Sunday 4 April
John 20:1-18, Acts 2:38
From Death to Life
It’s Easter Sunday, the birthday of ultimate Resurrection. Resurrection is defined as “the rising of Jesus Christ from the dead” and “the rising of the dead at the Last Judgement”: Two very different things which are inextricably linked. Both are a change of state from dead to alive. The scriptures teach us much about resurrection.
Firstly there is physical resurrection. The story of Lazarus in John 11 is a good example off physical resurrection. Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary was sick and Jesus deeply loved these three siblings.
The sisters sent word to Jesus because they were deeply worried Lazarus might die unless Jesus would come and heal Lazarus. Jesus did not come immediately because He knew that God was going to reveal something important about resurrection when He did eventually go to visit them.
So, after four days Jesus finally arrives knowing that Lazarus has died. Mary and Martha are both filled with grief and to be honest a bit hurt that Jesus had not come sooner.
There are other mourners gathered there too – weeping and wailing. Both the sisters independently go to Jesus and say “if you had been here my brother would not have died”.
To Martha Jesus replies, “your brother will rise again” and Martha replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day”. Then Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die (John 11:25, 26).
There were some there that day who questioned Jesus accusingly. “Could not He who opened the eyes of a blind man have kept this man from dying?” verse 37. Martha suggests that the body will smell foul after four days to verse 39.
Then in verse 40 Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” and in verse 43 Jesus speaks to the dead Lazarus, “Lazarus come out” and as He arises from his dead state, Jesus says “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
So Lazarus is an example of physical resurrection and that event was used by God to inform us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life – and that if we believe in Him we will live after we die on earth along with Him in heaven.
That belief in Jesus the resurrection is a spiritual resurrection rather than a physical one though.
Again the Holy scriptures many times teach us about spiritual resurrection. Zacchaeus, a greedy materialistic and worldly tax collector is spiritually resurrected when he encounters Jesus. His earthly life is transformed and he is assured of this rising from the dead at the last Judgment promise because he believes in Jesus promise.
So Jesus is in the resurrection business. It should be no surprise that after the horrors of Good Friday – that Jesus does not stay dead… a quick recap on Good Friday - It is the day after Jesus was arrested, and on it He was sentenced to death, then He is crucified and has a spear forced into His side, just to make sure that He was definitely dead. Then they wrapped Him in grave cloths and buried Him
So as we arrive in John 20 His body is NOT in the tomb where they laid Him. It has not been stolen either. Some women and men arrive at the tomb and find the tomb empty except for the grave clothes.
Mary Magdalen, most probably the same Mary from Bethany who was Lazurus’ sister is weeping once again at a death of one she loved greatly – remember she also anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive nard or myrrh perfume to express her deep love for Him.
The dead Jesus though is there – alive once more. She sees two angels and they ask her why she is crying? She replies they have taken away my LORD and I do not know where they have put Him.
But then she becomes aware of someone else being present – she presumes it’s the gardener but it is the resurrected Jesus. She appeals to Him to tell her where Jesus body has been taken, but when He speaks her name “Mary”, she knows that voice. Rabonni she cries out, which means teacher – and they are reacquainted – what an amazing encounter Mary had with Jesus.
Encountering Jesus has the effect that she wants to tell others and Jesus urges her to do so too. She goes looking for the disciples to give them the news which Jesus had actually told them about back in John 2:19 "Destroy this temple," Jesus answered, "and in three days I will build it again!" A metaphor for after you kill me, three days later I will be resurrected. and in Mark 9:30-32 Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." But they did not understand what he meant at that time…
Easter Day then is a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection; He is transformed from death to life; It is also a day when Christians celebrate their own encounter with Jesus and how they were transformed from not comprehending the reason why Jesus came to earth from heaven to understanding that Jesus gave His life as a living sacrifice for all who believe in God’s promises and the Good News of sins forgiven and death defeated. Once anyone encountering Jesus like that it really is something very special. This Jesus is the one Luke speaks of in Acts 2 “This Jesus God has raised up from death to life and we are all witnesses of it.” There were over 500 encounters with Jesus after HE was resurrected from the grave. This Jesus is still in the resurrection business today – HE may still resurrect people physically but not very often, but He does still resurrect people spiritually and He does this a lot more frequently. And best of all it is freely available to each one of us – There is nothing that can transform our lives like it.
Jesus is here today. Will today be a day when you first encounter Him and like Zacchaeus, your own spiritual resurrection occurs?
Are you like Mary and Jesus’ other disciples: not quite understanding His words and teaching? Are you ready to find greater understanding and grow your love for the one who laid down His life for you?
Maybe you know some of the ones who are not here in this chapter or here in this service today. Will you be like Mary and go quickly to share the amazing news of resurrection so that they too may believe in the one who is the Resurrection and the LIFE
Join with me in prayer if you will :
LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, long awaited Messiah, Resurrection and the life eternal, to you we bow our heads and hearts on this day which proclaims Your resurrection. We lack the words to speak of Your sacrifice which paid the full price for all that separates us from God, our many sins, our wrong desires and aspirations, our in action, our lack of zeal or willingness to share the Gospel when opportunities arise.
Help us to put our whole trust in You this day. Help us to encounter You in a fresh transformational way. Help us to proclaim Your offer to all we can in our life on earth, and by Your grace, save and transform many resurrected souls – from spiritually dead and ignorant to spiritually vibrant and joy-filled – Come to us LORD Jesus and build Your church, build Your kingdom among us. Rabonni, Good Teacher, teach us the mysteries of the Holy Scriptures so that we understand and live our lives for Your glory. We ask these things in the name above every other name – Jesus the Christ