Easter Sunday – Sermon 158

13th February 2011 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Prayer to start 

May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ

AMEN

Introduction

Is it too good to be true – that Jesus lived – and died and rose again?

Most people have no problems with the first two – that Jesus- lived and died – but when it comes to the resurrection – its a different matter –

For many – its the stuff of daydreams – not the sort of thing hard headed realists of the twenty first century – are willing to believe in –

its almost as though the idea is so special – that by definition – it disproves it –

The funny thing is that – it wasn’t the stuff for hardheaded realists of the first century either –

Not least for Mary Magdaline – who had watched Him draw His last breath – on the cross – seen Him carried limp and lifeless – into the tomb – witnessed the stone being rolled across – and understandably – convinced herself – that it was all over – that His life had been extinguished-

but after the events of that morning – her darkness had been transformed into light – and she became the Apostle to the Apostles – her grief – transformed into joy –

 

Point 1 – First Point Mary in grief – lost without her love

 

We know little about Mary before her part in the drama of the cross and resurrection –

She came from the town of Magdala – on the sea of Galillee – three miles from Capernaum – and probably joined the disciples – in the second year of Jesus’ ministry –

Jesus had rescued her from a physical or spiritual bondage – that held her captive and controlled her life –

She used her own money to help support Him – and during the crucifixion and burial – Mary would not let Jesus out of her sight –

But now – the one who had been at the centre of her life -and on whom she had pinned all her hopes – was dead – cruelly murdered on a cross – there was no hope of Him coming back – it was finished-

and on that Easter morning Mary came to the tomb to grieve – but when she arrived – there was no king – no healer – no friend – no teacher – no guide – nothing

She was distraught – she’d come to anoint His body with spices and oils – but now there was nothing to do – the tomb was empty –

Not only had they taken away what they had together in life – they had also taken away what little they would have together – in death –

The disciples had gone home – but not Mary – she stays – searches – needs to be near Him – like a moth fluttering in the darkness – mysteriously drawn to His light –

her feelings perhaps echoed by those of the young shulammite woman in out OT reading from the Song of Solomon :

“I will rise and go the round of the city,
go through the streets and
squares seeking my love.
I sought Him but could not find Him”

Losing someone we love – is one of our most painful and heart searching experiences – its natural to grieve – but it takes our eyes off God – we feel mostly our own pain and loss – most of us are like Mary – try to focus on something positive – that we can do – to keep us busy – to prevent that huge emptiness – opening up and devouring us

All Mary knows is that the body is missing – despite what Jesus had said to her earlier – despite what she had seen with Lazarus – she was not expecting a resurrection – she had no hope – only grief – for Mary it was still night –

Point 2  Mary looks – and Jesus finds Mary

Mary concentrates on her search for the body – so much so – that she doesn’t see anything else – even the presence of the two angels – in the tomb –

“Why are you weeping” –

“They have taken my Lord away – and I do not know where they have laid Him”

But Jesus is near – and hears her anguished cries-

but she doesn’t recognise Him

“Why are you weeping, who are you looking for?”

In Mary’s mind there could have been only one person who might have moved the body – the gardener –

How often – when faced with desperate or difficult circumstances – have we – like Mary – jumped to conclusions – and thought the worst of someone –

someone says no thank you and we take it to mean they don’t like us – a comment that we don’t understand is taken to be much more than intended – and that holiday with a few days rain means a ruined holiday – rather than a different experience

we make huge jumps in logic – to explain away our problem – when all the time the real answer is right there beside us –

Mary’s guess was clearly wrong on one level – but right on another – This is the new creation – and Jesus is the beginning of it – He is the new Adam – the gardener charged with bringing the chaos of God’s world into new order – into flower – and fruitfulness –

Jesus is the one who has come to uproot the thorns and the thistles in our world – and replace them with blossoms and harvest –

And when Mary turns around – to who she thinks is the gardener – she becomes so irrational – that she even offers to take the body away – by herself

Then came that single word – “Mary” – and suddenly her pain is transformed – into overwhelming joy – her single answer “Rabbuni” – confirms – that she now realizes – it is Jesus standing next to her all the time –

This was the defining moment in the history not only for Mary – but for the rest of mankind – when – “The light shines in the dark – and the darkness never mastered it” – Mary was the first to see the Risen Lord – But – her joy didn’t come until Jesus had found her – and she recognized Him – through the eyes of love –

Like Mary – we may have lost our way – in doubt – loss- depression – or bewilderment – we may not know where to look – or even want to look – but Jesus is already there – looking for us – and calling us by name-

In the Gorbals in Glasgow – a social worker was taking a survey in the slums – He knocked on a door – and when a woman answered – he asked how many people lived in the house-

‘There’s Jimmy and Mary and Sadie and Bobbie’ – she said-

‘Just give me the numbers’ said the social worker-

‘There are no numbers in this house’ said the woman, ‘ They are all names to me’

We are all names to Jesus – and we must pray – that – each one of us – will recognize Jesus when He speaks our name –

Point 3  Don’t cling to me – go and tell!

But Now that Mary knows – things must change –

the new relationship with Him was not going to be like the old one –

He wouldn’t be going around Galilee anymore walking the lanes – with them – sharing meals- discussing – talking – praying –

She would see Him now and again – but soon it would be time for Him to go to the Father –

“Do not cling to me – for I have not yet ascended to the Father” – go and tell

Those who see clearly – must tell freely – She must not hold on to the past – but go forward – and tell others –

There is work to be done –and little time to do it – and the other disciples must be convinced too

Jesus reminds us – that in order to take the good news to others – we have to stop clinging on the things that limit God’s mission –

Our bond with Jesus is not a priceless treasure – not something to be kept close – but something to be revealed and displayed for all to see –

Jesus is alive – here for us all – no longer tied to a human body – but free to help each one of us – His love is to be shared – and available to everyone who asks for it –

Jesus’ resurrection is at the beginning of a new creation – something extraordinary has taken place – not only to Jesus – but to the way the world is – a new relationship has sprung to life – like a new flower –

No longer is Jesus talking about God as ‘my Father’ or ‘the Father who sent me’ – and His followers as – ‘disciples’ or ‘servants’ or ‘friends’

now all has changed – ‘Go and say to my brothers, I am going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’

Like Mary we are all – welcomed into a new world – where we can know God – the way that Jesus knows God –

Conclusion

The story of Mary Magdelane in the garden – is about transformation – and ne
w beginnings-

she had been told that Jesus is risen – but didn’t accept it – even when she saw Him face to face – she still didn’t realise who He is?

Yet slowly the truth dawned – and from that ending a new beginning – had come – not just for Mary – but for everyone

joy – hope – purpose – love – which had all been buried with Jesus in the tomb – came leaping back to life – the future that seemed so empty – was suddenly brimming with promise-

The truth of the resurrection – is that it doesn’t only speak of life beyond the grave – but tells us that from the bleakest of endings – God is able to provide a new beginning – beyond our wildest dreams –

whatever we might face – nothing can stand between us and the love of God in Christ – it sounds unbelievable – but its true!

And Like Mary – its something that we must go and tell to the world-

Closing prayer

In the name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit

AMEN