Readings: Is 25:1-9; Ps. 93; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-10.
4 April a. d. 2010
Jesus the Uncontrollable
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, 0 LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.
Jesus won’t stay put. Just about the time you think you’ve got him fixed in place, he disappears. Or, when you think you have safely escaped him, he pops up in front of you. When you think you’ve got him scoped out and understand him, he baffles you. He simply refuses to play by any rules but his own, or to be satisfied with whatever we are willing to give him. Jesus is utterly inconsiderate of your wants and feelings.
Just when the disciples thought they understood and knew Jesus, they found out they didn’t know him at all, and had never understood him. They didn’t even understand the Scripture that he quoted. Even though they had spent three years walking with him every day, they still didn’t believe him.
Mary Magdalene had been mourning for Jesus. She had cried all night. Early in the morning, before daylight, she goes to his tomb. At least she can weep closer to his body, to whatever is left of him.
But when she arrives, the tomb has been opened! She peeks in, and sees an angel, who asks her why she is there, looking for the living among the dead.
Jesus won’t stay put. He won’t even stay dead.
Mary runs as fast as her feet will carry her to the disciples, but they don’t believe her. She doesn’t believe the angel, but tells Peter and John that somebody has stolen Jesus’ body. They run back to the tomb as fast as their feet will carry them.
Looking in, they see the grave clothes, and the napkin they had wrapped around Jesus’ face crumpled up and thrown to the other side of the tomb.
Jesus had not stayed put.
Yet for all this evidence, they were baffled. Jesus had told them many times that he must suffer and die and rise again, but the disciples had never understood, and certainly they had never believed Jesus’, well, crazy story about resurrection. We know for a fact that the disciples did not believe because the Bible tells us so. “Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not.” Luke 24:11 Even after they looked in and saw the tomb empty, Peter still didn’t believe, only John.
Oh, eventually the disciples would believe, even doubting Thomas. They would believe because Jesus himself would come to them in their fear and unbelief and appear to them, and even shove his wounds in front of them and make them poke their fingers in so they could be 100% sure it wasn’t a trick.
That’s one of the best things about our faithful Saviour. He doesn’t leave us in unbelief. He comes and visits us and shoves his wounds in front of us to prove that he really is who he claims to be.
DEAD WITH CHRIST, RISEN WITH HIM
I know that on Easter we think that we are celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection, but we are not. We are celebrating our own resurrection, and our own crucifixion, and our own death.
That is what Jesus, speaking through his Word, teaches us, but it is so difficult for us to believe, such an all-embracing, penetrating claim of ownership that we are willing to settle for a lot less than everything Jesus desires for us. We bargain with Jesus.
“Jesus, I don’t really want to die with you. I mean, I want to live with you, but I really don’t want to put my flesh to death, not yet. Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m not a fanatic.
“Jesus, you just don’t get the whole picture of my life. I have a lot of things going on right now, and I’m just too busy to die. I have so many things I love doing right here on this earth, and I just don’t want to give all that up and die, not yet. Later sure, I know we all have to die, but not now. And that cross. I’ll get around to picking that up, but later. Not now”
It won’t wash. The All-powerful Lord of Heaven and Earth won’t bargain with you. He wants all of you. He died to pay for you, and you belong to him, and he will have you.
Besides, you have already died with him, in baptism. “Ye are dead, and your life is hid in Christ.” You do not, cannot, and can never have any life apart from him. You try, and he will come find you and claim you. He may leave you there a while, even a long while, but Jesus will show up to claim his own.
And because you have died with Jesus in baptism, you have risen again with him, to a new life. And all those things you loved, all those sins and vices your flesh couldn’t live without, you have to die to them, too.
How will this ever happen? Knowing how strong the pull of your sin is, how powerful its hold on your life — whatever your particular sin may be, and you certainly know what it is, whether sexual sin, anger, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication, lying, drunkenness, inordinate affection, evil desires, covetousness — how can you ever put your flesh to death?
What Christ commands, he also enables. Listen, Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand and you are seated there with him. Do you think he will let you fail?
He tells you how your death to the world begins: “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.” You have to change what you love, and love things above.
But what about all those things I love on earth? What about my wife, my husband, my children, my work? Don’t I have a duty to love them? Beloved, Christ is not saying you shouldn’t love those things, only that you must understand and hold them as gifts, as mirrors, as reflections, of that love that originates only from above, not on earth. Jesus is not taking anything away from you, he is giving you more, infinitely more, than you already have.
Beloved, two thousand years after the Resurrection, Jesus still won’t stay put. He won’t stay put in your life, and he won’t stay put in history. Jesus will come back. He refuses to remain conveniently out of sight, and one day he will return.
And when he appears again, you who died with him, you who have risen with him, you whose life is hid with him in God, you who have fixed your minds on thing above, will also appear with him, not with the chains of your flesh, not with earthbound affections, but with the glory of Jesus Christ himself. W
Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.
The Collect for Easter Day
who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
hast overcome death,
and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life;
We humbly beseech thee
that, as by thy special grace preceding us,
thou dost put into our minds good desires,
so by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who liveth and reigneth
with thee and the Holy Ghost ever, one God,
world without end. Amen.