John 20:1-18 JESUS: THE RISEN LORD

          In today’s chapel message we are going to celebrate the greatest day in the history of the world. Last week we were repulsed by the most infamous day in history. And now today we will see the polar opposite, we will see how quickly things went from terrible to glorious. Last week we saw the truth of the innocence of Jesus and the injustices that he suffered. Today we will see that even though he was cruelly crucified on a Roman cross and He truly died. He was placed in a tomb and then just three days later He arose victoriously from the dead.

          This is the one truth that sets Christianity apart from any other belief system in the world. All the other religious leaders have died. Buddha? Dead. Mohammed? Dead. Confucius? Dead too. In fact, every founder of every religion that has ever existed has died and is still dead.  However, only One leader has risen again from the dead!

          If we were to take away the teaching of the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus, then the Christian faith would be nothing more that another religious system that condemns humanity to an eternal Hell. I would even go so far as to say, If Jesus did not rise from the dead and if He is not alive today then everything, He did was for nothing and His life was a waste of time and energy. It would also mean that all of the things He taught were just the nonsense of a lunatic. What that would mean for those of us who are Christians is that if He is not alive then I, you, we, have no salvation. And we are all heading to Hell.

          Do you remember when I told you about the Trilemma. The teaching that Jesus’ claims to be God in the Bible presented us not with just a yes/no option but with one ‘yes’ and two ‘no’ options. The ‘no’ options were, he said He was God, but he was lying. So, therefore, he knew he was a liar and because he knew it He would therefore be the worst form of liar because He told people to place their eternal destiny in His teachings.

          The second ‘no’ option was that He claimed to be God but was mistaken, much like the person who thinks they are someone famous, but they are just an ordinary person. We consider them as harmless and certainly would not place our faith in them. But this picture of a harmless madman is not what we see in the Biblical accounts of His teachings and life.

          The only other option we are left with then is the ‘yes’ option. That Jesus claimed to be God and it was true. He knew it was true. That is the Jesus we are presented within the Gospels. Therefore, we either reject this truth and continue to live our lives the way we want. Or we respond to it by falling on our knees and acknowledging Him as our Lord and our God. We confess that we have sinned against Him and we repent, in the power of the Holy Spirit, of the way we live, and trust in Him alone for the eternal salvation of our souls.

          Of course, you all know what I believe. And I want to say right now that He Lives! I love this 20th chapter of John’s gospel became the apostle John, the disciple that Jesus loved, one of His closest friends gives us a picture of Jesus as our RISEN REDEEMER. We are presented with that truth in this chapter that Jesus is alive and well this morning.

          This morning I want us to look a little more closely into this 20th chapter of John and catch a fresh look at His resurrection and what it means for each one of us here today. Of course, the first thing we should be thankful for is the hope that the resurrection of our redeemer gives us not only in this life but also into eternity. So, let’s not waste another moment and begin our look at our RISEN REDEEMER.

            We are told in the beginning verses of the chapter that the first person to come to the tomb from Jesus’ band of disciples is Mary Magdalene. That little piece of information, in itself, is counter-cultural because if the gospel had any hope of being taken seriously within 1st-century Jewish culture then it would not have presented a woman as being the first witness to the resurrection. But that just proved the integrity and truthfulness of these accounts. This occurrence was such an earth-shattering event that it didn’t matter who got there first. Ultimately God would be the One who was going to be glorified. The fact that God is most glorified by the weak and powerless things of this world is highlighted by the presence of a woman at the tomb.

          It tells us that Mary arrived at the tomb before it was even daylight. She arrived at the site of the tomb to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. Maybe she went to the wrong tomb, maybe she had forgotten where they had placed Her Lord just a few short days before. She runs back and tells the disciples and two of them Peter and John (the same John who wrote this gospel) run to the tomb to see what had happened. The fact that they went to the same tomb puts to rest the silly notion that Mary went to the wrong one. 

          John arrives first and looks but doesn’t go into the tomb, he waits for Peter, the leader, to arrive and Peter goes straight in without stopping. Verses 5-7 say they both see the exact same thing. The linen cloths that Jesus’ body had been wrapped in lying there undisturbed and the piece of cloth that had been around His face lying folded, in a place by itself. After they see these things, they return to their home. Verse 8 gives us the impression that John, at least, appears to have believed that the Lord Jesus was alive, somehow arisen from the dead.

