Easter Sunday’s message in both video and written format:
Christ is risen!
Today I am going to take you to a passage (John 20:11-18) which seems appropriate for this lockdown. It is Mary Magdalene alone meeting the risen Christ.
What does this have to teach us?
v11: Mary remains even though the others have gone. “But” – in contrast to the other disciples who have gone back to their homes (v10). She was devoted to Christ and wanted to find Him.
This is an important point to reflect on. How valuable and precious is Christ to you? In this time of crisis, are you distracted, or growing in devotion to Jesus? There are, of course, reasons to be distracted. Many of us are doing far more now than we were before the virus came, many of us have additional responsibilities and additional worries about family and friends. Some of us have been unwell.
Despite all these things, it is still right to ask the question: what is this crisis doing to your devotion to Christ? This is a huge opportunity for Christians to consider carefully what are the most important things in life.
She was weeping and, in v13, we see that she wants to find Him. The thought that His body has been taken was too much to bear. She had come, as the other gospels tell us, to finish the process of anointing the body of Jesus with spices, which had been interrupted by the Sabbath. This had been taken away from her: what was a normal part of the grieving process of the time had been lost.
This is not unlike the issue that people face today, when normal funerals cannot take place. But, just as Mary moves from despair to faith, we can also. Mary’s perspective was transformed by the resurrection. For us, also, our view of those who die in Christ is transformed: they are not lost, they are not gone forever, but they are with Him and we wait here on earth for that great resurrection day when, just as Christ was raised, so they will be raised and we will be forever with the Lord.
But, to go back to the attitude of Mary…
She has been rescued by Jesus (Lk 8:2). She has been saved from demons and from a life of sin. Although we have no proof that she was the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet, the principle of that woman’s experience applies: she was forgiven much, so she loves much.
That same principle applies to every believer. You have been forgiven much. Even if you were relatively respectable before you became a Christian, you have been forgiven much. You have been forgiven much since you became a Christian. Yet for all of those sins – even those that you are yet to commit – the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
So let’s be challenged and stirred by how much He has done for us and let’s be challenged about our devotion to Christ.
II) Despair (v12-15)
We know the outcome, but she didn’t. This shows us that there was no expectation that Jesus was to rise from the dead. This is not an elaborate hoax, but this is fact.
The gentle rebuke of the angels (v13). If she had understood what Jesus said before His death, she would not be weeping.
If she had not been overcome with grief, she would have seen that it was Jesus standing there (v14).
When we are overcome, we don’t always see that Christ is with us. We can be blinded by the pressures and not see the truth.
We live after the resurrection, which is important. The worst event in the history of the entire universe was the death of Jesus Christ. He was the only one to be truly innocent; He was the Son of God who took on human flesh; He came to His own but His own did not receive Him. His “own” took Him and crucified Him.
Yet, through this worst of things, comes the greatest of all. Death is defeated and He gives that life to all who believe in Him. Now, having accomplished the greatest thing – even though Mary doesn’t see it – He is with her. If He can come from the greatest tragedy and evil in the history of the universe and minister to Mary in her despair, then He can come to you in even the greatest trial of your life and be with you and minister His comfort to you. In fact, because of the resurrection, He is alive and He is with you.
III) Call (v15-16)
Two rebukes/challenges. (1) Why are you weeping? The same question that the angels asked.
(2) Whom are you seeking? In other words, what kind of Messiah are you looking for? The same is true today – what Jesus do we love? Is our view of Him limited by sentiment or tradition, or do we trust Him as He is – the mighty Saviour and Lord. The suffering Saviour who is with us in our suffering AND the victorious Saviour who has defeated death, who intercedes for us and will come again to take us to be with Himself that where He is, we may be also.
Then we see the powerful, liberating word of Christ: “Mary”. He simply says her name and she sees who He is. He knows you by name (John 10:3-4) and His sheep know His voice. If you are a Christian, that is how you came to believe. That was the call that saved you. Not an audible voice, but His Spirit called to you in your heart and mind and you responded to Him.
Your salvation is all because of Him. To God be the glory.
IV) Response (v16)
She turns to Him. You can turn to Him, whether it is the first time you believe, or you are turning to Him in worship, or turning to Him for help.
She calls Him, “My Teacher”. She recognises Him and she recognises a vital aspect of His role as the One who teaches His people. He is still your Teacher, who reveals Himself through His word. We turn to Him to teach us, to bring truth to our lives, truth that transforms us.
V) Change (v17)
As Mary worships, Jesus says something that appears quite strange. He’s clearly not banning all touch because, as Luke reports, later He tells His disciples to touch Him. Later in John’s gospel, He invites Thomas to touch His hands and side.
What He is doing is seeking to move Mary beyond simply holding on to the physical Jesus. There is going to be a new relationship, not bound by the physical.
It is as if He is saying, “You don’t need to cling on as if I’m going to disappear. You don’t need to keep me for yourself. Go and tell – this is a time for telling not for clinging. Go and tell because I am ascending and (as Jesus said before He died) I will come to you in the person of the Spirit.” This is what He promised in John 14:16-18, 23.
This is why, even when we are on our own, we can have the confidence that the Lord Himself is with us.
VI) Assurance (v17)
“My Father and your Father, My God and your God.”
The Lord Jesus has brought us into the awesome privilege of a relationship with God as Father. Although Christ’s relationship is unique, it is tied in with ours. We are true children. He has removed the sins that separate us from God, He has reconciled us to God, He has provided the foundation that means we can be adopted as God’s children, no longer lost but found, no longer afar off but brought near by the blood of Christ.
We share in this amazing privilege through Christ – Rom 8:15-17, Heb 2:11-12. We are now true children of God. We really are accepted as His through Christ. We really do now have a relationship with Him. This is personal. Your Father. Your God.
Notice to whom Jesus sends Mary with this message – “my brothers.” The disciples. This is not a message to the world but to those who believe in Him, to tell them that because of Him, they have this relationship with God the Father. This is true for all believers.
But he is also issuing an invitation. At the very end of his chapter (John 20:31), John says that he is writing so that his readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ and, by believing, may have life in His name. So this is an invitation to you if you don’t yet believe: if you come to God through Jesus Christ, believing that He died and rose for you, you can have life in His name and know God and enjoy this intimate relationship with Him as His child.
So, will you stop right now and pray, and ask Jesus to save you?
If you are a Christian, know this:
- He called you by name and you are saved by His grace.
- However alone you feel, the risen Saviour is with you.
- However great your troubles are, He has defeated sin and death, and He is therefore able to come and strengthen you – even in the depths of despair.
- He is (John 2:17 and Hebrews 2:11) your elder brother who has brought you into a real and intimate relationship with God, who is now your Father. You can talk to Him. You can lay your burdens at His feet. You can receive His comfort and peace. You can enjoy precious intimate fellowship with Him. You can go through each day knowing that your heavenly Father is upon the throne of the universe and you can trust Him with everything.