Most of us do not like change, if it is change from something we like. I dread the day that I have to adapt to the passing of my parents. I know many of you have already experienced that change; it probably was not welcomed. One of the hardest things for me as a pastor is the realization that I have to move from time to time. Moving usually means learning a new set of 100 – 200 people and their stories; it means getting new doctors; it means finding new places whom you can trust to work on your cars or get them inspected. It means learning where everything is, at the new place. It is a very high stress year for a parsonage family as they say goodbye to the old and are introduced to the new.
I have several years to go before retirement, but one of the most appealing things to me about retirement is buying a home and being able to stay there as long as I am able. Even growing up, the longest I have lived in any one house has been ten years. I envy, in some ways, people who have lived in one place for a long time, because change is hard, but sometimes it is needed. Sometimes, change can be good.
Our resurrection story this morning is from John’s gospel. It is significantly different than some of the other gospel accounts. Here Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and sees that the stone has been rolled away. First difference is that John only records Mary Magdalene. Some of the other gospels record two women or two Marys. There is really no satisfactory account for why John only records the one, other than she was the one significant to the point he wanted to make.
Mary runs to tell Peter and the disciple Jesus loved, which we believe to be John himself. John never refers to himself as John but only by the distinction of the disciple Jesus loved. They come running to see. Peter enters first, but there is no mention of him seeing and believing. The disciple whom Jesus loves enters, sees, and believes. John, the one who stood by Jesus’ mother at the crucifiction, is the first one to see and believe after the resurrection, according to John’s gospel.
Then, we come to what I really want to talk about this morning. Mary stands weeping outside the tomb. She looks in and sees two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been. They say to her “Woman why are you weeping?” She says, “They have taken my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Mary’s address as Jesus as Lord may be John’s first hint to Jesus being the risen one! Mary then turns and sees Jesus. She sees him, but does not “see” him. She sees him with her eyes, but she does not see him with her faith until he speaks to her. Then, she really sees him and calls him “teacher.” This could be closer translated as , “My great one!” She apparently grabs him when she sees him because Jesus does not say, “Don’t touch me.” He instead says, “Do not hold to me.” Or this could also be translated, “Let go of me because I have not yet ascended to my father and your father!”
This brings us to the point I want to make today. When Mary recognized who Jesus was, she clung to him because she wanted to hold onto what had been. She wanted things to return to the way they had been. She wasn’t ready for a change; she was so excited that things did not have to change as she thought they had. She thought now Jesus could set up his earthly Kingdom, but John wants us to know there are bigger and better things to come. This was a change that needed to happen!
The next big event for John’s gospel are not all the appearances of Jesus after his crucifiction, but it is the ascension to Heaven to take His place beside the Father as our intercessor and King, to his Father and our Father! The ascension stories confirm his Messiahship, but it is after the ascension that Jesus sets up his Kingdom. It is after the ascension that he reigns in a Kingdom where his followers and the Kingdom people are those who receive what he has done on their behalf on the cross! It is in this Kingdom that his followers strive to let his “Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven,” as we pray in the Lord’s prayer. It is in this Kingdom that Jesus’ followers strive to love others and make things right! It is in this Kingdom that things are finally made right, beginning now and consummated in eternity!
Jesus has lived before us and showed us how to live! Jesus was crucified and died for our sins on Good Friday! He arose on that first Easter morning! He made many appearances after his resurrection, but we can only see him through the eyes of faith! He has ascended to our Father God where he reigns forever! Do you see him through the eyes of faith? Do you want to be a part of his Kingdom this morning? Come speak to him this morning and believe as we have our closing song. (If you make a first time commitment, please let me know so I can help you with your new walk in Christ!)