Pastor John Ortberg tells the story of a friend of his (also a pastor named Skip Viau) who was attempting to tell the resurrection story in a children’s sermon. He asked the question, “What were Jesus’ first words to the disciples after he was raised from the dead?” Before he was able to give the answer, a little girl raised her hand high in the sky, so Skip let her answer. “I know,” she said, “Ta da!”
Words have power. Words can reach into the inner parts of our lives and entomb us in our memories of our imperfection. Words can also resurrect us into the resurrected reality of a life we never dreamed could be possible and all we can say is “Ta da!”
Followers of Jesus have experienced the reality of resurrected words. Our faith witnesses to the sound of God’s first spoken words in the Bible as God speaks to darkness in Genesis 3:3 and says “let there be light.” Our witness of faith is also built on the understanding that the sound of God’s voice heard in the beginning is heard on this Easter morning. Our scripture reading from John 20:1 states that God still speaks to the reality of darkness through these words: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark.”
Throughout the days of this past week, made holy by the death of Jesus on the cross, followers of Jesus have remembered the words that led to darkness of the first day of the week as recorded in today’s scripture reading. There were the words that greeted Jesus on Palm Sunday of last week, “Hosanna, blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord.” There were the words of sacrificial love as Jesus told his disciples at the last meal they shared together on Holy Thursday, “This is my body given for you. This is my blood shed for you.” Words of denial as Jesus’ disciples fled from the reality of the crucifixion. Words of mockery hurled at Jesus as he hung from the cross – “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Messiah, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now so that we may see and believe.” Words of forgiveness as Jesus said from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Words of divine trust as Jesus said from the cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Words of a new creation as Jesus said, “It is finished.”
The reality of these words guides us to the words of the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John as we remember that it was still dark when Mary first experienced the reality of the risen Christ. It was a resurrected reality that Mary did not fully comprehend as she bent over to look in the tomb and then stood alone in her tears. It was, however, a resurrected reality that Mary fully experienced when she realized she was not alone in her weeping.
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Britain’s Derek Redmond was running in the 400-meter race. Victory was in sight as he rounded the turn into the backstretch when suddenly he felt a sharp pain go up the back of his leg. He fell face first onto the track with a torn right hamstring.
Sports Illustrated recorded the dramatic events:
As the medical attendants were approaching, Redmond fought to his feet. “It was animal instinct,” he would say later. He set out hopping, in a crazed attempt to finish the race. When he reached the stretch, a large man in a T-shirt came out of the stands, hurled aside a security guard and ran to Redmond, embracing him. It was Jim Redmond, Derek’s father. “You don’t have to do this,” he told his weeping son. “Yes, I do,” said Derek. “Well, then,” said Jim, “we’re going to finish this together.” And they did.
Fighting off security men, the son’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, they stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end, as the crowd gaped, then rose and howled and wept. Derek didn’t walk away with the gold medal, but he walked away with an incredible memory of a father who, when he saw his son in pain, left his seat in the stands to help him finish the race.
While Mary may not have fully understood the resurrected presence of Jesus, she fully experienced the resurrected presence of Jesus when the risen Lord called her name. It was the resurrected reality which Mary experienced as she witnessed to the disciples saying, “I have seen the Lord.”
Today, I join with Mary in confessing that I that I do not fully understand the resurrected presence of Jesus on the Easter morning. There are times in my life when it is still dark as I bend over and weep. Today, I join with Mary in confessing that I have experienced the resurrected reality of Jesus calling my name as I realize that I am not alone and confess that “I have seen the Lord!”
by Pastor Marc Brown
April 9, 2023
Accompanying Scriptures: John 20:1-18
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for April 9, 2023
Scripture Lesson John 20:1-18
The Good News “Resurrected Reality”
Music “Because He Lives” by Bill Gaither
Closing Music “Postlude on ‘Victory” by Garrett Parker