Apr 16, 2017 Easter - New (and Eternal) Life can Start Today
16th April 2017
Thank You that today we can celebrate the resurrection of the dead! It is You we celebrate. It is a day of celebration. Thank You that it did not end at the cross, but it goes to Easter Sunday – you defeated death and rose again – so touch our hearts that we might experience Your presence this morning.
I am going to look at this from the Gospel of John:
John 20: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. 2 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!" 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.
The ‘other disciple’ was probably John… John referred to himself as ‘the disciple Jesus loved’ – he also makes a point to say:
4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus' head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
What did they see and believe? All they saw was that the body was gone. What we get a glimpse – their first approach to Easter Sunday – they run to the tomb, they look in – and understand their situation – what had taken place that entire weekend was a shock – they entered Palm Sunday thinking that their king would be placed on the throne of David –and now they are living in confusion. And the women come – and say – He is gone! Someone took the body! And they run to the tomb – partly out of curiosity – and partly, one of the other gospels tells us – that they did not believe the women! They discovered that the women were right – they checked it out, got the facts, and left. Typical men! The problem was – nothing changed. The beginning did nothing for them. The disciples take one truth, and eventually they will come around – but they were looking for information – and information changes nothing. There are two approaches – and Mary’s is different.
John 20:11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 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."14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
So here is Mary with a different attitude. She got back – she went back to the tomb – she needed more information. And the question is – how do we approach our faith life? Do we approach it like the disciples – or do we approach it like Mary? Too often, we are satisfied with a surface way of living the Christian life and we are unwilling to go into a deeper experience into our life of faith. We do the activities we ought to do – and hold some proper views – and a lot of times, that is where it ends. We maintain convictions – and that is important – but if we never let those views be challenged or examined – by Scripture… then what we hold to can be very unhealthy. If we hold to convictions that we don’t allow to be challenged and unwilling to hear anything else – then we will only go where we have already been. Easter is about growth. It is about moving further. For the disciples and the women who went to the tomb – it shook their world! Everything had been torn apart in front of their eyes when Jesus rose from the dead – and it should be that way with us – it should shake our world and transform us and make us leave as different people – in a good way.
John 20:15 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."
She just saw him a couple days ago – and Jesus has sort of ‘cloaked himself’
16 Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means "Teacher").
She just saw him a couple days ago – and Jesus has sort of ‘cloaked himself’ – and she says…
When He says – Mary – she knows it is Him.
Jesus had to reveal Himself to Mary and He has to reveal Himself to us. Unless He reveals Himself to us, we’ll never really see Him. We could work really hard at it – Mary waited and waited – and Jesus made Himself known. Maybe we don’t experience Jesus as much as we would like to in our daily lives because we don’t wait patiently for Him like Mary did. Maybe we just don’t take the time to allow God to reveal Himself the way He would like to.
We live in an impatient society – and that impatience has affected all of us – we live in a world of impatience and we miss God – just like Peter and the other disciple – they missed what Mary saw.
“We must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from our lives.” If we want to experience God in our lives – we must ruthlessly ATTACK hurry – learn to sit and wait on God, in one sense.
Jesus was really busy – but He was never hurried. He was never stressed out about doing something. We need to sit quietly long enough to hear from Him. That doesn’t have to happen on your couch – but it can happen on the way to work or on a break – sit quietly before God to hear from Him.
17 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.' " 18 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.
This Easter message must be proclaimed. Jesus tells the women – go and tell. We need to tell it as well.
Let me go back…Mary thought He was the gardener. Most likely – tombs were in gardens – not unlike cemeteries today. And there was likely a gardener who would take care of it. John is the most theological of the gospel writers – and this may be an allusion to the original Garden. Something went horribly wrong there - and we were lost and cast out because of THAT garden – and for the remainder of history – humans are trying to recreate or get back to paradise. But John is saying that the story of humanity begins again in the Garden. What was destroyed is all new again.
I’d like to look at two statements about Easter – one is by a Bible Scholar
“When Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, He rose as the beginning of the new world that God had always intended to make.” – N.T. Wright – Everything changed. The new world started then. But we look around and we see that the physical world is just getting worse.
We talk about the new heavens and new earth – and it all started anew 2000 years ago. This is not something that is in the future. The Bible talks about being a new creature.
Colossians 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.
