LIVING THE RESURRECTION — WITH CERTAINTY
by Pastor Mike Fortune
May 7, 2011
- Run with what you know about Jesus [John 20:1-2; Hebrews 11:1 NIV]
- Run with others who want to know more about Jesus [John 20:3-9; Hebrews 12:1-2]
- Home is wherever Jesus is [John 20:10; Hosea 11:1-4; Luke 13:34]
This morning we’re returning to the Gospel of John for a new sermon series I’m calling Living the Resurrection based on John 20 and 21. These chapters describe scenes in the lives of the followers of Jesus after his death and resurrection which we celebrated last Sabbath—Easter weekend. And since they include bouts of doubt and loss together with soaring times of forgiveness, hope and grace, I was thinking we too might find comfort and help in them as we learn how to cope and even thrive living resurrected lives with Jesus. This morning Mary Magdalene, Peter, and John begin by teaching us about certainty. I hope you follow along.
John 20:1-10, “1Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 2She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, "They have taken the Lord's body out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" 3Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. 4They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn't go in. 6Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7while the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. 8Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—9for until then they still hadn't understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10Then they went home.”
Mark’s account of the resurrection says that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and another woman named Salome purchased spices on Saturday night after sundown when Sabbath ended so the next morning they could properly anoint the body of Jesus [cf. Mark 16:1]. But on the way to the tomb, they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the tomb?” Obviously, they didn’t expect it to be open! Their purchase of burial spices the night before proves that they expected to find Jesus still dead and buried. But in their crushing defeat and loss, another rude awakening awaited them. For after Matthew 27:61 says they watched Jesus’ burial, the next day the leading priests and Pharisees went to Pilate on the Sabbath and requested soldiers to guard the tomb because they remembered what Jesus’ disciples forgot. Namely, that Jesus had said numerous times that after three days He would rise from the dead [cf. Mark 8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34].
Can you imagine what these women were thinking when they arrived in the darkness Sunday morning and the first thing they see is a bunch of Roman soldiers passed out and chalked up like homicide victims at a crime scene? It must’ve looked a lot like CSI! Additionally, Matthew 28 says that morning an earthquake occurred when an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the tomb, and sat on it. I like that part. He flicked that ginormous stone aside like a pebble. And sat on it. And those Roman guards known for their toughness and strength fell into a dead faint according to Matthew 28:4.
By the way, Revelation says when Jesus returns, heaven will be empty [cf. Revelation 8:1]. Apparently, He’s going to bring every angel with Him. And Daniel 7:10 says there are ten thousand times ten thousand angels already up there [cf. Revelation 5:11]. So that means 100 million angels are coming with Jesus next time. Can you imagine how bright that’s gonna be? If one angel knocked out an entire regiment of Navy Seal like soldiers, can you imagine what 100 million angels will do? They’re gonna light this world up like a light bulb! No wonder 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 says the wicked will keel over dead in their brightness.
So when Mary, the other Mary, and Salome show up and pick their way through the strewn bodies lying there, the first thing the angel sitting on the stone says to them is, “Don’t be afraid!” No joke! How they had the courage to even approach him I don’t know! All I can say is that these ladies must have really loved Jesus! Because nothing was gonna stop them from anointing his body. Not darkness. Not earthquakes. Not soldiers strewn about like a bomb blast. Not a heavenly being blocking the entrance that talks to them! If that were me, I’d have run the other way during the earthquake. Stop drop and roll under something bigger than me! Find the closest basement or bathroom with no windows right? But they keep going!
If you want to live resurrected lives of certainty, you have to keep going! You have to run with what you know about Jesus. Point number one. Even if what you know about him isn’t the whole truth. Even if there are unexpected surprises along the way! Run with what you do know! Since the risen Jesus was able to pass through solid objects like walls according to John 20:19 and 26, the entrance to the tomb was not rolled away to let Jesus out. It was rolled away to let the women and disciples in!
According to the Life Application Bible, there are 11 total post-resurrection appearances of Jesus. He appears to these women on their way back from the tomb to tell Peter according to Matthew 28:8-10. He appears to Mary Magdalene all by herself in John 20:11-18. He appeared to Peter by himself in Jerusalem [cf. Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5]. He appeared to two travelers on the road to Emmaus [cf. Luke 24:13-35; Mark 16:12-13. He appeared to ten disciples behind locked doors [Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25] and then to the same group with the addition of Thomas [John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 15:5]. He appeared to seven disciples while they were fishing in Galilee [cf. John 21:1-23] and to eleven disciples on a mountain [cf. Matthew 28:16-20]. Finally, he appeared to those who watched him ascend into heaven [cf. Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-11]. In addition to these narrative accounts, Paul asserts that Jesus also appeared privately to His brother James [1 Corinthians 15:7] and to a crowd of five hundred [verse 6].
