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John 20                                                                                  1st April, 2018

by David Christian

It’s Sunday... It’s Sunday. Thank God it’s Sunday. The Lord is Risen: HE IS RISEN INDEED.

It’s been Friday for too long. Ever since that fateful day in the Garden of death it’s been Friday. The day you eat of it you will die, and we ate and death has reigned ever since.      The wages of sin is death, and generation after generation that dreadful wage has been paid out without fail to all who have gone before us, and one day to us, and all who come after us. It’s been Friday for too long... too much pain; too much sin; too much guilt; too much abuse; too much suffering; too much weeping, too much despair; too much death!

Recently we gathered to remember my mother on her 100th birthday. We were gathered around her grave in the cemetery. Suddenly there was a scream from one of the children. The head stone of a grave had fallen on him and crushed him. Praise God after some days in hospital he came home, somewhat broken and worse for wear. The cemetery does not just hold the dead. It even reaches out to grasp the living, and one day it will swallow us all.

Death and the grave even swallowed Jesus, the one Son of God, who had not eaten the fruit that brings death, and so should not be paid the wages of sin which is death. Friday even led Jesus into abuse, and pain, and suffering, and finally to be swallowed up by death and the grave. All this was for us and for our sins. All this was out of love for us. All this was to snatch us from the jaws of death, which had held all humanity since that fateful day in the garden.

And now the dead body of Jesus is laid in a tomb in a garden. And all hope seems dashed. Weeping women go to the garden tomb to anoint the dead body. But there is no body. The tomb is open. The tomb is empty. The grave clothes are there, even folded up! How well Mary taught him. Wrapped in swaddling cloths in a manger at birth; now wrapping up the burial clothes which can no longer hold him as he leaves them in resurrection. But still no body of Jesus; just two angels saying: Jesus is not here! He is risen! Sunday has come! But who can believe it? The women ran from the tomb, trembling and bewildered. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. The disciples wouldn’t believe it. Thomas really dug his toes in: unless I see him and touch him I won’t believe it. Sunday has come, but you wouldn’t know it – so much unbelief, so much weeping, so much confusion. Sunday has come, but the world goes on living its Friday nightmare.

St Paul wouldn’t believe Christ had been raised, and hated Christ and Christians. But then the risen Christ appeared to him, and he tells us what a hell of a life it is not to believe in the resurrection of Christ. He says that if there is no resurrection Pastors should stay in bed on Sunday, because our preaching is useless. And you should stay in bed on Sunday too, because your faith is useless. And you should give up reading the Bible because if Jesus is not raised it is a bunch of lies, and you shouldn’t teach or tell anyone about Jesus, because you are false witnesses about God. And worst of all your sins are not forgiven, and there’s no resurrection from the dead, and all is hopeless. No resurrection and Friday lasts forever, and so does pain and weeping, and there is no point to anything, and you may as well just eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow you’ll die, and that’s it. Friday forever!

BUT Christ has indeed been raised from the dead. Sunday has come. Jesus met Mary M. In the garden! In the stillness of the garden of tears, she met the original gardener. The creator of the original garden has risen from the dead and come to make all things new; the old creation is gone; the new creation has come. The resurrected Jesus calls Mary by name, and she hears him, and sees him, and touches him, and she is born again, and rushes off to tell the others, and as the church has said of her, she becomes the “apostle to the apostles.”

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. As Jesus told his disciples elsewhere: because I live you will live also. Death could not hold him, and death cannot hold those who believe in him. Jesus turns Friday into Sunday. Jesus turns BR into AR – before resurrection into after resurrection. Everything hinges on the Resurrection. We are out here amongst the head stones early this Easter morning because we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus and in our own resurrection, and in the resurrection of all who believe in Jesus. The first test of our faith is: does it work in the cemetery? Well it does! Jesus turns burial gardens into resurrection gardens, for him and for all who are baptised into him and believe in him. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die... Do you believe this? Having said this Jesus went on to raise Lazarus from the dead. And on this Easter Sunday, having been raised from the dead Jesus asks you the same: Do you believe this? Do you believe Jesus will raise you from the dead? Not hope so; not wish so; but believe so, and know so!  Some years before he died Billy Graham said: “Someday you will hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! I shall be more alive than I am now. I will have just changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”

Our address is still in this world. But we are living a new life by faith in Jesus Christ. Not yet by sight, but by faith in the living and life giving Jesus. We no longer wear the graveclothes of worldliness, for this world is passing away, and all who are in love with it. But all who believe in Jesus are born again and will live forever. Sadly Friday will still try to suck us in, and drive us to despair, and steal our hope. But Jesus is alive and Sunday is every day, and we gather each Sunday to celebrate the risen Christ as he comes to us in Holy Communion. And after meeting the risen Christ we know we are loved, we know we are forgiven, we know there is hope for eternity, and we join Mary M, to live and share this Good News with others. Because Christ is risen we face our death with certainty, we live our everyday life with hope, we go on preaching and teaching and witnessing with conviction, and though we sin every day, we rejoice that by God’s grace we are forgiven.

It was Friday, and Jesus was dead, and there was weeping, and there still is... But its Sunday now, and Sunday never ends. Jesus is alive forevermore, and whoever believes has eternal life... Do you believe this? The Lord is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! Amen.

 

Pastor's Message