Great – but what exactly does this mean? What does it mean that Jesus rose from the dead? Do we just celebrate that 2000 years ago a man miraculously came back to life or is there something more? What we celebrate today is not just that Jesus rose from the dead but that his resurrection confirms who Jesus is, validates all that Jesus said and did throughout his life and proclaims that sin and death have been defeated once and for all.
We have learned that from the very beginning of John’s gospel, John has been trying to help us see that Jesus is the fullness of God in human form. Jesus was the word of God in the flesh and the fullness of God in this world. That Jesus rose from the dead confirms that Jesus is God because only God can create life and only God can restore or resurrect life. Jesus is confirmed as God which validates all that Jesus said and did during his life. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that all the teaching of Jesus is true and needs to be followed. It means that loving one another and serving those in need is the way to experience ultimate meaning and power in life. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that we will get more out of life when we forgive those who have hurt us instead of seeking revenge and that putting others before ourselves will help us experience a full and abundant life. The resurrection of Jesus validates all the teaching of Jesus and every example he gave to us.
The resurrection of Jesus also proclaims that sin and death have been defeated. The apostle Paul said that death has been swallowed up in victory – the victory of Jesus Christ. This is not only what we proclaim when those we love have died, but this is where we place our hope throughout our lives. That sin and death have been defeated means that no matter where we find ourselves in life – there is hope. When our own sin and failures seem too great to overcome, the resurrection proclaims that all is not lost because there is forgiveness and reconciliation.
When our jobs or marriages or families are broken and all seems lost, the resurrection proclaims that there is hope for healing and hope for strength and new opportunities because the power of God is at work in our lives. When we think we have nothing to offer the world and that no one cares about us and that our lives simply don’t matter, the resurrection tells us that we have value and worth and that we are deeply loved because God overcomes sin and the grave for us – for you and for me. God did it all for love – for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…
The resurrection proclaims that there is hope for our lives and in the Easter story we see this hope in the person of Mary. It is Mary who comes to the tomb early in the morning and Mary comes as someone who is feeling a profound sense of hopelessness. When Jesus died and was laid in the tomb, Mary not only lost a person she loved deeply, but Jesus was the one who had forever changed her life. Mary had been possessed by 7 demons and while we don’t know what these demons did to Mary, we do know that when Jesus drove them out, her life changed.
Mary was completely dedicated to Jesus because of what he did to help her and she not only supported Jesus during his life but it was Mary who was at the cross when Jesus died and at the tomb when he was buried. It was Mary who then risked her safety by going to the tomb early in the morning and it is Mary who is overwhelmed with sorrow because the body was gone. Not only had Jesus died but now someone had taken his body. She has lost everything.
Twice it says that Mary wept and we can understand her tears. All the good she experienced in her life had suddenly been stripped away. All the hope she had for her future had come to an end. The one that she loved had died. We know this pain. All the good we had hoped for is suddenly stripped away, the hope we had for the future seems to come to an end and those we love have died. In different ways we know Mary’s tears and what Easter tells us is that in the middle of our tears God comes to meet us. In the midst of our despair and hopelessness, God comes offering us light and life.
Through her tears it says that Mary looks into the tomb and saw two angels. Now every gospel account of the resurrection talks about angels or messengers at the empty tomb and here John tells us there were two of them and they are inside the tomb, one at the place where Jesus feet would have been and the other at his head – John 20:11-12. We have learned during this Lenten season in our study of John’s gospel that John always provides details that are symbolic and important for us to consider and here it is the placement of the angels. The angels at the head and feet forms another picture in our minds – two angels with an empty space in the middle points us to the two angels that sat on the Ark of the Covenant.
In the Old Testament, when God gave directions for the ark to be built, there were two cherubim that were to be placed on the lid of the ark and the empty space in the center was known as the mercy seat – Exodus 25:22. This was God’s seat and it was known as God’s place on earth. It was from this seat that God spoke to his leaders. The blood of a sacrifice was to be sprinkled here to make it holy and this was where God met with his people. What John wants us to think about is how the mercy seat is no longer the lid of an ark or even the empty tomb but that God would now meet with his people through the risen Christ.
Look what happens to Mary. Mary turns from the angels and comes face to face with Jesus. She doesn’t recognize him at first, but when Jesus speaks her name, her eyes and heart are opened. God is not on the mercy seat, God is now with us and God has come to turn or sorrow into joy, our fear into faith and our despair into hope. The people of Israel used to have to go to the ark or the Temple to seek the presence of God – now God comes to us. God comes to us and offers mercy and love – forgiveness and grace and God comes to offer us the light of hope no matter where we find ourselves. The victory of Jesus over the grave is a victory we can experience in our lives because the resurrection tells us that God is always with us.
Even before Jesus appeared to his disciples to assure them he is alive, there is another detail John provides that points to Jesus resurrection and that is found in what the disciples saw when they looked into the tomb. It’s interesting that they didn’t see the angels when they looked in but what they did see were the empty grave clothes. The linen wrappings that had secured the body of Jesus when he was taken down from the cross were lying there completely undisturbed. The wrappings weren’t strewn all over the place as grave robbers would have left them if they stole the body of Jesus and the linen napkin or cloth that was wrapped around Jesus head was neatly folded nearby. What these details tell us is that the tomb was in order.