          Let me say a few words about the burial clothes. Another seemingly minor detail that becomes very important the closer we look at it. The Bible says that the linen clothes were lying there. A literal translation of the phrase in the original Greek language, “Kee-meh-nah” says that they were "laying in place." This probably means that the burial cloths looked exactly like they were still around the body of Jesus. That actually makes sense because the burial spices that His body had been covered with to slow down the process of decay, and prevent the horrible smell of decomposition, would have hardened the cloth around the body and formed a cocoon of sorts. So rather than going through all this technical detailed explanation they just reported that the cloths were “kee-meh-nah”.

          Another little detail that we may overlook but is important to note is that the scene inside the tomb is very orderly and undisturbed. Had the body been taken by grave robbers or others, the wrappings around the body would not have been removed, and even if they had been removed, they would not have been left in such an orderly way. Then, there is the matter of the piece that had been wrapped around the head of Jesus. Had the body been removed by others, this piece would merely have lain where it had fallen. Instead, it had been folded and laid in a place by itself. Everything speaks of calmness and order in the empty tomb where Jesus had once been!

          In verse 11 we are told that Peter and John went away from the tomb, but Mary stayed behind to weep and mourn the loss of her Lord. Why did she stay? Mark 16:9 tells us that Mary had been delivered from a life of deep and dreadful sin. She loved Jesus for what He had done in her life. She was devoted to Him. She did the natural thing and mourned the loss of Jesus. I don’t think that resurrection was on her mind.

          Mary’s focus was on the physical evidence before her and she was not thinking in spiritual terms. She only saw the empty tomb and it probably never entered her thinking that there was a greater truth. That Jesus was alive! We would probably weep along with her if it were not for the fact that we know He is alive and no longer dead. The apostle Paul reveals to us the unthinkable thing in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins”. The unavoidable conclusion to that assertion is given in verse 19 that, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”.

          The sad reality is that many of God's children live as if they believe Jesus is dead. They live with no joy and no excitement. They have no deep desire to worship and serve the God who called them and bought them by His love and death at the cross. Too often they act as if they are trapped in some dead religion that kills their joy and leaves them feeling miserable. May I remind you this morning that you and I serve the Lord Jesus Christ? We serve the very One who went to willingly to the cross, died for our sins, and three days later arose from the dead to live forevermore!

Here are a few stanzas of a song that I read recently. They say this:

I serve a risen Savior;

He's in the world today;

I know that He is living;

Whatever men may say.

I see His hand of mercy;

I hear His voice of cheer;

And just the time I need Him;

He's always near!

He Lives! He Lives!

Christ Jesus lives today;

He walks with me and talks with me;

along life's narrow way.

He Lives! He Lives!

Salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives;

He lives within my heart.

Rejoice, rejoice Oh Christian;

Lift up your voice and sing;

eternal hallelujah's;

To Jesus Christ the King.

Let’s live with that in song in our thoughts so that we no longer hang our heads in sadness but in rejoicing because our Saviour lives! Others will see our rejoicing and know that there is something different about the way we live. Are your friends attracted to your attitude to life or do they see no difference? You see if you are genuinely living with Jesus in your heart then others will be able to see His presence in the joy of your life.

          Then we read about the strange messengers sitting inside the tomb. The Bible identifies them as angels. God has sent them to testify to the truth that Jesus is alive. Matthew 28:5-6 tells us about their message of hope and assurance, “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay”.

 

          There is even a small detail that we often miss here as well. The angels are sitting and seem to be at absolute peace. If Jesus’ body had been missing if there had been any trouble at the tomb site, then you can be sure the angels would have not been sitting or even standing still. There would have been a flurry of activity. And still, we find them sitting calmly as if to say, “Don’t worry all is as it should be. Everything is under control

          The scene we find at the tomb that first morning appears to be one of perfect calm. The angels are giving the message that, “the work is finished, we can all rest now”. If you study any other place in the Bible where angels are presented there is always activity, they are carrying messages or otherwise fighting the enemies of God. But not here at the site of the greatest event in the history of creation. Here they are at rest.

          This is a very comforting message for all our souls this morning. We don’t need to labour or please God for salvation to be granted. Because Jesus lives our salvation has been purchased and, as I said last week, the payment has been accepted by the Father. All we need to do is trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus and nothing else. If you will go to him in simple faith, He will save your soul, He will give you rest from all your failed attempts at self-righteousness from all your futile religious works and attempts to please Him. All he wants is your faith.

As we come to verse 13 we read the angels ask Mary, “Woman, why are you crying?” It’s as if they are trying to provoke her heart and her mind. This question is designed to switch on a light in Mary’s brain. In other words, they are asking, “Should you be crying at this time? Shouldn’t you be rejoicing at the sight of this empty tomb?” It’s unfortunate that Mary, like many of us, is living by only what she can see and not by faith. We miss the spiritual blessings that lie just beneath the surface of what is all around us every day.

