|Resurrection Sunday (Easter) April 5, 2015
Grace Presbyterian Church
John 20:1-18 Rev. Daniel Fultz
Just as Luke has the most complete narrative of the nativity of Christ, making it the ‘go to text’ for Christmas, so too John has the ‘go to text’ for the resurrection. John’s narrative is graphic, detailed, and most of all intimate.
John’s account of the resurrection centers on three of Jesus’ closest friends, Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the beloved disciple, John. While it was still dark, on that first day after the sabbath, Mary came to complete the burial preparation that had begun but was not finished because of the sabbath. She arrived at the tomb while it is still dark and found that the stone had been removed. She ran to tell Peter and John, who raced to the tomb. John got there first, looked inside but does not go in. Peter got there soon after and went inside, he saw the linen wrappings and the towel that had been on Our Lord’s face, rolled up neatly. Then John went in, “saw and believed.” But what was it that John believed? Was it the resurrection, or was it Mary, that the tomb was opened? Then they went home, but Mary stayed.
Mary began to weep, and as she did so she bent down and looked inside the tomb. She saw two angles. They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She explained that she was looking for the body of her beloved Jesus. She turned and saw Jesus standing beside her, but didn’t recognize him. Jesus asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Thinking him to be the gardener, Mary relates that she is looking for her Jesus and asks for his body. Jesus then calls her by name. “Mary.”
Mary immediately turns and realizes that she is looking in the face of the risen Lord. She calls him “Rabbouni” meaning teacher. He tells her not to cling to him because he has not returned to the father. He gives her instructions to tell his brothers, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
The account is full of detail, it is personal, and very intimate. We feel as though we are there. It is as if we are standing right there beside Mary, who must have been, at some point, the person who recounted most of this story. We hear an eyewitness account of Mary’s encounter with the risen Christ and of Mary sharing this witness to others. We have the specific witness that Jesus is raised, and that he is alive. God has raised Jesus, vindicated his sinless and unjust death and he is triumphant over all that is evil.
Furthermore Jesus includes the disciples in this victory. Jesus says to tell them that he goes to “My Father and your Father, My God and your God.” In this we have the assurance that “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” (Romans 6:5)
In this we have a hope of resurrection because of Jesus, though the extent of that hope may be uncertain. What does it mean “a death like his?” Just as Jesus died putting his hope, his trust in the Father, maybe a death like his, is one in which our hope is not misplaced, but is in the Father, Our God, the God of Jesus Christ. And putting our hope in God is more than an abstract trust in God’s goodness, but includes a trust in God’s faithfulness, God’s reliability. We trust in the trustworthiness of God’s gospel message taught to us in the person of Jesus Christ. A gospel message that includes not only the hope of resurrection as everlasting life, but also resurrection as boundless life here and now.
I watched an interesting movie recently. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn stars Mila Kunis, Peter Dinklage, and Robin Williams in his last film released during his life time. Now I have to put in a disclaimer, I can’t actually recommend the film, it was rated R for language and some “adult content”, was a flop at the box office, and given a bad review by virtually every critic. Still it was interesting, on point to what we are talking about this morning, and perhaps a little bit touching watching Williams in one of his last roles.
In the movie, Williams’ character (Henry Altman) is diagnosed with a terminal illness and told he has 90 minutes to live. In the next 90 minutes he struggles to come to terms with his life, and most importantly to heal the broken relationships with his wife, his son, and his brother/business partner (Peter Dinklage). Henry, who is perpetually angry after the death of his other son two years earlier, has a brain aneurism that could kill him at any time, especially if he gets angry. His doctor (Mila Kunis) at first resents the burden of his difficult personality but does all she can to convince him to check into the hospital to prolong his life, and to not get angry. Everyone must overcome their “issues” with Henry and as everyone discovers the true nature of his condition a kind of grace and love begins to return to this family – even to Henry who beat all the odds by living another 8 days, by finding reconciliation with each of his family members, peace with his own life, and almost not getting angry any more. Everyone, including the doctor, is finally able to reevaluate their lives and to find reconciliation, even a kind of rebirth, a resurrection. In the end they find themselves living new and better lives.
On this Easter morning, God invites us to believe the gospel truth that Jesus has been raised from the dead and is alive. We are invited to anticipate, believe in, trust in our own resurrection and endless life. And, we are invited to anticipate, believe in, trust in the love and grace of God demonstrated by the life of Jesus Christ, so that we might experience resurrected lives in this life as well as the life to come. For all this, and so much more, we give God thanks. Amen.