond anything that the world has every seen before, or will ever see again…

And God in an incredible display of confidence, confidence beyond any cultural rationale

            Reveals the resurrection first to Mary Magdalene

Mary, a woman, was the first person to see the Risen Christ.

In a world in which women were considered property and had no legal rights;

In a world in which women were considered possessions, chattel, and material goods,

Throughout the earthly life of Jesus the role of women was transformed by his attitude and teachings

The stories of the woman at the well, and Mary and Martha, to name only a few, reveal Jesus’ positive attitudes and actions to women.

The first person to see the Risen Christ was a woman.

In this significant and historically accurate gesture, the New Testament elevates and transforms the status of women

            And this but just another layer in how God reveals and declares a reordering of the world

Jesus unveils the mystery of the empty tomb – Jesus shakes off the cloak of death… to a women mourning at the site of His tomb

            At first she sees only with her eyes and the fear that is in her heart

Here is a woman alone in the twilight, in a cemetery, with an unknown man

Where grave robbers were a reality and she stirs up her courage to reveal her greatest fear in the moment, that they have taken away Jesus’ body

And then it happens…

Mary's moment of recognition comes with the mention of her name.


“Mary” says our Lord – and with that Jesus declares a truth that He had prophetically claimed earlier and recorded in John 10:3-4: "He calls his own sheep by name... and the sheep follow him because they know his voice."

Using someone's name, especially a first name, assumes familiarity, intimacy, and closeness.

Jesus' followers have a relationship with their Lord that goes well beyond a formal or institutional connection.

            Our Lord chooses to be revealed and recognized by calling Mary by name…

This begs the question - Does the Lord sometimes communicate in ways or forms that we do not expect… and thereby fail to notice?[2]

In our account today we have a lot of back and forth to the tomb

Mary, first gripped by the fear, fear upon seeing that the stone had been rolled away – runs to Peter and John, and we can imagine breathlessly says “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2b)

                        The two disciples run to the tomb

                                    And later leave Mary behind

And upon encountering the Lord… when He has called her by name… she does not run back, but returns walking proudly in her faith and mission that Christ has entrusted to her

She can't show them what she has seen. She can only tell them what she has seen and heard and believes.

So it is with us today. Our belief in the resurrection is not from our own personally first hand visual account

And notice how in all the accounts of the resurrection, no one actually sees personally the resurrection, they see instead the risen Lord – their faith, as ours, comes from when God returns into their lives

What we see, may not necessarily lead to a correct belief about Jesus.

And so we have Mary, who shows us that merely seeing Jesus isn’t the answer – it is when she recognizes our Lord’s return into her life

And yet in the midst of all this, we are given a wonderful detail for the eyes to behold

The disposition of the wrappings (in verse 5) may serve an apologetic purpose.

The fact that the linens and the facecloth were neatly laid out, provides for the most obvious of future skeptical claims and argues against the theft of the body.

Thieves would have left the body wrapped or, if they removed any linens, would not have done so in a tidy fashion.

We believe because of the power of the Holy Spirit has worked ‘the miracle of belief’ in our lives.

The evidence for eternal life rests on faith, and not on proof or verification or wisdom or intellectual arguments.

Any way you look at it from a scientific explanation - that is a mighty fragile beginning for a religion that has lasted almost 2000 years now

…But, when you consider it to be a transcended truth – a divine truth

The miracle of belief may even come wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in an animal trough

The Apostle Paul tells us in the 15th chapter of 1st letter to the church at Corinth:

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. … “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor: 15:51,52 & 54c-57)


With this mystery revealed we have something that changes everything

This means we cannot have Jesus just on our terms.

"...even for disciples like Mary, Easter does not return her and Jesus to the past;

Easter opens up a new future.

The earthly ministry is over; now the ministry of the exalted, glorified, ever-abiding Christ begins.

Jesus foretold what was to come in John 16

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you" (John 16:7) 

And in John 14-

In fact, the one who believes will do even greater works than Jesus did, "because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12)

Therefore, Jesus says to Mary Magdalene, "Do not hold on to me" (John 20:17)

Rather, she is ‘to go’ and announce His resurrection and His ascension to the presence of God,

From whose presence the Holy Spirit will come to lead, comfort,

and empower the church."[3]

After the resurrection, with its demonstration that Jesus' life is as indestructible as God's life,

We can't simply go back to the Jesus who is humanly familiar;

And—obviously—we can't have Jesus as a warm memory; a dear departed whose grave we can visit.

He is alive and ahead of us.

2In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places…3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.(John 14:2,3)

Christian faith does not look back to a great teacher and example… but forward to where Jesus leads

From now on, justification is not that I am proved to have been right all along;

It is that Jesus has promised (irrespective of my success or failure)… to be there.

He assures me not of my innocence… but of my forgiveness and my hope.

So we follow Jesus, justified by his gift of love alone.

We pray and trust that he will, bit by bit, deliver us from evil, inside… as well as outside… [4]

Jesus is full of surprises. Old skins cannot contain the new wine.

The world's uneasiness in the presence of Jesus is fully justified.

He will not be found by tradition that defines human life; even death has no final power over Him.

The end, only marks a new beginning – a beginning of the good news that Jesus,

The one who is the ultimate threat to our autonomy, now becomes our source of life.

The resurrection is not a return to the past, but a movement to the future.

Neither Mary nor any of us can hold on to the past… after resurrection.

We look to the even greater future that God has in store for us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is only fitting that just as the tomb will not contain Jesus. Jesus is not bound by its ending; …he continues[5]

The way out of the darkness is only by moving ahead.

And the only person who can lead the way is the Saviour.

But not the old Rabbouni we once knew,

Once we discover the new vision of the Saviour, a saviour who has risen out of our disappointments… then we’ll understand Easter[6]

We may all know the story; we may all know the good news of its conclusion

            But as we begin to grasp the implications of it

                        We can see that the story is not over at all

                                    We can see that the story is to be continued… by the Holy Spirit in each one of us

The Lord IS risen

            He is risen indeed

Go and live the reality of the risen Lord in your life

Go and follow Jesus – follow the first instructions of the Risen Lord, given to Mary Magdalene, the unlikely ‘disciple to the disciples’ … take on her instructions, as if they are given to us each of us… because they are…

Go to my people and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ (John 20:17b)

The Lord IS risen

                                                He is risen indeed

Thanks be to God – Alleluia – Amen




[3] Fred Craddock on this text in Preaching through the Christian Year, Year A. page 246


[5] Mark (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1990) 235 – Donald Juel


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