Easter Sermon April 8, 2012

EASTER 2012, April 8, 2012

Gospel: St. John 20:1-10

As we go through life, many different people call our name.  It is amazing to me just how many different messages can be conveyed in calling one’s name.  Remember your parents?  Most of the time it was a calm, gentle, loving manner; but at other times and especially when they used your full given name, it conveyed a completely different message.  For example: James I need you to take out the trash; or JAMES EDGAR GET IN HERE AND TAKE OUT THE TRASH!

Remember your teachers? The way they called your name could covey all kinds of emotions – from delight to disgust, from reward to reproof.  And you husbands here this morning, how about the way your wife calls your name? Could it mean she loves you or perhaps that you are in “big trouble”.

Easter Sunday morning, the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Take a close look at the very first person Jesus spoke to on that very first Easter morning and how He called her name.  What did that mean to her?  But even more important what does that mean to you and I today?

I think it is amazing that the very first person Jesus speaks to is a common woman that we don’t know a lot about. We do know that earlier Jesus had driven seven demons out of her and that in gratitude Mary Magdalene chose to follow Jesus and provide financial support for His ministry. We also know that Mary Magdalene was there at the foot of the cross when Jesus spoke to his own Mother and the Apostle John. And that she was there when they took the body of Jesus from the cross and wrapped and laid Him in the tomb.

Now undoubtedly some of you have read The DaVinci Code about Mary Magdalene being married to Jesus and that they had children together but may I remind you that there is absolutely no reliable evidence of this. Those claims originated from several Gnostic documents that were written hundreds of years after the resurrection in order to discredit Christianity.  No, Mary was just a common woman who had devoted herself to Him and Jesus chose to reveal Himself  for the first time after His resurrection to her.

Early that Sunday morning Mary along with some other  women, went to the tomb, as we are told, to properly treat Jesus’ body with spices and when they approached they saw the stone had been rolled away. Mary immediately went back to tell Peter and John and when they returned they found the body was no longer there.  Mary became extremely distraught and remained at the tomb sobbing uncontrollably. Remember two angels spoke to her; she turns and sees Jesus, but in her grief does not recognize Him. Maybe she did not see him clearly through her tears, maybe His resurrected body had a different appearance, even when He spoke to her, she did not recognize His voice.

Should we be surprised at this?  Of course not, how would we react when emotionally disturbed? And also remember the fact that the disciples did not completely understand this resurrection business. BUT then, Jesus calls her name; “MARY” and everything changes. She recognizes Him, “Rabboni!”/”Master!” She goes back to the disciples to share “the good news.” It completely changed Mary’s life forever.  Even today the good news is that Jesus is still in the business of calling our names, and when he calls our names it changes our lives forever.

When Jesus calls your name it confirms the resurrection. When Jesus called Mary’s name it confirmed the resurrection.  For a moment let us look at these last three days. Mary was at the foot of the cross. She watched Jesus die. She saw the soldier pierce His side as He was taken down from the cross and wrapped in linen cloths and spices. Her mind had to be on the physical death especially when He was placed in the tomb and the stone was rolled across the entrance.  So when Jesus calls her name, there was only one possibility for Mary, Jesus was alive!  And remember Mary grasped unto Jesus so hard and for so long that Jesus literally had to tell her to quit clinging on to Him.  There is absolutely no doubt from the Scriptures and from historical records that those who knew Jesus best, His disciples, believed in a physical resurrection. In fact every one of the disciples, except for John, died a violent death as a result of holding to their belief that Jesus had in fact been resurrected from the grave. This resurrection of Jesus is the most important and pivotal event in human history and what you and I believe about the resurrection is the most crucial decision we will ever make. In Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth he said: “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.(First Corinthians 15:16+17) For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Many people want to just accept Jesus as a good man, a wise teacher, but the Bible teaches that He is the Son of God who died for our sins and rose from the grave to prove his power over death. He is the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

So when Jesus calls my name, when he calls your name, he confirms the reality of the resurrection. Now we all know that Jesus does not audibly speak our name like he did with Mary, but he does speak our names today. In fact He is speaking some of our names right now.  He is doing that through His word and through His message to us.  When Jesus calls my name He is confirming the resurrection and creating a new relationship within me.

I find it interesting that Jesus first spoke to a common woman. Would it be like that today?  Or would He find the biggest crowd; or go to the group that cried: “Crucify Him!” or to the Jewish leaders so He could rub it in their faces and say: “See! You could not keep me in the grave!” BUT HE goes to Mary and I think He is making a point here. He is saying to every one of us that we have worth in His sight, no matter how well known, no matter what our background, no matter whether we are male or female. There was nothing significant about Mary but in the eyes of Jesus she was significant because she was created to have fellowship with Him. When Jesus calls my name, it means that He is calling me to a personal, intimate relationship with Him. The resurrection means that Jesus has made it possible for me and you, like Mary, to have that kind of lasting relationship.  When Jesus calls our name, He confirms the reality of the resurrection and he creates the possibility for a brand new relationship. But it will not happen automatically, because when Jesus calls our name it calls for a response.

When Jesus called Mary’s name, she had to choose how to respond to Him:

  1. She could have ignored Him. After all, until He called her name, she thought it was the gardener.
  2. She could have doubted Him. She could have said, Jesus is dead, no way is that Him.
  3. She could have rejected Him. She could have kept on living her life without His influence.

BUT MARY CHOSE TO EMBRACE HIM!  Although she did not understand everything she chose to embrace Him, to follow Him, this resurrection provided her with the ability to have a permanent, intimate relationship with Him.

So my friends, if Jesus is calling your name this morning. He is confirming in your heart the reality of the resurrection. He is calling you to enter into a new relationship with Him. He is calling you to respond to His invitation.  You can do all of the above: you can ignore Him and go on living your life like you have never heard His voice. You can doubt Him or you can choose not to believe the mountain of Biblical and historical evidence that Jesus rose from the grave that first Easter morning so that you can have a personal relationship with Him. You can reject Him.

OR this morning you can choose to embrace Jesus.

Yes, Jesus, I believe in the resurrection! I believe that You have provided the way for me to have a relationship with God. I want to embrace You and to accept your gift today.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one.”  (St. John 10:27-30.)

Thank you Jesus for calling my name!



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