my life I have been accustomed to seeing the words of Christ in red letters.
It’s as if he couldn’t speak without scarlet ink. There is a reason for this.
The words of Christ transcend all other words. It is our privilege to examine
those words in this lesson.
1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still
dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed
from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the
other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of
the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached
the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips
of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon
Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of
linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been
around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.
8Finally the other disciple, who had
reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to
rise from the dead.)
10Then the disciples went back to their
homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As
she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been,
one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They asked her, “Woman, why are you
“They have taken my Lord
away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she
did not realize that it was Jesus.
15“Woman,” he said, “why are
you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener,
she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him,
and I will get him.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and
cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the
Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father
and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with
the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these
things to her.
19On the evening of that first day of the
week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the
Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his
hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent
me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not
forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the
Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I
see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put
my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”
26A week later his disciples were in the
house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came
and stood among them and said, “Peace
be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it
into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have
believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30Jesus did many other miraculous signs in
the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may£ believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son
of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Words to the doubter
may seem out of order, but let’s take care of Thomas first.
is like most people – he’s a reasonable man who believes in what he can see,
feel and touch; the rest take a little more proof. So when he hears this
story, what is his reaction?
enough, his reaction to the women is to dismiss them entirely. Women were
kept apart in this society, and I suspect Thomas took the typical view
that they were just too flighty to be regarded as serious evidence.
his fellow apostles matters were different. Here are men with whom he has
worked ceaselessly for three years. The tale they tell seems incredible –
but they had the evidence of the empty tomb. Thomas wants the same kind
in short, accuses his fellows of wishful thinking. Today, wishful thinking
belongs to those who are sure the resurrection did not happen – because it’s
scientifically impossible (which is true.) From the testimony of men like
Thomas our faith grew.
“Put your hand…”
is a serious fact: among the great religions of the world today, only
Christianity invites you to examine the facts of its founding. It is no
accident that Christianity is strongest in Western civilization, with its
emphasis on science and technology. Why? Because Western civilization, until
recently, held to the model that there could be only one truth. There was no
concept of “As long as you’re sincere, that makes it true for you.” As we have
thrown away the God on whom we built this civilization, it is no wonder that we
turn to the mystic reality shaped by our own opinion.
moreover, is the only religion that invites you to examine its results. The
Christ who heals the broken heart, mends the tortured soul is still with us.
His effects can be observed – unless, of course, you like wishful thinking.
Because you see, you believe
is a jewel of a man. He goes from being the skeptic to the highest
proclamation of faith: “My Lord and My God.” We should note that greater
faith produces greater blessing. When Thomas walked in, he doubted. When he
saw, he came completely to the top. It is just this sort of examination of the
evidence that produced the men who changed the world.
Words of Comfort
turn to the words used to comfort.
“Woman, why are you crying?”
is a remarkable fact that Mary evidently never puts the dots together and
notices these two guys as angels. So her conversation doesn’t really make a
lot of sense. She bends over to look inside the tomb, and sees two men (to
her) sitting at either end of the place where Jesus was laid. This, somehow,
is just one more remarkably unremarked fact of the morning. She tells us
what’s in her mind in two statements:
have taken him (Jesus’ body). “They” means the priests and Romans who set
a guard over the grave; the ones who appear to have all the power. That
Christ might be the stronger has not crossed her mind.
don’t know” what they’ve done with him. It’s not like they should have
moved the body; she’s puzzled.
Speaking to Jesus
is one consistent theme to Mary. She simply is not going to believe in the
resurrection. It’s not even a question of faith and doubt to her. She was
there at the Crucifixion; she saw him die.
when she turns around with tears in her eyes and confusion in her heart, she
thinks the man behind her must be the groundskeeper. This man would be in a
good position to know where they put him.
that Jesus asks her two questions: the first is the same one the angels
asked. But the second is more specific: “who are you looking for?” The
former is simply inquiring into her feelings; the latter is an offer of help.
We would do to remember this at the next funeral. Mary now turns toward this
offer of help – it is the human thing to do.
that one word is wrapped up so much love and care. In that word, the blurred
figure of the gardener says that he knows her and loves her. Evidently her
ears now heard what her eyes could not see through her tears. It is great
comfort to know that our Lord knows us by name – and knowing all about us, he
still loves us. The Cross changes everything.
Words of Change
you are like most Christians, you cherish the times of “mountain top”
experience. There is a thrill at being so close to Christ. One of the
difficulties on the mountain top is that we live in the valley below. So it is
here with Mary. In one golden moment she has seen the risen Lord – and she is
not going to let go of him. You can almost picture Jesus gently prying her
loose. To relieve her fear of letting go, he tells her that he has not yet
ascended – which, of course, means that he soon will. But not yet, Mary, not
Go and tell
changes because of the Cross and the Resurrection. See how Jesus sends this
is to go to his brothers. What a change in our relationship to
God! Before the Cross we needed the system of sacrifices and priests;
now we are the priests, like all believers. What a change, also, in our
relationship to each other – we are now all brothers and sisters, part of
the family of God.
is to tell them that he is returning to his Father. Mission accomplished,
he is returning. That very obviously implies that he came from heaven, a
fact which is revealed in his Ascension. It also implies that they have
only a little while before he does, forty days, to be specific. During
those days, Christ will heal the divisions, soothe the hurts and restore
the position of his followers, preparing them for the Great Commission.
My Father and Your Father, My God and Your God
phrasing hearkens back to the Old Testament, where Ruth told Naomi that she
would not go back, but would continue with her, saying “your gods shall be my
gods.” It is a moment which is touching in its pathos; it is a moment
rewarded by God.
same feeling is ours; Jesus returned to God – the same God that I worship. He
and I are brothers; I am the joint heir of the kingdom with Jesus Christ.
Words of Mission
“Peace be with you”
the lives of the Apostles, this seems somewhat out of place. If there is any
one thing their lives didn’t have from the world’s point of view, it’s peace.
So of course this means the peace with God and in God that we have even though
the hurricane swirls around us. Why such peace? So that we might be one body,
peace affects us in many ways. Not the least is in the weapons we choose in
life. To accept the peace of God you must use his weapons of spiritual warfare
– the love, joy and peace of God being among same. We are sent out – but we
are sent in God’s way, not in man’s.
“As the Father has sent me…”
is something thrilling about this; as God the Father sent Jesus out to seek and
save the lost, so are we sent to seek and save the lost. We share the same
mission with him.
we share the same mission, we must use the same weapons. Christianity is
not a religion of conquest, but of triumph.
we share the same mission, we share the same spirit – the Holy Spirit.
Here, well before Pentecost, the Spirit is given to the disciples.
“If you forgive…”
passage has been exploited over the years. It has a simple meaning. We have
the same mission as Christ; we are to use the same weapons that Christ used –
and one of those weapons is the powerful one of forgiveness. We are given
the same authority that Christ has! By the Holy Spirit in us we can bring
forgiveness to those who have offended us. If we do, then such a person is
forgiven both on earth and in heaven.
there is more: we, as the church, are given the responsibility (and therefore
the authority) to forgive as Christ did. We are privileged to send someone out
forgiven, and forgiven completely, by God. It is no light thing. What he’s
telling us is simply this: God is willing to forgive those who are willing to
repent. He needs hands, feet and voice to bring this message to the world. He
is an awestruck attitude when a Christian teaches the Resurrection. Such a
teacher is holding in his hands that which is far too high and holy for him.
Were it not for the command of our Lord, those who understood this best would
talk of it least. But our Lord does command it, and therefore we should be
bold to do it.