        In fact, Mary, in her weeping, almost misses the fact that she isn’t alone at the tomb. She sees a man standing nearby. She thinks he is the gardener and just continues crying. She doesn’t recognize it is Jesus. This is the same thing that happens to us. Let me explain, we have this promise from God Himself in Hebrews 13:5 that says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” And still, we fail to see Him in our situations time and time again. This chapter alone reminds us that He is a risen Saviour, and He is always involved in our lives. You will always see Him at work during the times when you need Him if only you will look.

          Then it is Jesus’ turn to ask Mary some questions. He asks two that are intended to show her the truth. He asks her, “Why are you crying?” This is the same question that the angels just asked. Again, the intent is for Mary to consider where she is. Why is she crying instead of rejoicing at the truth that is right before her very eyes? The second question is a little more provocative and to the point. Jesus asks Mary, “Who is it you are looking for?” This question is asking Mary why she is looking for the living amongst the dead?

          These two questions were deliberate because Mary needed to be reminded of what Jesus had told them already during the three years that He had been with them physically.

  1. That He is, The resurrection and the Life. We see him telling them this in chapter 11:25
  2. He was the One who would not only lay down His life but also take it up again. This is what he told them in chapter 10:18
  3. Mary needs to be reminded that Jesus had told them that He is, The way, the Truth and the life. We read this in chapter 14:6 of this gospel.

          There is something else we tend to miss in this encounter that I want you to notice today. After speaking with Jesus, Mary turned to look back into the tomb and continued to cry. This is a lesson for all of us who have lost loved ones. When we are faced with the death of people close to us, we should not look at the grave but to the Lord. The grave is a place of only death, but Jesus is LIFE.

          Let me ask you where you are looking today? Are you looking towards the tomb? Are you only concerned with your death? Are you aware of your mortality and the fact that if you die you will find yourself in Hell because you do not know the Saviour? And even though you know this, you still refuse to turn to the only One who can save you from the eternity that you don’t want.

          Mary is still so wrapped up in her grief that she doesn’t even respond to the questions that Jesus asked. So, Jesus just calls her by her name, and simply says "Mary". We don’t hear a commanding tone of majesty as we would expect when the Creator calls out to the creation. Nor do we hear the tone of authority as with the master calling to the servant. What we hear is the voice of the Shepherd calling tenderly to one of His lost and struggling sheep.

          In this one scene, we see three great and unavoidable truths that are first taught in John 10:3-4, “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.

First, as we are told in John 10:3 this call of the shepherd is the proclamation that salvation has been achieved. Jesus is the only One who could call like this. The second great truth that we find in this scene is confirmed when Mary, His sheep, instantly recognizes His voice. This is the teaching we find in John 10:4. We see that with just one word from the Shepherd the weeping of the sheep is turned into the rejoicing of the worshipper. The third great truth is the fact that when His sheep hear His voice calling to them, they immediately call Him Master. I pray this will be your response when you hear His voice. May God help you to say “Yes, Lord!”

          Jesus’ command in verse 17 gives us the picture of Mary throwing herself down and holding on to His feet in worship and adoration. But why does Jesus command her to stop? Well first and probably the most obvious there is now no need to hold onto Him He is not going to somehow die again. He is alive forever! The second reason is because Jesus is about to go into the very presence of God the Father and offer His sacrifice as the perfect and final payment to atone for the sins of humanity. If Mary still holds onto Him, selfishly, then he cannot go and complete the work that He was given to do.

          This passage ends with Jesus telling Mary to go and tell the Disciples that He was alive and that He was returning to God the Father in heaven. This message of hope was not the kind of message that was heard every day. However, this is the message that we need to hear today as well. First, Jesus is Alive. Second, the command that Mary received is given to us also. Go and tell! And third, the message is that All who place their faith in Jesus will be saved from their sins and born again.

          So, there you have the most important message that has ever been heard throughout the thousands of years of recorded human history. It is: “He is not here, for He is risen! This message that you have heard today should leave you with one question to ask, “You have heard that He lives! Can you live your life just the same?” My question to you is, do you know Jesus this morning?

 

 Let’s Pray: Father thank you for this great truth that has been recorded for us in the gospel of John. This is the Good News that Jesus is Alive. He is our Risen Saviour. No one can dispute the truth. I pray that as your Word has gone out this morning it will impact the hearts and minds of those you are calling to yourself. This same Word will also convict those who reject your revelation so that they are without excuse when they do not respond to Your truth. May the truth of these words that Jesus is Alive, also give comfort and assurance to your people and, at the same time, convict them of the need to Go and Tell this same message to this lost and dying world!

 

In Jesus name we pray, Amen.