Living Worship Series: BELIEVING
Easter Sunday - April 21, 2019
To Live for Jesus, One Must Believe in Jesus and All Jesus Is
Points to Explore:
What Does this All Mean?
The scene begins with an empty tomb and disciples trying to figure out what that means. Mary runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple with two pieces of information: the stone was removed, and Jesus’ body is not in the tomb. She concludes that the body was taken and put somewhere else. Peter and the other disciple get more information. The linen cloths that had wrapped Jesus’ body were still there. Thieves stealing the body would not have left the cloths. But what does that mean? The other disciple enters the tomb, sees the cloths but no body, and believes. We assume we know what he believed, but the text is not clear that he believed in a resurrected Jesus. Instead, verse 9 states that they didn’t yet understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead. Peter and the other disciple return home with incomplete information. Mary Magdalene stays and sits in her state of not knowing what this means and where the body is until Jesus reveals the full story. She speaks to angels and Jesus himself without recognizing him, and still asserts the wrong conclusion. The empty tomb could mean many things; it is the encounter with Jesus that allows Mary and us to know about the resurrection and what that means.
Finding Life in a Place of Death
I once worshiped at a church that had its Easter egg hunt in the cemetery across the street. Church members explained that the eggs were symbols of life, so church members wanted the children to find life surrounded by death. I found it both creepy and liturgically appropriate. Many parts of American culture have certainly sanitized death in a way that we would not understand going to the tomb before dawn. However, as was the custom of the women, they went to the tomb to prepare the body that had been buried in haste. And in this place of death, Mary Magdalene witnessed life. She expected to see a dead body, only to—at first—not see a body, then to realize that what she had thought was a missing body was actually a living body. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, we are assured that because Jesus conquered death and rose from the dead, we are able to live after death.
The resurrection of Jesus is a key doctrine of the Christian faith. It is sensational and one of the hardest things to get our heads around. Death is meant to end life; life is not meant to come from death. Yet, we proclaim that a dead man got up from the grave. To live for Christ also means that we recognize what it means to live without the fear of death or with a sense of uncertainty of what happens after death. We know that death will come. We may not want it or look forward to it because it is an end. But we are able to be less afraid, for we know that death is not the end. There is life after death.
When Jesus Calls Your Name: The Intimacy of Discipleship
Mary has a conversation with someone she thought was the gardener for quite some time before realizing that she was talking to Jesus. She recognized that it was Jesus when Jesus called her name. This portrays the power of an intimate relationship. John’s Gospel also shows intimacy by the description of the disciples. Peter’s role in this gospel is multifaceted. He confesses faith, is shown to be a leader, and is overly enthusiastic. While he often jumps to the incorrect conclusion, this is a mark of his passion to serve Jesus and do what is right by him. The disciple “whom Jesus loved” shows relationship. It is not that this is the only disciple that Jesus loved, but that a major goal of discipleship is to recognize that we are loved by Jesus and to cultivate our relationship with the Christ that knows us and loves us intimately so that we can recognize his voice and know him when he calls our name.
Go and Tell
Jesus’ first command as the risen savior is to go and tell others. And that is exactly what Mary did. After Mary, others did as well; and we see this in the reading from Acts 10. Peter preaches about the risen Savior in verse 40, “but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” He continues in verse 42, “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” The news of the risen savior is such great news that we cannot keep it to ourselves. We do a disservice to the world if we keep it to ourselves.
Questions for Reflection:
- Over two millennia after these events took place, there are still many takes on what this story means. What does the resurrection of Jesus mean for you? What impact does it have on the way that you live your life?
- We can have a sense of what’s going on that’s a little off the mark. We expect Jesus to look a particular way and move in a particular way. Who and what are you looking for when you look for the movement of Christ, and how will you know when you have found it?
- Peter shared the story of the risen Christ by preaching. Paul shared it through the written word. Mother Teresa shared it through caring for the poor. St. Augustine said, “preach the gospel always; when necessary, use words.” How are you called to share the good news of the risen Christ?
Rev. Annie Lockhart-Gilroy, PhD is Assistant Professor of Christian Education and Practical Theology at Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, OK. She has served several congregations as a deacon focusing on youth ministry and Christian education. She received her M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary, then worked with and directed a faith-based nonprofit before attaining her Ph.D. in Christian Education and Congregational Studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological School. She publishes on various topics surrounding education and adolescent spirituality through blogs, articles, and scholarly publications.