Summary: We need to recover our sense of resurrection wonder, joy, and excitement over what is possible with God.
John 20: 1 – 18
1. Have any of you ever read the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes? In one storyline Calvin’s father is reading him a bedtime story – “Hamster Huey and Gooey Kablooey!” – and the poor father is getting really tired of this story. It’s Calvin’s favourite and he gets his dad to read it every night. His father tries to convince him to let him read a different story. Calvin won’t hear of it. So what does the father do? He completely changes the story as he reads it! By the end Calvin and his friend Hobbes are lying in bed, their eyes wide open in shock at the way the story turned out!
2. But aren’t we like that as children sometimes? Don’t children often want to have the same stories read again and again? I know that when reading time comes Ella will often have a favourite book. For awhile it was a peek-a-boo book. She would enjoy it again and again. But look at the father in the Calvin and Hobbes story. He was so familiar with the story that he was positively bored with it.
3. Sometimes I think our senses have been dulled and our appreciation of the Gospel story has been diminished with over-familiarity. Does familiarity breed boredom? I think sometimes that as Christians and churches we’ve lost that sense of resurrection wonder, of the joy that comes from an encounter with a living and resurrected Christ. Eugene Peterson, in Living the Resurrection, says, “We lose our vitality. We become dull. We continue to go through these life-affirming, Christ-honoring motions, but our hearts are no longer in it. It’s a curious thing but not uncommon for Christians to begin well and gradually get worse. Instead of progressing like a pilgrim from strength to strength, we regress. Just think of the Christians you really admire. Aren’t most of them recent converts? Isn’t it exciting? Then think of the Christians that you’re just bored to death with. Aren’t they people who have been Christians for forty or fifty years? Before we know it, we are regressing. We are hobbled. We become less. We lose the immediacy, spontaneity, and exuberance of resurrection life.” He then talks about how “resurrection takes place in the country of death.” Sometimes it seems like we’re in the country of death, and that we’ve forgotten what it means to be alive in Christ. We need resurrection to take place.
4. When we read or hear the Gospel story it ends just as we expect – with the resurrected Jesus – but perhaps that’s part of the problem. The ending no longer surprises us. No longer does the empty tomb catch us off guard like it did Mary Magdalene and Peter and John. The impact the story is intended to have is lost on us. You see, the story certainly doesn’t end where the disciples expected. They had no idea what was coming. When Jesus was crucified, they pretty much figured that was it. They scattered. They were afraid. They hid from the authorities. But the Gospels don’t end after Jesus is buried. There is more story to tell. Death is not the last word. The despair and sorrow of the cross finds it answer in the joy and wonder of the empty tomb. Resurrection follows burial. We have to realize that this is true of life now. Not just that we have hope of future resurrection, but that even now we can have life: life, life and more life! And that in having life, we also have joy and a wonder only possible because of that empty tomb.
5. Look at Mary. Mary didn’t even recognise Jesus at first. She thought he was the gardener. He had to address her by name. But then she does recognize him, for the sheep know the voice of their shepherd. The disciples with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24) didn’t recognize Jesus at first either – only when he broke the bread did they realize. It took them a lot longer than Mary! You know, sometimes we can’t see God at work even when He’s right in front of us. We’re blind to His presence and to how He’s working.
6. Sometimes we limit what God can do. We hold our hands mere inches apart and say, “This is what God can do.” Even if we don’t say it, even if we believe in our minds otherwise, we still seem to live this way. But God stretches out His arms to the utmost and then says, “This is what I can do!” We can’t even begin to imagine what is possible with God. The resurrection tells us that there is more possible with God than we can ever hope to comprehend.