Easter Sunday – Yr B - 2015
Did you ever notice that nothing really seemed to happen until they went inside? Peeking into the empty tomb wasn't enough.
Mary Magdalene was a faithful follower of the Lord. She had been with Him through thick and thin, and her love for Him led her to the tomb early that Easter morning. Her love for Jesus overcame the fear and loathing that scattered the other disciples. Her affection for Jesus brought her there, her respect for Jesus brought her there, hearing all that Jesus taught brought her there. But it wasn't enough…
She saw that the tomb was empty…but she didn't understand. Her love of Jesus brought her within arm’s reach, but that wasn't close enough. Arm’s length was not close enough to be transformed by the miracle of Easter. She saw the tomb was empty…but had no clue that Jesus was alive again!
We’re like that sometimes, aren't we? Whether we’re here faithfully every Sunday, or only make it at Christmas and Easter – we’re sometimes like Mary Magdalene. Standing an arm’s length away…peering into the mystery of the Christian life without getting up close and personal.
We have an affection for Jesus like Mary did…and just like it brought Mary to the tomb, our affection for Jesus has brought us here today. A lot or a little – however much affection – its enough to get us here this Easter like it got Mary to the tomb that first Easter. We respect Jesus like she did…We respect his social commentary – we respect the idea of Jesus even if we’re not sure about the rest. And I’m certain that everyone here has heard at least the basic teaching of Jesus, and we’re at least willing to consider it, or we wouldn't be here. Love one another. Serve one another. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The problem is…if our love & respect & hearing Jesus leaves us at arm’s length then we’ll be just as confused as Mary Magdalene was. Arm’s length isn't close enough – it wasn't then, and its not now. Being in the Church building on Easter Sunday isn't enough –being in Church every Sunday is not enough. It’s not about how often we’re here, or how big our check is, or how many ministries we’re a part of. Arm’s length from the mystery of the resurrection is not close enough to be transformed by the miracle of Easter… Arm’s length will never bring us into the crazy, life-changing adventure and joy of Easter.
We have to go inside…we have to encounter Easter up close and personal for any of this to make sense…we have to go all in – all in – heart, mind, soul, emotions – all in to the empty tomb of Easter to understand what’s going on! John the beloved didn't get it until he went in! It wasn't until Peter arrived – and went in – that he believed. And when John followed Him into the tomb…he believed too.
All of us in some way or another are like Mary Magdalene, peering in at arm’s length on Easter Sunday. For some of us, the practice of the faith – the things we’re told by the Church to do – we've let doing all those things keep us at a safe distance. All that doing has become a buffer – a way of standing at arm’s length and not letting the truth of the resurrection come crashing into our reality in a way that changes us on the inside.
Some of us have abandoned the practice of the faith nearly all together, and the world, and family, and career, and just ‘living life’ is the arm’s length distance we stand from the empty tomb – the distance that keeps us from touching the reality of Easter in any real way.
My dear friends – Jesus Christ is a person – He is alive – He died, was buried, and rose again just like He said He would. It’s not just an idea – it’s not just a legend or a myth. It is a truth that we cannot understand until we follow Peter and John into the empty tomb and see for ourselves!
How can we do that? Sometimes we just have to begin to think and act ‘as if’. As if what Jesus said about Himself is true. What would it mean to live as if Jesus Christ really was the Way, the Truth, and the Life? What if God really is Father to us like Jesus taught – not just Father, actually – but Daddy? What if we talked to God as if He were our Daddy? What if we really began to live life as if there is a person alive today – through the resurrection – a man, who is also the Son of God – who truly exists to have a relationship with us! What if you tried talking to Jesus…what if you tried reaching out to Him in any way you know how…what if you asked Him to teach you how to have a relationship with Him? What if it is true…all of it… what if all of it really is true?
What if you risked doing any one of these things just for a week – what then? Well – brothers and sisters – I’ll tell you what then. ‘When Simon Peter arrived after John, he went into the tomb…’ he stepped closer than arm’s length…he got up close and personal, and ’he saw the burial cloths there’…he saw and he believed. Will you give it a shot?
You've come this far on Easter morning – you’re here, peering into the tomb. But arm’s length is never enough…peeking in arm’s length away didn't work for Mary Magdalene, or John or Peter – and it won’t work for us. But if we go inside – if we climb inside the beautiful reality and get up close and personal with the Risen Lord …then I know this – you’ll never be the same – Easter will claim your life – and you’ll live like you've never lived before.
And you want to know why? Because He lived for you – and after He died for you, He rose again for you – and He will change your life forever.