Luke 1:1-4 reminds us that the many living witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection provided a safeguard against the accusation that the disciples stole the body. Certainly the enemies of Jesus had no motive for removing His body from the tomb. They were the ones begging Pilate to make sure it stays there! So if neither the disciples of Jesus nor His enemies stole His body, the empty tomb demonstrates with certainty the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. And without the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15:14 says our faith is futile. Meaningless. If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we would be dead in our sins. We would have no hope. And our own resurrection wouldn’t be certain should we die before Jesus returns. And yes it takes faith to believe these things. But given the evidence, in my opinion, it takes more faith to believe He didn’t rise from the dead. It’s more logical to conclude He did than He didn’t. For God can do anything! But some people disagree. I know that. And it’s okay. As we’ll see, Jesus deals compassionately with those who doubt. He doesn’t try to argue with them. He simply shows up in their lives in miraculous unexplainable ways. Some people call those times coincidence. I call them providence. Pay attention skeptics! Jesus will never stop showing up in your life challenging your logic and conclusions about Him.
Ezekiel 33:11 adds that God does not delight in the death of the wicked. But this week, a lot of Americans were celebrating when they heard the news of Osama bin Laden’s death. They did so even without photographic evidence. Isn’t that interesting? You can tell some Americans that Osama's dead without proof of a body and they celebrate. But you tell them Jesus died and rose without proof of a body and they speculate. Go figure! If you want to live a resurrected life of certainty, you have to run with what you know about Jesus. Even if you don’t know it all. Like Mary Magdalene. Or even if you doubt what you do know. Like Peter as we shall see. Maybe that’s why Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) says, “1Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Moving on, John says Mary ran and found Simon Peter and John and they too started running for the tomb. John was apparently in better cardio shape than Peter. Probably been doing more P90X [just joking] because he arrived first, but consistent with his tentative personality, he didn’t go into the tomb. Peter, also consistent with his personality, barreled into the tomb. And verse 6 says when he did he noticed the linen wrappings lying there while the cloth that had covered Jesus' head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Three of the eight translations of the Bible I looked at including the NLT we’re using today said the grave clothes were “folded" (New International Version, New King James Version, and New Living Translation). But others just as accurately translate the word as "rolled up" (New American Standard Bible, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version), or "wrapped together" (King James Version) because the Greek word is "entulisso" which is from words that may mean to twist or to entwine. The bottom line is (contrary to a popular email that gets forwarded around the internet every Easter since 2007 saying that among Jews of the time a master would let his servants know whether he was finished eating or coming back to the table by the way he left his napkin. If he tossed it aside, he was finished. If he folded it, he was not finished and would return) the hidden message in the story this email alleges is that by laying his "napkin" aside and neatly folding it, Jesus was saying he was coming back.
It’s a nice sentiment. But not one Jesus was ever subtle about. He just straight out told His disciples He was coming back in John 14:1-3. One in five verses mentions it in the New Testament. There are over 1,500 prophecies pointing to it from the Bible. I think kids should learn to fold clothes and put their laundry away, but this isn’t a verse saying so! No reputable scholar has acknowledged the alleged Jewish story about the folded napkin at the table. And even if one did, it wouldn’t matter because the main meaning of John 20:7 is to convey that the head cloth, which was placed over Jesus face at burial, was separate from the rest of his grave clothes. Neither one was taken because nobody took the body! He rose! That’s the point [for more see http://www.truthorfiction.com/
But what I really like about this part of the story is that Mary apparently had some friends who loved Jesus just as much as she did! Who else would wake up early to spend time with Jesus instead of sleeping in? Who else would run to a tomb? Not just Mary the mother of James and Salome, but also Peter and John. And as soon as John mustered the courage to walk in, he saw the grave cloths left behind, and immediately put the pieces together in his head. John 20:8 says John was the first disciple to believe that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. While Peter was the first disciple to say Jesus was the Messiah in Matthew 16:16, John was the first one to believe He rose. Luke 24:12 says Peter “went home again, wondering what had happened.” But not John. He knew. As soon as he saw.
