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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Light from Darkness: The Resurrection Changed the Apostles' Lives and Can Change Ours as Well

Unlike my other posts: Today is my Easter message that I will preach in church today.

The story has to begin in darkness. That's what makes it so incredible, unbelievable. Not incredible like it was awesome and magnificent. I mean, un-believable, like they didn't believe it.

Let’s think about where the followers of Christ were before we think about the resurrection. They spent Friday night and all day Saturday without Christ.

Some of them had spent three years with him.

What was it like? What were they thinking? Feeling?

Well, some had scattered to different places, but I bet most of them were together. They were afraid of the Jewish leaders and what they might do to them now that they had killed Jesus. They assumed they each had a target on their back now that he was gone. So there was fear.

So, in their homes and without much fanfare, they gathered quietly trying not to draw attention to themselves and they grieved.

Have you ever grieved the loss of someone you loved, whether in death or even just as a child when you moved away and knew that you would never see your best friend again?

They probably went through times of talking, reminiscing. They might recount some of the great miracles that Jesus had done. “Remember when he healed that guy who was blind from birth! That was intense!” Or, “Remember that lady who was pushing through the crowd, touches his cloak and there he is surrounded by hundreds of people packed into that street and he says, ‘Who touched me?’ and we are all like, ‘Who touched you? Everyone touched you!’ He was incredible.”

But, I think they probably spent more time thinking about Jesus Himself.

Not what He did, but who He was, and how He made you feel when you were around Him. “He was so kind and so gentle.” Another would joke, “Except when he said to Peter, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ That was rough.” “But, you know, I never once doubted that He loved me. I just knew. I could feel it with my whole being, body and soul, all that I am. I never once doubted that he loved me and would do anything for me. He was just that kind of guy.” “I loved him.” And then, the chorus of “Me, too” probably rung out.

Remembering Jesus was remembering the intimacy and the love and the faithfulness and the kindness.

Like when we grieve today, the conversation was probably intermingled with times of silence, the tears intermingled with laughter, the great memories mingled with regrets.

“I wish we hadn’t run away. John tell us again what happened at the trial.” Peter would have probably got up and walked away at these moments, still carrying the shame of denying Christ, but unwilling or unable to confess it all to them. So, he would go for a walk. No one would suspect him if he did. They all needed some time alone.

At times, their hearts and the conversation would turn ugly. If you have ever suffered grief because of another’s sin, you know what I mean.

“I wish Judas was hung on that cross instead of Christ. I can’t believe he did that!” “I wish the whole Sanhedrin were on that cross. Bunch of hypocrites!” “What about that weasel Pilate! I hate him so much!” “If you had seen the way those guards struck and spit on him… it made me sick. It was like they were enjoying it. It was the worst thing I have ever seen.”

And then, maybe one of the women said, “But, His eyes.” And the room got quiet, really quiet. “What?”

“His eyes. As I looked into His eyes, even when they were striking Him, even at the very end, hanging there on the cross… There was no hate there. There was pain. There was grief even like He was going to miss being with us. There was even pity for the soldiers. But, no hate. There was love. The same as when he sat here with us, teaching or eating with us. Pure love. He was so amazing. I loved Him so much.”

And, the tears would flow again and the hate and rage would subside.

Hours of this. The women gathered together with the men just like when Jesus was with them.

Each one remembered Jesus’ love for them as a person… how he has touched their life personally.

Peter clung to his wife and remembered how Jesus had healed his mother-in-law. Mary Magdalene remembered how Jesus had saved her from such a horrible life. Mary, Jesus’ mother, remembered what it was like raising God from a boy.

Each one remembered when Jesus had called to them, those few words that changed everything, changed the course of their lives, “Follow me.”

It was as simple as that for many of them, but they couldn’t resist His call. They left everything and followed. How could they have done anything else. He was so loving, so amazing, his teaching was compelling, the truth was overwhelming, and the eyes.

How could they go on? They would never again be able to look into those eyes.

What would they do? Without Jesus to follow, where would they go? What does their life mean now? So much confusion and disappointment.

“You saw me! I was ready to die for him, to fight for him. I cut that guy’s ear off! I would have died right there in the garden and known that I had done the right thing. No regrets! But, now, what now? I’ve decided, I’m going back to the boats. I still have connections. I can get on a boat and I can fish. That’s what I’ll do. If any of you want to join me…”

“Well, I can’t go back to tax collecting. I don’t know what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll learn how to mend nets.”

“I was going to follow him to the palace, to war, to victory. I don’t know how to follow him now.”

“He changed me. I just know that I am different. I can’t go back. I have to go forward. But, I don’t know what that means. I just know that things are going to be different.”

“Well, ladies, I know what I am going to do. I am going to take the spices we bought and before the sun even rises tomorrow, I am going to the tomb and get somebody to roll back that stone, and I am going to give him a proper burial. The way they rushed to get him in there on Friday, it just isn’t right. The least we could do is bury him properly. It’s the least we could do.”

The Bible is clear that even though Jesus told them, even though the Scriptures foretold it, even though they believed in the resurrection of the dead, even though they had seen Lazarus and others raised from the dead…they didn’t believe. They couldn’t believe.

The light had gone out and they were plunged into darkness. Their world had caved in.

According to John’s telling, Mary went and seeing the empty tomb, she ran back to tell the others. She was convinced that someone had stolen his body.

After Peter and John had come and gone, there she sat, weeping. How could this happen. The one thing that she could do… The one plan that she had… to take care of the body of her Lord, was ruined. Someone defiled her Lord’s body, stole it.

She might have been thinking, “Is there no end to this misery? They beat him and tortured him, they mocked him and spit on him. They killed him! Couldn’t they just let us bury him in peace? Why would they take him? Where would they take him?”

As she wept, facing into the tomb, the sun low on the horizon behind her, someone came up from behind casting a shadow over her. She looked up, unable to recognize who it was, but she hoped it was someone who knew where they had taken the body. Who else would be here so early? Maybe the gardener.

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.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

At this point, she probably did what any of us would have done. She went to him. She kissed him. She hugged him. She clung to him. She held him so tight that she told herself that she would never again let go. She would never again let Him out of her grasp. Her love overflowed. It burst from her so naturally.

“He is real. He is here. He is mine. I will never let Him go again.”

And in verse 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.’”

With her world turned upside down once again, she probably couldn’t even put words to her racing thoughts, “Wait, what? No, you can’t go! Do you know what we’ve been through? The darkness…the despair…the pain…the hopelessness. You can’t leave now. You must come back with me. You must come and see everyone.” And, then he was gone.

Collecting herself, (she must have been quite a mess by this time), she ran. She ran to the disciples.

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.

Are you like Mary Magdalene? Have you seen the Lord? Were you in darkness? And, now are you in the light? Well, don’t just stand there looking confused. Go tell someone. Go tell them of the overwhelming joy of seeing Your Lord.

He is risen!

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