***This Blog is Adapted From An Easter Sermon I Gave April 13th 2009. It Is A Little Longer Then My Average Blog Post. Being Easter I Hope You Don’t Mind Granting Me Some Extra Space.***
Do to some recent changes in my life, resulting is some altered sleep patterns I have had, let’s call it the opportunity to watch some late night TV. And I have found a few things, first there is nothing good on, and second infomercials can be entertaining. Because of infomercials I have seen a lot of before and after moments. I have watched men exclaim with joy about their new found hair, I have heard testimonials of satisfied customers talking about various products meant to give you more energy for the day, and of course the ever popular before and after our amazing weight loss program. And all of these things made me think about Easter. And while I know that sounds strange at first, after all what does the “mega ab buster” have to do with the most important day on the Christian Calendar?
Easter is the worlds, before and after moment. If you were to unroll a time line in front of yourself you would see what I mean. The history of the world is filled with amazing events many that are like quite similar like, in 221BC China had its first Emperor and in 927 AD the Kingdom of England was formed. Or from 336 BC- 323 BC Alexander the Great conquered all of the known land, and even some land previous unknown to the Greeks, in 1299 AD Osman the 1st began in conquest of the Byzantine Empire forming the new Ottoman Empire, engulfing all of what had been known as Asia Minor. Also in 17th century BC the Egyptians master the use of horses in war, in the 17th Century AD firearms began to be used in war. While these events are similar to each other one major thing separates them those little letters BC and AD. You see Easter, Christ resurrection, cleaved the history of the world in two. Things either happened before Christ’s resurrection, or they happened after it. No other event in the world has done that. No other event is so far reaching, so extraordinary, so significant that it punctured our very understanding of time.
But Easter doesn’t just puncture the world it will, if we allow it, change our entire life. You see our lives too can be cleaved into two parts, before our encounter with the risen Christ, and after our encounter with the risen Christ. So even though we are now 2000+ years later from the first Easter there are people who are still living in a BC world. Some of these people have not had an encounter of the risen Christ, and some people have encountered Christ and even though they confess him as saviour they do not know how to live in an AD world, so they cling to the familiar.
So I want to ask you, are you living in a BC world, or an AD world? To help us answer this question we are going to take a look at two lives, Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter both before and after they encountered the risen Jesus Christ. We are going to take a look and see how that encounter affected them.
We read in the gospel of John, “Now very early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb…’. For whatever reason John doesn’t tell us why Mary is going to the tomb. We find our answer out when we read this same account found in Mark, “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body…they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
It is hard not to picture these women walking in almost a drudge in silence. They carefully stepped over whatever rock or root may lie in their path, as the carry the heavy spices used in Jewish burials. We read about each of these women early on in the gospels, they are credited with helping support Jesus’ ministry financially, and it is likely they all became believers very early in Jesus’ ministry. To these women Jesus had been a teacher perhaps the only teacher they had ever had as rabbis normally would not teach women. Jesus also had been a great hope for them, no one had ever treated these women with the same respect and dignity that Jesus did, he was supposed to be the king that would change all the wrongs they saw. But for Mary he was a little more, he was also her healer. We read in Luke 8 that Jesus drove seven demons out of Mary, he was her liberator.
And because of who Jesus is, and the love and compassion he showed these women, they were fiercely loyal to Jesus. After he was betrayed by Judas one of his 12 disciples, the remaining 11 fled and abandoned Jesus to his captors. But not these women, they would not abandon their friend, their teacher, their healer, their saviour. They were with him all the way to the cross, we read in Matthew 27: 55-56, “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.” When all others had abandoned Jesus they stayed with him every step of the way, right up to his death on the cross.
I can only assume that Mary and the rest of the women reflected on what life was going to be like without Jesus around. But true to their loyalty to Jesus in life, they came to do one more thing for their beloved friend they came to complete a solemn task to give Jesus the proper burial he deserved. Mary’s BC world was one filled with sadness, and disappointment. And I think that we can all relate to Mary here. Haven’t we all at one time or another hang our hopes on something, only to have it fall through. We counted on our job to provide for all our needs, we counted on our spouse to never fail us, we counted on our parents to always be there when we needed them, we counted on our friends to hold on to a secret, we counted on the church to heal our wounds. And time and time again our moments of hope are replaced by sorrow and sadness. What we thought may have been the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train, one that we could not avoid. Living in a BC world filled with sadness and disappointment is a heavy burden to carry. It is a load that our spirits cannot endure for long. If this sounds like you, if you are carrying a load of sadness crying in your inner being for freedom, watch what happens to Mary.
Mary found the tomb empty and her heart broke, she is so sure someone has stolen Jesus’ body. She has been denied the last gift she wanted to give to Jesus. After reporting back to the disciples that the tomb was empty she wandered back to the grave yard, and found a man whom she believes to be the gardener. Crying out she begs him to tell her where Jesus was moved to. He turns to her and in his unmistakably loving voice the man, who is the risen Jesus says, “Mary”. Mary instantly turns and sees the face of Jesus her sorrow turns instantly to joy. That is the difference living your life in an AD world can make. It is not that you will not have hard times, you will just like Mary. But Jesus will not abandon you alone to your tears. He will be there to meet you, to comfort you, to show you that he unlike everything and everyone else will not fail you.
