Last Words…First Words

John 20:1-18

Easter Sunday Sermon by Jim Kane

Two days ago, Jesus’ final words were “It is finished” and He died. The grief-stricken followers laid His body in the grave and then waited until after Passover to properly prepare his body for burial. That next day, a Sunday morning, a group of women, including Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb to do what they could not do before sunset on Friday.

 

What greeted them, what they saw, experienced, and heard, changed them, and it continues to change all of humanity…if we believe what happened next is true.

 

This morning, in our final “Conversations at the Crossroads” we meet at the Crossroads of Life… Mary Magdalene

 

(A scripted conversation by Ted Schroder © 2016 and published by Creative Communications for the Parish was used.)

 

Listen again to what Mary said, “Here is the miracle, the miracle I would like you to share on this Easter morning. I did not find him. He found me. He came to me, even when I was so broken I could not recognize him. He came to me, spoke my name, healed my spirit and changed my life.”

Did you catch what Mary said? “I did not find him. He found me. He came to me, even when I was so broken I could not recognize him. He came to me, spoke my name, healed my spirit and changed my life.”

(from Easter Sunday: Life, from the series At The Crossroads: A Series of Services for Lent by Ted Schroeder, ©2016 Creative Communications for the Parish)

Among Jesus’ first words to Mary was this question, “Who is it you are looking for?” Not a “What are you looking for?” nor a “How may I help you?” question. A “Who are you looking for?” question.

 

It reminds me of Jesus’ question that He asked two of John the Baptist’s disciples who followed Him after John’s great proclamation, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  as noted in John 1: “What do you want?” or as it is translated in some versions of the Bible, “What do you seek?”

 

This is a different question.

 

Mary does not recognize Jesus standing right in front her! Yes Jesus has changed. He is different.

 

But Mary is blinded by her grief and pain and literally ‘cannot see straight.’

 

What a term, ‘cannot see straight.’

 

Our minds, our hearts are so preoccupied by our problems, our pain, our conflicts, that we often cannot see something or someone right in front of us! We cannot see straight, either!

 

But then Jesus speaks, He speaks one word to Mary and suddenly it all changes!

 

Verse 16, John 20:

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

 

We have had moments, haven’t we, when someone spoke our name, and in our confusion and turmoil, we heard more than a voice, we heard them. They have come to us. And order and clarity comes. We are re-oriented again.

 

Sometimes our names have been shouted…

 

JIM!

 

LINDA!

 

DAVE!

 

BARB!

 

Not in anger but in an effort to connect, for us to hear them!

 

(Is anybody home?)

 

I don’t think that Jesus raised His voice. I think that Jesus spoke it in a manner which expressed love and concern and it went through her ears into her brain and then into her heart and soul.

 

Mary…

 

Even though Jesus is not present with us today He still speaks our name from time to time. And in ways that is unmistakably His voice.

 

But, we often do not hear Him; His presence is near but we do not experience it.

 

Why?

 

Why is it hard to hear the Lord?

 

We have one good reason in our text this morning: grief.

 

Grief drives us into our selves, does it not? Grief throttles us. It shuts us down. Little if nothing, or anyone, gets into our conscious thought. Grief guards the doors of our mind, our heart, our soul. It is a very strong security guard.

 

Another thing, one that becomes apparent as we read the rest of the resurrection story but also what happens prior to Mary Magdalene’s encounter: disbelief

 

She first sees the empty tomb and then she runs to Peter “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

 

The shock, the horror, the disbelief!

 

THEY MOVED JESUS SOMEPLACE ELSE, PETER! WHERE IS HE?

 

Disbelief, can I think, lead to cynicism, despair, sarcasm, and eventually unbelief.

 

Didn’t that happen to Judas with his betrayal?

 

Wasn’t it happening to Peter as he denied knowing Jesus?

 

Do you see yourself in this story?

 

Can you identify with Mary in her grief and disbelief?

 

For the past seven weeks, I have read this words as part of the off-stage dialogue that has been part of these messages.

 

Crossroads. They are there for all of us. We may move along from day to day easily, walking in the sunshine, enjoying the view, feeling at peace. And then it comes. A crossroad. A choice point. There we stand, frozen to the spot. Which way now? Right? Left? Straight? What waits down each of those choices? Which way does our heart call us to go? Which makes sense? Which is God’s way?

