Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/24/11 Sermon

John 20:1-18
 
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen.
 
A man joined a monastery and he took a vow of silence. However he was allowed to say two words every seven years.  After the first seven years, the elders brought him in and asked for his two words. "Cold floors," he says. They nod and send him away.  Seven more years passed away and they brought him back in and asked for his two words.  He cleared his throat and said, "Bad food." They nod and send him away.  Seven more years pass. They bring him in for his two words and he says, "I quit”.  And the elders said "That's not surprising, you've done nothing but complain ever since you got here."
 
Have you ever felt like quitting before? Have you ever been at the end of your rope ready to give up?  I mean seriously felt hopeless living in darkness? Perhaps you’re there right now?  
 
Well if so, you can easily put yourself in the shoes of the followers of Jesus that first Easter morning. They were living in despair, feeling hopeless and helpless, ready to just give up.  After all, they had given their whole life to Jesus, he had taught them, they had seen his miracles; they had believed in him and followed him. And now their leader was dead. What were they going to do?  How would they go on about their life after what had happened?
 
That first Easter morning started out very dismal and dreary and dark. It started out as Mary Magdalene made her way to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.
 
John tells us it was still dark as she made her way. Dark in more ways than one. Yes it was dark from the wee hours of the morning but it was also dark in the center of all the hearts of Jesus’ followers.  Memories of the beatings, the scourging, the slander, the crucifixion, his death, all still fresh wounds as Mary made her way to the tomb.  Why does she go? Well perhaps the tomb was the only thing that might give her some comfort in the same way that many of us may visit the grave of a lost loved one.  It was a truly dark morning as she walked the path to his tomb.  But still it became even darker as she came to the site and found the stone that guarded his tomb had been rolled away. The one thing that she went to take comfort in was even gone.  In her desperation she didn’t take time to investigate but instead she ran. She went and found Peter and John and said, “They have taken the Lord, we don’t know where they have put him!” 
 
Peter and John were shocked out of their depression and grief and they ran to the tomb.  John arrives first and sees the stone rolled away just as Mary had said. The stone that enclosed Jesus’ body was out of the way.  Out of the way for one reason---- for humankind to enter in. For humankind to see.
 
To see what though?
 
Well as Peter arrives, he peeks into the darkened tomb.  And as his eyes scan the darkened cave he sees that all that is left are strips of linen, lying in the place where Jesus had laid. The face cloth that had been on Jesus’ face was folded up neatly in a place by itself.  The scene was neat and orderly; no evidence of a ransacked burglary (no need to call CSI).  Next John sticks his head into the tomb--- and as he sees for himself that it’s empty something suddenly happens to him.  In the blink of an eye, John goes from the depths of darkness and despair, from the inclination of giving up to suddenly the light of hope.
 
John believes….He believes that Jesus was resurrected.  He didn’t understand all that was going on; he didn’t understand all the theological significance of what had happened.  That would come later to him and the rest of the disciples as they would see the Old Testament prophecies in a new light.  But at this moment, John simply believes; he believes that Jesus is resurrected. And the gift of his belief gives him hope over his despair. It gave him life again………..(pause)
 
Still, as John and Peter left the tomb, Mary stayed and she wept.  Still in anguish, she needed something to grasp, something to give comfort. Even if it was a dead body, at least it was something. She needed to talk, she needed to cry.  And so in despair she decides to look inside the empty tomb for herself. And there she sees two angels. They ask, “Woman, why are you crying?”  Mary shares her grief.  She then turns around and she sees a man that she assumes is the gardener. But we see that it is Jesus, we have that luxury.  And he asks her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you’re looking for?”  She responds again, pleading to know the whereabouts of Jesus’ body. And then finally, Jesus speaks her name: Mary!  She recognizes that voice. She would have known it anywhere. She looks up and says, Rabboni/ Teacher.
 
And suddenly for her, just as it was for John who saw the empty tomb, there was suddenly light and hope.  The darkness and despair were gone. Jesus was resurrected------ she believed and it gave her life again……(pause)
 
Now today, we once again come together on this Easter Sunday, to remember and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord.
 
We come from the places of our own lives, whether joyous right now or in the places of our own darkness to remember and to celebrate that because Jesus has overcome the finality of our worst fear we need not ever live in despair.
 
Because Jesus rose from the grave, we can hang our hat on this day whenever life’s difficulties come, whenever we’re ready to give up, whenever we’re at the end of our rope.
 
Whether we’ve lost a loved one, or we anguish in a broken relationship, or we’re bound by addictions, or we experience guilt and shame over past sins or we’re facing the realities of our own death; today is the day that reminds us that when we believe in Jesus, when we believe in his resurrection, there is the hope of new life.
 
For John and Mary Magdalene, their belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection took them from a hellish hopelessness in this world, to a heavenly hopefulness experienced right now.
 
And that’s what belief in Jesus’ bodily resurrection does for us. Belief gives us life again in the physical present in which we live.  It gives us hope and redemption in this present world that gives us purpose and life as we wait for Christ’s return when he will redeem the whole world…………
 
Of course today we live in a world where many struggle with the idea of belief in the resurrection. Enlightened, skeptical minds struggle with the idea of Jesus’ bodily resurrection. We live in a culture where what’s dead stays dead. There is pessimism and hopelessness, and fatalism.  But if you think about it, that’s what John and Peter and Mary were experiencing when they ventured to the tomb that first Easter morning.
 
They came with doubts; they came with a mindset that what’s dead stays dead.  And yet as they explored for themselves, as they looked around and saw the evidence, they encountered the risen Christ for themselves.
 
Some of you who are here today can witness to how this works.  In your own skepticism and doubt, in questioning instead of blindly believing, you have come to truly believe---- The risen Christ has come and met you.
 
I’ve known of people in the various churches I’ve served who were closet doubters and skeptics; afraid to voice their uncertainties.  And yet when they began to seek for themselves, with an open mind, they grew enormously in their faith.
 
In a similar way, the same thing happens whenever we act in faith and belief in answering a call to certain ministries.
 
I’ve known individuals who doubted in their own abilities, doubting in their own faith thinking it wasn’t strong enough; and yet as they answered the call to step out in faith, their faith grew stronger.  Their openness to believe, to have faith, led them to discover the Jesus they either never knew or had just begun to know.
 
Whenever we go and truly seek the risen Lord, he will come to meet us and in doing so, true belief is born.  (pause)
 
So today on this Easter Sunday, as we come to celebrate the resurrection, let us remember the power of belief in the resurrection and its impact on our life. 
  -It’s a power that gives us light in our darkness.
  -Strength and courage when we feel like giving up
  -Freedom from the debt and guilt of our sins.
  -And hope and eternal optimism because death has been overcome.
 
Today let the resurrection of our Lord give you life again.
 
And for those who are still seeking, Jesus invites you to keep on looking.  And as you do, look with vulnerability, look with humility---come looking in the darkness of your own tomb with an openness and willingness to see him.  He will indeed meet you and he will give you the hope and joy of eternal life if you will have the eyes of faith and belief.
 
Let us today who are his believers, sing with glorious joy. Let us be filled with passion and glow with a radiance of light to all we meet.
 
For today---- Christ is risen!
 
He is risen indeed!!