Run with others who want to know more about Jesus. Point number two.Even if they haven’t put it all together yet, that’s okay. Run with them anyway because you’re not all that different. I’m having lunch with a pastor friend who found me online and wants to talk about joining the Adventist church because he agrees with everything he’s studied on his own except a couple of doctrines. I told him I can’t wait to hear his story and that I may have some questions about a couple of them as well! And if I’m reading my Bible clearly, that’s okay with Jesus. He is compassionate with skeptics and people who don’t immediately believe or even believe all the same things. So when you meet someone like that, or even if you are someone like that, don’t give up! Keep thinking about Jesus! Keep searching. Don’t give up! Jeremiah 29:14 says God can be found by you! But be open to whatever providential surprises God may bring along. Hebrews 12:1-2 says it this way, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus.”
Run with what you know about Jesus [John 20:1-2; Hebrews 11:1 NIV]. Point number one. Run with others who want to know more about Jesus [John 20:3-9; Hebrews 12:1-2]. Point number two. Because home is wherever Jesus is [John 20:10; Hosea 11:1-4; Luke 13:34]. This is point number three. In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus! When I am alone, give me Jesus! When I come to die, give me Jesus! Mothers that love Jesus teach us the words to this song without even mentioning His name. It’s in the diapers they change. The bread they bake. The shoes they tie. But when they go above and beyond these subtle ways of expressing love, specifically training their children to run with what you know about Jesus and to choose friends who love Jesus too and to be kind to those who don’t, they remind us that home is wherever Jesus is. Which is point number three. Look at verse 10.
John 20:10 says after all this excitement, they simply went home. Not sure if home was the upper room or John’s literal house. If it was John’s literal house, we can expect that Jesus’ mother Mary was already there. Because while he was dying on the cross, Jesus said in John 19:26-27, “Dear woman, here is your son. And he said to this disciple [John], ‘Here is your mother.’ And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” For Jesus, every day was Mother’s Day! Even the day he died on the cross. Simeon had prophesied to Mary that this day may come. And he was right. This child did bring many joy, but much sorrow as well like a sword piercing her own soul [Luke 2:34-35]. Because it was Mary Jesus’ mother who “kept all these things” about Jesus in her heart and “thought about them often” [Luke 2:19]. She helped Jesus “grow strong” [Luke 2:40] in “wisdom and stature” [Luke 2:52]. And this is what all good moms do. They teach their kids about God! Maybe that’s why God often pictures himself in Scripture like a caring mother. In a patriarchal society, these examples of God’s compassionate tender love must have been jarring to some. But think about it.
In Genesis when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, God makes clothing for them, protecting them in their banishment. Proverbs 31 says that is the work of a noble homemaker and virtuous mother who clothes her children. Hosea reveals a mother’s aching heart for the people of Israel. Hosea 11:1-4 says, “1When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. 2But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, offering sacrifices to the images of Baal and burning incense to idols. 3I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn't know or even care that it was I who took care of him. 4I led Israel along with my ropes of kindness and love. I lifted the yoke from his neck, and I myself stooped to feed him.” Isaiah 49:15-16 paints God’s relationship to Jerusalem in these mothering terms: “Can a woman forget her nursing child or show no compassion for the child of her womb?” Later in Isaiah 49:15-16 God is shown as a mother comforting her infant: “Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” And in Isaiah 66:13, God says, “As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.” This, I think, is the context to Jesus’ statement in Luke 13:34, “34How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.”
God loves us like all good mothers love us. Unconditionally. Flaws and all. Even if we choose to get lost or stay lost, mothers keep on loving us don’t they? Have you ever observed a court room packed with mothers while they’re kids are sentenced? Doesn’t matter what they’ve done. Doesn’t matter who they are. It’s always the same picture. Mostly moms sitting on the edges of their seats hanging on every word from the judge’s seat. I’ve seen it over and over again. That’s what God’s love is like for you! He loves us like crazy! And though we may forget about Him, He never forgets about us! He longs to gather us together like a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.
We may never know everything there is no know about God in this life. If we did, maybe we wouldn’t need God! But what our passage certainly reminds us this morning is if we would just run with what you do know about Jesus [John 20:1-2; Hebrews 11:1 NIV], with others who want to know more about Jesus [John 20:3-9; Hebrews 12:1-2], one day we will know more. One day, we may even understand that home is not in heaven. Home is wherever Jesus is [John 20:10; Hosea 11:1-4; Luke 13:34].
To help us remember that, and to acknowledge the support of all our mothers, I’m going to invite all the boys and men in here today to come forward now to take a flower to every lady in here. Because everyone here has had a mom to thank. And every lady in here is a mom. Because all kids are our kids if you take seriously what Paul says about the body of Christ in Romans 12:4. Isn’t that what we publicly confess whenever we dedicate a child? Don’t I ask all of you to help raise this child? So guys, thank every woman in here this morning. For each of them in large or small ways love like God loves. As they’re doing so moms, you may like the video on the screens. http://www.godtube.com/watch/?