John wants us to understand that Jesus had not unwrapped himself because he hadn’t really died and the body hadn’t been stolen because if it had they would either have taken the entire body, wrappings and all, or they would have unwrapped him quickly and left the clothes behind but in a complete mess. With the tomb in order we are being told that Jesus has risen from the dead leaving the grave clothes behind. There is no other explanation for the empty grave clothes except that Jesus rose through them and rose from the dead and that this an act of God.
It is significant that the disciples were the ones who saw this because they were the ones wrapped up in their own grave clothes. The disciples’ failure to stay with Jesus weighed on their hearts. They were filled with a grief and guilt and shame that wrapped them up in fear. The resurrection of Jesus and the empty grave clothes tell them that they can be forgiven and leave their burdens behind.
What grave clothes do we need to leave behind? What is it that has kept us bound up that we need to let go of so we can experience new life. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that God gives us power to overcome all those things that try to keep us down. Whatever we struggle with, whatever tries to undermine our faith or steal our hope or destroy our lives can be left behind if we will trust in God and the power of Christ’s resurrection.
The disciples experience this power when Jesus comes to them later in the day – John 20:19-20.
Their sorrow has been turned to joy and their doubt or fear begins to be transformed into faith. Everything changes when Jesus comes to them and everything changes when Jesus comes to us – and he does come to us. The risen Jesus found Mary in her sorrow and he found the disciples in their fear and God will find us wherever we are today and he will offer us a love that forgives, a power that will bring hope and a peace that will sustain us now and forever. This is what it means when we say Christ is Risen – He is risen indeed!
But there is one more detail that John gives us that no one else does and it is important for us to think about it so let’s go back to John 19:41. Not far from the cross was the tomb and the tomb was located in a garden. Now the garden is not going to be a flower garden like we think of, they really didn’t have those, the garden was where they grew produce – like grapes. In Jerusalem, not far outside the city walls, is what is known as the garden tomb. While we aren’t sure this is the actual tomb of Jesus, what makes it so interesting is that it is a tomb located in the middle of a garden and the reason we know it was a garden was because they discovered these – this is where they would have crushed grapes to make wine and these wine vats would be located in gardens because you didn’t want to have to transport the grapes a long distance.
But why was it important for John to tell us that Jesus was placed in a tomb that was in a garden? Perhaps because John started his gospel by reminding us of another garden, the Garden of Eden. John started his gospel by saying; In the beginning was the word. In the beginning God created a garden and now the world would begin again in a garden. Mary even thinks that Jesus is the gardener – maybe not a bad image of the resurrected Jesus – the gardener who brings forth new life. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were told to tend the garden and care for it – now as the new Gardener Jesus sends out his disciples to tend the new garden of God. Jesus said to his disciples, As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. John 20:21
The Easter story is never complete without understanding that it asks something from us in return. It is not just a confirmation of who Jesus is and a validation of Jesus life and teaching and a proclamation of Jesus victory it is also a call for us to offer the light and life of Jesus to our world. Just as Mary shared the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with the disciples so are we to share the good news of God with others. After the resurrection, Jesus sent the disciples out to continue the work that He began, so the resurrection tells us that what Jesus began – we need to continue.
We need to tend the garden of God or bring God’s kingdom into this world. Sometimes we will be the ones planting the seeds by sharing the good news of Jesus through our teaching and witness and service. Sometimes we need to tend and water the garden by caring for those whom God has given to us n the church and in the world. And we are to also bring in the harvest which maybe just means living out the mission of God in the everyday activities of our lives.
Adam Hamilton has said, Every conversation we have, every decision we make, every action we take is an opportunity for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. When we intentionally live in God’s garden and take every opportunity we have to share the light and life of God in this world we are bringing in the harvest and working to complete what God began.
So Yes! Christ is Risen. He is Risen Indeed
This is not just something we say today, this needs to be how we live every day. Let us live knowing that God is with us and let us give ourselves to the mission of working in the garden to bring about the kingdom of God.
He Is Risen Indeed!
1. This week read John chapters 20-21.
Use the following questions during your reading:
• What is said in this passage about Jesus?
• In this passage, how does Jesus bring life to me?
• What response do these verses require of me?
2. The resurrection confirms who Jesus is, validates all that Jesus said and did, and proclaims that sin and death have been defeated. Which of these is most needed in your life?
3. Jesus filled Mary’s life with hope and possibility. Where in your life do you need to experience this kind of hope? Ask Jesus to shine God’s light into this situation.
4. Who do you know that needs to hear words of hope? How can you share the light of Christ with that person this week?
5. The disciples found the grave clothes that wrapped Jesus body completely undisturbed and the tomb in order. Jesus literally rose (through the grave clothes) from the dead.
• What “grave clothes” do you need to leave behind?
• What burdens does God want to remove from your life?
6. Jesus’ resurrection took place in a garden and Jesus was mistaken for a gardener. He then sends his disciple into the world to continue the work God has begun.
• How are you being called to carry on the work of Jesus and tend to the garden of God?
• How can you help bring the fullness of God’s Kingdom into this world?
Every conversation we have, every decision we make, every action we take is an opportunity for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. (Adam Hamilton)