 

The answers aren’t easy. A crossroad can bring daunting spiritual pain. And it can bring us to our knees. It can even bring us to destruction. And it can bring us to new life.

(from the introduction to the sermon dialogs by Ted Schroder © 2016 and published by Creative Communications for the Parish was used.)

Judas faced a crossroad…and he took the road which destroyed him.

 

Peter faced a crossroad… and he took the road of denial which caused him to run away until Jesus came to him and ask him if he still loved Him.

 

Mary, the mother of Jesus faced a crossroad…as she watched Her son, Jesus, die by execution on a cross.

 

We all face crossroad moments. But Jesus comes to us in those moments, too. Are we going to listen to Him?

 

We all face moments when we have a decision to make. One that affects our life, our families, our work, and our character.

 

Mary Magdalene faced a crossroad moment, a moment of decision, that Sunday morning when Jesus showed up, no longer dead but very much alive.

 

What did she choose to do in those moments?

 

What crossroad did she take?

 

Here is our text for this morning, John 20:1-18

 

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.

 

Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)  Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

 

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

 

 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

 

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”  At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

 

 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

 

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

 

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

 

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

 

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

 

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

 

We all face a crossroad this morning…a crossroad of belief.

 

Do we believe that what John wrote is true?

 

Do we believe that Mary Magdalene existed?

 

Do we believe that Jesus rose from the dead?

 

If so, we are at a crossroad moment this morning.

 

If we believe that all of this is true, then what are we doing about it?

 

Simply nod and say yes we believe and go on with the rest of the day and our lives?

What do we do with this story?

 

Is it true or not?

 

If it is true for us…then we have a choice to make.

 

Either we are going to take the next step and make Jesus our God our savior our leader and walk down the road He points us to walk or turn down the road named “me” and keep doing what we have been doing.

 

I respectfully ask this morning, “Are you happy with the way your life is going or are you miserable?” “Are you smiling on the outside but breaking apart on the inside?”

 

“When you have crossroad moments, what is the basis for your decision making? Your way? Has it been working well for you? Or do you look back and see a trail of brokenness that has left you shattered?”

 

Mary Magdalene had a shattered life until Jesus showed up as noted after the fact in Luke 8:1-3:

 

After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

 

Do you believe that Jesus can help you turn your life around?

 

Some of us are at a crossroad where we are having to decide if we still believe this story, if we still believe in Jesus and if we are still going to follow Him.

 

We’re tired. We’re frustrated, angry even. What we hear on Sundays or other days of the week, leaves us scratching our heads.

 

Life has not gone as well as we planned. There is too much month at the end of the money. Someone we care about is dying. Our health is fragile. Work, school is stressful.

 

The abundant life we were told we would have in Jesus has become an abundant burden.

 

We’re tired of it all.

 

Without splitting theological hairs, think about what faced Mary and the others that Sunday morning.

 

They faced a resurrected Jesus. He was back from the dead! They did not face a dead Jesus.

 

They had trouble believing it!

 

Matthew 28 and verses 16 and 17 “But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

 

In Luke 24:36-28 we read, “He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?”

 

If this group, who had been with Jesus, were challenged to believe in a resurrected Jesus, and Jesus sought to assuage those doubts and fears, cannot Jesus help us with our doubts and fears that chip away at our faith?

 

I invite you this morning to say Yes all over again to Jesus Christ. And I am going to ask you to come to the altar and simply stand in front of it as a statement of renewing your life to Christ.

 

I also invite those of you who perhaps struggle to believe or have quit believing in Jesus to say Yes to Jesus Christ. I invite you to come and stand here at the altar as a statement of renewing your life to Christ and your faith in Him.

 

I also invite those who want to start following Christ this morning to come to the altar as well as signaling the beginning of your walk with Him.

 

Folks, Jesus is alive and because He is, life can be better, not easier at times nor perfect at any time, but better because Jesus wants to walk the road of faith, hope, and live in Him and with Him.

 

Will you come to Jesus, come back to Jesus, or keep walking with Jesus today and every day from this day forward?

 

Jesus came to us, to humanity, to help us come to Him. For just as Jesus came to Mary in her moments of grief and confusion, He comes to us this morning through the Holy Spirit to offer us forgiveness, a second change, freedom from our past mistakes. Will you accept His offer?

 

Come. Come now.

 

Amen.

 

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