But now let us turn our attention away from Mary, and on to Simeon Peter. When Mary reported to the disciples that Jesus’ body was missing two of the remaining 11 disciples jumped up from where they were sitting and ran to the tomb. One disciple is named, Peter and the other is simply called the beloved disciple. Tradition tells us that this disciple is John. It seems fitting that it is these two men that pick up and run. Peter and John, along with James made up Jesus’ inner circle. Whenever Jesus decided that he only wanted a small group with him Peter and John were always a part of it. They out of all of his disciples were his closest students, and I would even go so far as to say his closest friends. I can only imagine what was going through Peter’s mind as they ran, maybe he was thinking of the time they watched Jesus raise the widows son from the dead, or perhaps the when they saw him raise another child, Jairus’s daughter. Perhaps Peter thought of the most recent and most dramatic raising Lazarus. Dead for four days and by only his words he was brought back from the dead. Peter had watched Jesus go toe to toe with death three times and win every time.
Maybe Peter started to remember the time when they were with Jesus at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus, “From that time on began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Peter had rebuked Jesus that day saying, “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” But here they were, Jesus had suffered many things, and he had been killed and now his body was missing. While any of this may have been running through his mind I cannot help but suspect that very little was running through Peter’s mind, he just had to run, he had to go there, he had to see what has happened to their friend.
John arrived at the tomb first and he stopped in his tracks, the stone was moved away, the tomb was empty, the guards were gone everything was just as Mary had said. But John couldn’t move. Maybe it was his sense of Jewish culture that told him not to enter into the tomb, or maybe it was the shock. But he froze. Scripture tells us “he bent down and saw the strips of linen cloth lying there, but he did not go in”.
Peter arrived moments later and true to his characteristic boldness he went right into the tomb. Once inside the tomb Peter noticed, “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”. His mind must have started to race, what does this mean, Mary thought the body had been stolen but who unwraps a body to steal it? And who could have, or would have dared to move the stone with the seal of Caesar placed on it? And why would anyone do this to his friend anyway, hadn’t they done enough already? After a few moments Peter and John walked away confused, for they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.” For Peter his BC world was one of confusion.
Again I think we all can identify with Peter. He was so confident that he had everything all figured out. Peter was positive he knew what was going to happen. His future was secure; he was a close disciples of the man he thought would restore the Kingdom of Israel. Then came Friday, and Peter’s world crumbled and for the first time he realized how little he had figured out. Haven’t we all had moments when we were sure we had life all sowed up, we knew where we were going, what we would be doing and we were confident that the good times would keep on rolling. And then it happened, suddenly and without warning something changes and our life crashes down and we were left to try to make sense of it. This can come in any number of forms, it can be due to the usual suspects of death, disease, and divorce but it can also come at times that were supposed to be celebrations; birth, graduation, marriage and new jobs. Whatever the cause life as we knew it no longer makes sense, things are not the way we thought they should be and for the first time we realized that everything we had figured about life, about God and about the world we live in turned out to not be so figured out after all. He have a Peter moment, where we scan our memory, look at everything in front of us and walk away confused, discouraged and uncertain of what to do. If this sounds like you, if you are carrying around a burden of confusion we can find hope in how Peter was changed after he encounters the living Christ.
After Jesus appeared to the disciples, and after Jesus gives Peter the charge take care of the church, or feed his sheep Peter gains a new kind of passion and confidence. He becomes a preacher, a pastor and a missionary. His sermons helped to launch the Church both in Jerusalem and beyond. Listen to some of what Peter says; “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism… You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all) you know what happened throughout Judea… He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, because God was with him. We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him up on the third day…. He commanded us to preach to the people… About him all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” That is the difference living your life in an AD world can make. It is not that you will not have confusing times, you will just like Peter. But Jesus will not abandon you alone to your frustration. He will be there to strengthen you, to guide you, to give you confidence in God’s goodness and his strength to carry you all the days of your life.
When Jesus defeated death and rose from the grave 2000+ years ago the whole world changed. Have you let Easter change your world? Are you still living in a BC world, are you still carrying around sins, they can be forgiven because he lives! Are you burdened with sadness, you can feel pride and joy because he live! Are you confused facing an uncertain future, you can claim assurance because he lives! From sadness to joy, from confusion to confidence, two lives moving from a BC world to an AD world. Let me ask one more time, what world do you live in? Mary and Peter both carried burdens they did not need too. Are you? Maybe like Mary your burden is sadness, maybe you are like Peter and your burden is confusion, or maybe you carry around anger, or fear, or jealousy, or one of the other millions of burdens that we can carry on our shoulders. But we don’t have too, Jesus lives. Make today the day that you choose to live an AD life. Because he lives we can face tomorrow, Because he lives all fear is gone.