Jesus is the beginning. It started when Jesus rose from the dead. That is when it began. It began for the world then – and it began for us then. In the risen Christ – it started over. Old things passed away. The new kingdom has already come. The physical earth is not getting better right now. But the new creation has begun with us and it can begin to be lived out now by us. We can start living the resurrection today – thy will on earth as it is in heaven – that is possible. It is possible for us to do God’s work today. We can start in our thoughts and deeds.
2 Cor. 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them,
We can begin to live like Him in our thoughts, actions, attitudes, deeds and character. Because of the resurrection – we can live as Christ lived – do we believe it? We have all we need now – everything we need now – to be like Christ, because He lives inside of us and we have been raised with Him. The reality – we think we can never change – but Easter tells us we can. It is hard! And it takes all of our lives to get where we are experiencing it. Easter is the hope we can experience it. Has anyone gotten there? No! Will you get there in the next couple days? No! But we CAN become the people He calls us to become. It is not a Someday thing – it is happening right now inside us.
“Because we are already participating in the resurrection and possess that resurrection in us – when the end comes – when the final resurrection of the dead happens and we are in the new heavens and new earth – and we stand in God’s presence, what happens and takes place there, will, and should, be very familiar to us. We should get there and say – oh wow! I have been here before! Because we have! We are living it in a small way now. Heaven should be a continuation of what we’ve been doing.” – Mike Marette
Now we see dimly – like in an old fashioned mirror – but we have a taste of what it will be like in eternity. The question is – does our spiritual experience reflect that?
I would say – the more we are in God’s presence now, the more we will understand it when we are actually there.
In the olden days – you would stick your head in a box for a flickering movie – and now we have fully immersive experiences – with full 4KHD – that is a small reflection. This is something to look forward to – and also something to wake us up – am I participating in the kingdom to come? Am I experiencing the resurrection on a daily basis? The resurrection demands that we ask – what does it mean to live like Christ anew in my current situation?
This new creation – when we finally get there and stand in God’s presence – do you think you’ll respond in anger to something? How about anxiety, fear, arrogance, judgment? All of those things will be gone. Whatever our personal issues are, we will not act like that in God’s presence – and that means it is possible to not act that way today.
Does our personal experience reflect the resurrection? Does our community of faith reflect what the community of faith will look like in heaven? It should! How we interact – contrary to popular belief – we will be interacting – loving one another – not just gazing at Jesus for 10000 years.
He is relational – 3 in one – the Ancients called it the Divine Dance. They love one another. And Jesus’ resurrection allowed us to become part of that dance – there will be 4 – Father, Son, Holy Spirit and His Bride! Engaged in this relationship with Him.
Do you think you will be able to hold a grudge in the resurrection? No! Do you think you will be bitter? Or have unforgiveness? No! Not at all! Our experience in forgiveness here and now prepares us for there and then.
In Jesus being raised from the dead, He restored everything. All things were renewed. It was reconciled to God – all sins forgiven. When we finally stand before God, what has not been reconciled here will have to be reconciled then. So do it now! We have all probably had some kind of underlying area of unreconciliation. Where something is wrong – something in your family experience – someone is not right with the family – and we know the burden and weight that it places on our relationships – and we also know the experience of getting a relationship restored! And how good it is - to be able to say – I’ve got nothing there – nothing against anyone – wow!
I think that will be one of the first things God does – He will go through our relationships to make it right – so the person you’ve held a grudge against – you will say it is done – it is forgiven – I wonder if that is why it says the tears will be wiped away? It is all gone.
Eph. 4:22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
In order to make this happen, the New Testament gives some clues – you have to put off the old self.
“Nothing can be resurrected that does not die first” – The old has to be put off – put on the cross – and we put on the new. We take off old dirty clothes – and put on fresh new clothes.
One of our grandchildren did not like having his diaper changed. Two had to hold him down – but I’m sure he felt so much better when it was done.
I think that is how some of us are – we don’t want our diapers changed! It’s Easter and I don’t believe I said that. Cindy: ”Stop now!”
There is so much that needs to be laid aside – because it is not good for us. It is not “put that down because you might like it!” It is “put it down because it is hurting you and you don’t see it!”
This takes effort and practice and decision and choice.
Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to trying to earn it. His grace and power transform us to the new image.
A better illustration – it is like this – you buy a new house – and you have 30 days until closing – you sign the contracts – and there is 30 days until closing – but in the contract – there is this stipulation – immediate occupancy upon signing the contract. You can move in – but in 6 weeks it will be officially yours. Someday we will be like Jesus. So when we see Him – we will be changed into His image – and that day is coming – but until then, we get to live in the house to explore and make it ready.