John 20: 1-18; Easter Sunday; 04162017
I want to welcome all of you who are visiting with us this morning. We are blessed to have you here with us, on this glorious Easter Sunday!
Easter is, amongst other things, a celebration of many families. As we heard in our Gospel story this morning, Jesus was really into family. Even as he hung upon the Cross, Jesus arranged for the disciple whom he loved to take care of his mother Mary, after his impending death upon the Cross.
Perhaps you remember the story. Jesus had been crucified, and was nearing his death upon the Cross. His mother Mary, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and two other women were standing at the foot of the Cross, no doubt praying for God’s mercy. Jesus looked at his mother, and the disciple whom he loved, and said to Mary, “Woman, here is your son.” Jesus then looked at the disciple, and said, “Here is your mother.” John tells us from that moment on, the disciple whom Jesus loved, took care of Mary in his home, just like she was his own mother. Jesus made sure to take care of his family before he died on the Cross. But how extensive, we might ask ourselves, is Jesus’ family? Whom might we consider to be members of Jesus extended family?
Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, in her book, Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of John, addresses these questions. She writes: “With these words Jesus establishes a new kindred relationship between his own mother and the disciple. Jesus births a new symbolic family to continue after his return to the Father. All disciples of Jesus can call God their Father, as Mary Magdalene can call Jesus’ mother their own mother, and call each other brothers and sisters.”[i] Or in other words, each of us here today are members of Jesus’ family.
In our Gospel story, we heard of Mary Magdalene visiting Jesus’ tomb, early on Easter morning. She is startled to find the tomb open, with the great stone rolled back. She fears that Jesus’ body has been taken, perhaps by grave robbers, or even worse. Grave robbing was a serious issue back in the days of Jesus; archeologists have recovered a document signed by the Roman Emperor Claudius, prohibiting tampering with tombs.
Mary runs and tells Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved, what it is she’s discovered. The two disciples race to the tomb, fulfilling the ancient Jewish requirement of two male witnesses who can testify to what’s happened. They each enter the tomb, though not together, and each sees that Christ’s body isn’t there. All that remains are the funeral cloths of Jesus.
Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb crying, and in mourning. A man appears, whom she assumes to be the gardener. The man says to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She replies, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She then hears the voice that she knows to be her Savior’s. “Mary!” Jesus says, calling her by name. Mary then grabs him, and clings desperately to Jesus.
Very few of the disciples are known to have touched Jesus. Perhaps the disciple that Jesus loved, while reclining next to Jesus a few days earlier, as they all dined at the Last Supper. And, of course, beloved Thomas, the patron saint of all of us who’ve doubted. But Mary Magdalene was allowed to lay her hands on Jesus, and for that she’s been long-honored. But it was to be short-lived, because Jesus hadn’t yet ascended to his Father.
Notice that Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven, until he took care of his family. He passed on a message for Mary Magdalene to carry. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene faithfully passed on those words to Jesus’ disciples, greeting them and saying, “I have seen the Lord”.
The words received by Mary, we might think of as the DNA of the early Christian Church. We carry that very same DNA, that’s been passed on down to us.
But of course, you know the ins and outs of families. We don’t always get along, and that too, is a part of the Christian family story. We don’t always love our neighbors as ourselves, and so I’d thought I’d share this story.
There was a little boy with a nasty temper. One day, his father had had enough, and gave him a bag of nails and a hammer. He told the boy that every time he lost his temper, he would have to hammer a nail into the backside of their fence.
That first day, the boy drove thirty-seven nails into the fence. But over the next few weeks, he slowly learned to control his temper. The number of nails he had to pound gradually dwindled away. He learned that it was a whole lot easier to hold his temper, than it was to hammer all those nails into the fence.
The day finally came, when the boy controlled his temper. He told his father, and his father suggested the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed by, and soon the boy could tell his father that all the nails were gone.
The father led his son over to the fence. He said, “You have done well, my son, but look at all the holes you’ve made in the fence. The fence will never be the same, for when you speak in anger, you leave a scar much like this one. You can wound another person, put a sword into a person, and then you can draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say you’re sorry, for the wound remains, even though it’s scarred over.
The boy realized the power of what his father’s words had shown him. With wet eyes, he slowly looked up at his father. The boy said, “Father, I hope you can forgive me for the holes I put in you.” “Of course, I can”, the father said. “We are family and I could not love you more.”[ii]
May you each be blessed on this Day of Easter Sunday. And may you that you are all part of Jesus’ family.
For, whatever wounds you may have caused, the Lord Jesus still loves y
[i] Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, “Conversations With Scripture: The Gospel of John, Frederick W. Smith, Series Editor, (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 2007), pg.73. Much of this sermon was inspired by Chapter 5, “The Beloved Community: Leadership among the Disciples whom Jesus Loved.”, pgs. 65-78.
[ii]https://sermons.com/sermon/what-anger-leaves-behind/1477257, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., ChristianGlobe Illustrations, by Brett Blair, accessed 04/13/ 2017.