Summary: This is an Easter sermon that concludes a series exploring who Jesus is according to the Gospel of John. Phil. 3 plays a major role in this sermon as well.
IN SEARCH OF JESUS
“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Co. 15:3-4).
That is the good news of the Gospel of Jesus, in the words of the Apostle Paul. It is said that this is an early creed of the Church encapsulating the core beliefs of these first believers. There is no creed without the resurrection; without the resurrection there is no good news.
Gerald O’Collins said this, “In a profound sense, Christianity without the resurrection is not simply Christianity without its final chapter. It is not Christianity at all.” That Jesus was raised from the dead is the ultimate validation of our faith. It is the proof of his triumph over sin and death. It is the basis of our hope that we too will one day be raised from death. It is the reason we are here to worship him today. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is undeniably the best news we have ever heard.
But let me ask you this: Is anyone seeking Jesus today?
Such good news should prompt us to know more about Jesus. Yet to be honest, I think we Christians have grown lazy in our search for Jesus. We have him figured out already. There is nothing more to know about Jesus that we haven’t heard in hundreds and thousands of SS lessons, Bible studies and sermons. I will grant that. There is nothing more I can tell this morning than the gospel you have already heard. There is nothing more to do than act on what we have heard. And that is where we are lazy.
News that does not prompt you to act is just entertainment. News that is truly good will inspire you to find out more about it and talk about it to everyone you meet. Good news gets you excited and sends you running down the street like a crazed lunatic.
This morning you will sit and endure one more sermon about the good news you already know so well. We are going to look for Jesus again. We need to find him because the tomb is empty and because whether we admit it or not we have to keep seeking him.
Let’s start by looking for Jesus in the usual places…
1. Looking for Jesus in the usual places
We read in our passage this morning about the shock and dismay that Mary Magdalene, Peter and John experienced at the empty tomb. You may have noticed that the sense of sight plays prominently in this narrative: Mary “…saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance”; Peter “…saw the strips of linen lying there”; and John “…saw and believed.” What they saw stirred a reaction in each one of them.
What do you see?
To see for ourselves we need to briefly put on the glasses of these three witnesses and decide for ourselves what we see.
Mary saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance of the tomb. The good news we apply to this Easter Sunday morning, Mary thought of as terror. Seeing that the stone had been removed from the tomb she deduced that robbers came and stole the body. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him.” Faced with an empty tomb we would be challenged with a similar question: Where did the body go? Today, we can take a tour to Israel and visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the site of the supposed tomb of Jesus. What we would find is a huge church filled with gold plated icons and relics, and you would look at the tomb and say to yourself “This is not at all what I imagined” because it has been ruined by religion and centuries of misdirected homage. We stare at an empty tomb and we do not find Jesus there. He is not there but neither can we dredge up sentiment to place us in Mary’s shoes to feel what she felt. Mary was afraid and fear is not our experience of the resurrection.
Peter saw that the tomb was empty and plunged into its dark interior to find some answers. What he saw inside were strips of linen, the cloth bindings wrapped around Jesus’ body and stuffed with burial oils and fragrances. But not a body to be found. What Peter experienced was perplexity and confusion. Luke tells us that Peter “…went away, wondering to himself what had happened.” He had no clue as to the whereabouts of Jesus’ body, just skepticism.
An empty tomb, the possibility of resurrection, leaves a lot of people with skeptical questions. People today are searching for a Jesus that makes sense apart from these usual places. Dan Brown has written The Da Vinci Code, a fictional novel that suggests that the resurrection was a conspiracy concocted by the Catholic Church for ulterior motives; that Jesus was not crucified and buried according to tradition, but married and sired offspring who live today. Is this more plausible than that God could raise his dead son? For centuries humankind has tried to demythologize Jesus and make him real, simply because resurrection makes no sense. Peter couldn’t grasp this either, at first.