12 Apr Easter Sunday
April 12, 2020
Sermon: Easter Sunday
Scripture: John 1:1-20
As we celebrate Easter this morning, many of us might feel a bit anxious and isolated due to the restrictions put in place in order to stop the spread of the Corona Virus. Across the nation, nonessential businesses have been shut, schools have been closed, and public gatherings are banned. It’s like living in a Sci-Fi novel. There can be no doubt about it, Easter 2020 is not Easter as usual.
Well, we are not the only ones having an odd Easter morning. In our Gospel Lesson for this morning our story begins in darkness. And in a very real way, Mary Magdalene herself was feeling socially isolated. After all, here she was, coming to a tomb, by herself in the darkness. The pain she was experiencing was beyond description. What she had experienced on Friday was burned into her mind. She had watched as Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior—her best friend, was beaten, nailed to a Cross and left to bleed and eventually die. His body had been taken down and instead of leaving it for the birds, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had gone to Pilate and asked for it. They wrapped it in spices with strips of linen and laid it in a tomb—where it would stay—all by itself. Then a large stone was rolled over the entrance—sealing it.
Saturday was the Sabbath. And what an awful day that must have been for the followers of Jesus. What a feeling of loneliness and despair must have come upon them and threatened to swallow them up. They must have felt so helpless…so confused… and in shock. They had heard Jesus tell them that He would be arrested and killed—but they had never really believed it would actually happen. It seemed to awful to be true. They had dropped everything in order to follow Jesus—their jobs, their dreams, all their plans. They had been with Him for three amazing years. They had heard Him talk about God and watched Him love in ways no one had loved before. Jesus had fed 5,000 people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread. He had healed the sick. He had raised the dead. He had made the insane… sane. He had become their hope in the midst of the despair of this life. He was the missing piece of the puzzle. And now He was dead and gone—forever. How could they go on? What were they supposed to do now?
Can you imagine the darkness? Can you imagine the pain? Can you imagine the feelings of hopelessness and despair? Perhaps some of you can.
All of us are living in a whole new reality right now. It’s like nothing we have ever seen nor experienced. T-V anchors are broadcasting from their homes. People are walking the streets with facemasks on. We aren’t supposed to have parties. Kids can’t have friends over to play. The entire world is living in a sheltered in place scenario. Most of us experience our social interactions with family, co-workers, friends and church. Most of these things are not available right now, and we don’t know when they will return.
So, how are we to celebrate the Resurrection while many of us are isolated and anxious? On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene stood outside Jesus’ tomb crying. She had come to mourn and show her respects to the One Who had meant everything to her, but when she got there, the stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty. Now, not only was she empty and alone, so was Jesus’ tomb. Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse…someone had stolen Jesus’ body.
As Mary wept, she bent down and looked inside the tomb one more time. And what she saw were two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and one at the feet. The angels asked Mary why she was crying. She said, “They have taken my Lord away,’ ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.” And then, we are told that she “turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus.” She didn’t recognize him because she wasn’t looking for a Living Jesus. She had come looking for an unrecognizable dead body…the way Jesus had looked when He hung on the Cross.
At first, she thought Jesus was the gardener. The gardener was only person she would have expected to see around a tomb that early in the morning. But Jesus called her name. And when He did, she allowed her eyes to refocus and everything changed.
So, what you? Have you heard Jesus calling your name? If so, have you allowed your eyes to refocus, and welcomed the new discovery that changes everything in history?
Throughout His ministry, Jesus ministered to people who were isolated, often breaking the rules of social boundaries. In Mark Chapter 5, Jesus casts demons out of a man who had been isolated from society. He had been living alone in the tombs. When the townsfolk found Him with Jesus, we are told that he was in his right mind—sitting at Jesus’ feet. He was a brand-new person and had been integrated back into the community.
In John Chapter 4, Jesus is traveling through Samaria. While resting near a well, a woman comes along—who has been isolated from her community. She is surprised when Jesus speaks to her, let alone asks her for a drink of water. Jesus and the woman become involved in a lengthy conversation, which eventually leads to her integration back into her community as she leads others to Christ.
Whenever you feel isolated and alone, remember that Jesus has a special place in His heart just for you. And Jesus has experienced the ultimate isolation Himself—when hanging on the Cross He cried out: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Jesus can relate to whatever we are going through; He has compassion and empathy for everyone.
So, again, how are we to celebrate Easter in these isolated and anxious times? Well, we find on Easter evening that the disciples gathered behind locked doors, afraid, anxious and isolated. And they weren’t sequestering themselves for health reasons, but because they were afraid that their own leaders would come after them the way they’d come after Jesus. And so, they were “sheltering in place,” feeling isolated and afraid. And then, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’” Then, “he showed them his hands and side.” And, “the disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”
It’s true that we can’t celebrate Easter in the way we usually do this year, but the Bible reminds us… that the risen Christ doesn’t need the traditional trappings of Easter in order to appear and be present in our lives—and neither do His disciples. Instead, like always, Jesus comes to us in our loneliness. Jesus comes to us in our tears. Jesus comes to us in our fear and anxiety. He stands among us, and compassionately whispers to us all: “Peace be with you.”
Even though it may not seem like it, things are going to be alright. And that is because Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. Death has been swallowed up in victory. The tomb is empty. God is with us always and forever. And that is all that really matters.
We may not be together in one place this Easter morning, but we are not alone. Jesus’ triumph over the darkness, and the loneliness of death, is our hope. The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings us new life. It overcomes our isolation and fear. Because with God in charge, we are never alone. Amen.