Easter Sunday - "He's Not Here"

Easter Sunday 2016 |  “He’s Not Here” 
March 27, 2016
St. Timothy's United Methodist Church
Rev. Mark Vickers

John 20:1-18: 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. 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 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. 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 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.

Our journey is complete! We have made it! The tomb is empty! He is risen, He is risen indeed! We have journeyed the forty days through a long and introspective journey. We have prepared ourselves, we have prayed, we have washed each other, we have walked with the cross and now we have come with Mar, the beloved disciple, and Peter to find the tomb empty. We come as an anxious people seeking the end to our journey. 

Well, my friends, I hate to tell you, that what comes with the “end” of the journey is the beginning of our “work.” You see, the irony of Easter is that it is not an end to the Christian journey, it is actually the beginning of the Christian work! 

Just think about what Mary thought when she first found the tomb to be empty. The response had to be “what do we do now?” What did Mary do? She ran back to The beloved disciple and to Peter to exclaim the news. Simply, the stage was set for “what we are to do!”

As the story unfolds and the conversation continues, I think we need to be more like the beloved disciple. We have been on this journey with Jesus for forty days, so certainly when Mary announces that the tomb is empty, we want to go see it. We want to see for ourselves, like the ‘beloved disciple’ we must believe without full comprehension or explanation. We must have that unending faith! The church must have this in place in order to survive. We must be the people who have this discernment and excitement. We must be people who claim that death has no triumph over us and smile with glee every time we hear the word “resurrection!”

Yes, the world will mock our optimism, the world (and sometimes the church) will look at our ultimate optimism as weird and refuse to view the world as we see the world. Yet, the world is desperately in need of Easter people! 

In a world filled with senseless violence, corruption, government and political outrage, we need to be people who have an unswerving faith that God through Jesus Christ will work good, even out of a brutal crucifixion. That, my friends, is our motivational factor–to be moved to be an Easter people. 

This text is filled with so many astonishing faith stories. When Mary returns to the tomb she comes with the utmost faith to see for herself what has happened. In her awe and grieving mind she mistakes Jesus for the gardener until He speaks to her. She never equates the presence of the angels to another world existence, she has come to anoint Jesus’ body, to touch the body and to bid her farewells. But when Jesus speaks to her, she realizes what has happened and stands in awe as Jesus tells her to go and tell what she has seen. She came with a different intent and left with a new perspective. 

You see, what we often forget is that resurrection stories, the resurrection, are commissioning stories and a commissioning event. The resurrection brings to us and instructs us that we have “work to do!” We are Easter people, not because it is a time of relief and enjoyment after 40 days of introspection, we are Easter people because God has the power to raise His Son from the dead and engage us to tell the story to a world who doesn’t know or want to know the story! To a world that lives in a void! 

My friends, when this story comes to life, we truly have become those who came to be Easter people. The story is finished, the promise fulfilled! Now the work begins my friends, come, let us join together to be the people of Easter! 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, He is Risen, He has Risen Indeed!! 

AMEN AND AMEN!!