John 20:11-18 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
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”).
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.’”
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.
It is wonderful to be with you on this Autumn day, early in the morning for the reason of remembering and, more so, celebrating the hope of the Christian faith. The hope of the Christian faith is that we will be with our God in the Resurrection forever! That we will enjoy true life with Him because of what was accomplished on the Cross and what was confirmed through Sunday’s resurrection! That the fractured relationship with our heavenly Father will be made right and we will live with Him in the new Heavens and Earth forever!
As one theologian put it:
“If the Resurrection be but an epilogue to the story of Jesus’ earthly life and not an integral part of the drama of redemption, then there is no atonement… for without Easter the Cross looks only like the tragic and premature waste of a good life.” (Anderson)
Our hope, the hope of the Christian faith is expressed in John’s Revelation in the 21 chapter where he writes;
Revelation 21:1-4 New International Version (NIV)
A New Heaven and a New Earth
21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
This, church, is our expressed hope, and we need to be reminded of it; because we can be so tempted to try and pull Jesus and the hope he offers into temporary and therefore unfulfilling things.
As C.S. Lewis says in his book the Weight of Glory;
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Mary finds herself too easily pleased, “if I could just find the body, or if I could just recapture what we had”; what Jesus had in store for her and for us so transcends our weak minded hopes. And this is what I want to remind us of this Resurrection Sunday.
So, we see that Mary’s hope fell short of God’s infinite joy when
1. She longed for a shrine not for a living Lord
Mary weeping at the grave gives away her hope. She cries out first to the Angel’s and then to Christ himself, saying I don’t know where He is, and just tell me where he is I will get him.
The desperation was to have a body. Something to hold onto so that there would be a shrine to what he was. Little did she know that no such shrine would ever be set up for He would not be bound to a single location but His presence and His hope would be the whole of the world.
She still thought of Him as a man, and as a tragically slain man. If Christ was simply a man, then a shrine to His death would have been appropriate. However, that is not who he was; He was God, the Second person of the Eternally Trinity, the Logos become flesh. In fact, He pointed to this when he was alive when he said; in John 10:18
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again..."
To put it simply she expected too little of Christ. And perhaps that is our tendency today, we expect too little, not too much of Jesus. Our hopes of what He can do in our life is misplaced and therefor too small.
Jesus transcended her expectation.
Next when she does encounter the Risen saviour, her hope is still too short of what has happened.
2. She called him Rabboni and not Saviour
When she finally realised who it was; she was elated and cried out Rabboni; an Aramaic word that means teacher; as John translates for the reader. Now, why does John go to the effort of translating Rabboni and then explaining it in his gospel; well for two reasons. It is what Mary actually said. But more than that John is emphasising the reality of what was going on here; Mary hadn’t grasped what had happened. She did not fully understand the significance of the fact that Jesus was standing in front of here.
She had got Jesus back, her teacher is what she had though; what she would come to realise is her teacher was in fact the Saviour of the world and the Lord of all creation. But to her in this moment she simply had her teacher back. So she had taken a giant step forward, she was elated that she had her teacher back, but she had not embraced him as saviour; hence she clung to him.
John is showing us beautifully that Mary didn’t want to lose Jesus again. This makes perfect sense, if you had received someone back from the dead you too would cling to them as not to ever let them go again. But Jesus responds with these peculiar words; “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father…”
Again her hope, her desire of Christ was far too small. She wanted a Jesus who could fix her current crisis, but instead she needed a Jesus who could deal with her sin.
Many people want a Jesus who is for them in their work, or their family, or who helps them to be happy. We want a teacher, or a leader; but what we need, what is the true crisis of our lives is the unforgiven sin that alienates us from God.
For when we are at peace with God we have the other things as well. C.S. Lewis says;“Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.” It is when we find our Salvation in Christ and rest in what he has done for us in the reconciliation of us to God that the rest of our lives finds peace. But we too often want Jesus to deal with the rest of our lives and therefore miss the joy and peace and wonder that Christ truly offers.
Which leads me to my final point;
3. She needed Him to be with His Father and Her Father
And we need Him to be with His Father and our Father. What do I mean? Well, The significance of what Jesus says here is the significance of what we are celebration this morning! Friends, the work is finished; the price is paid; there is no longer distance and animosity between us and our creator.
But until God comes to deliver the new heavens and earth we need an advocate; someone who will plead our case before the Father day and night for our sake. Someone who stand for us before the Father so that we now can boldly come to the throne of Grace through Christ.
Just because Christ is risen doesn’t mean that my life and all my sins are magically over, it doesn’t mean that I am now made perfect. That is coming the New Heavens and New Earth are coming and I will be free then. Now, I find myself in a war, but is a war that I cannot lose. I - like Paul - in Rom 7, find a law at work within the members of my body at war with the Law of my mind making me a prisoner. The good I want to do I don’t do and evil I want to avoid; I end up doing that. Who will free me from this body subject to death?“ Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature[d] a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus!” Because Christ has taken our sins and paid the price and now stands as our defence before the Father. As John writes in 1 John 1
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
He is faithful and just; he accounts our sins to himself, and presents Himself to the Father and God the Father cannot (because he is just) count our sins twice. Therefore, because Christ is at the right had of the Father, as our represented, God is now our Father, our God. And If God be for us who can be against us? Church it is because Christ went to the Father, because he now stands as our advocate, that we can have unwavering assurance of God’s goodness to us! Does this mean no bad thing is ever going to happen to us! Absolutely not. But it does mean that no matter what I am going through; because Christ is with the Father I know that God is good, and He is still my Father!
So, this Resurrection Sunday, I hope that your world and the way you see it will be enhanced, and made all the more joyful knowing that Christ is with the Father, and he stands for you.
If you confess your sins to Him there is no doubt that God is your God and your Father! Go in that blessed assurance this Easter and this year.