Easter Service 2017

I will believe it when I see it”

This is an expression that all of have heard, and may have even used, many times in our life. You may have even had it directed to yourself when you have promised to do something.

But there is a strong association between seeing and believing. I am a person who has to see something before I believe it personally, much to the annoyance of my family at times. I have been told that I am a doubter in that I always have to see it for myself. In fact one of my Biblical heroes would be Doubting Thomas because I identify with him so much.

Well believing when you see it is at the heart of this morning’s Gospel. It is the story of the resurrection appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, leading to her confession ‘I have seen the Lord’.  It is a wonderful story of a seeking woman who is surprised by what she finds, or better, by the one who finds her. Encountering the resurrected Jesus brings a transformation in her life and opens a new world for her. And, it is the same with us.

This morning’s Gospel starts by saying ‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb’. This was a hopeless situation because she thought that the body of Jesus had been taken from the tomb. She didn’t even consider the fact that Jesus could had risen from the dead. Rather, she assumed that either the authorities had taken his body off, perhaps to a communal grave, or, even worse that tomb robbers had been lured by the rich spices and clothes. So she rushed off and told a couple of the disciples that ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him’. So they rushed to the tomb and seeing the empty tomb believed what Mary had told them. Someone or some people had taken Jesus’ body away and no-one knew where it was. Again it did not occur to them that Jesus may had risen. So they returned to their homes but Mary stayed their weeping outside the tomb. Typical males, thinking only of themselves and leaving Mary her to grieve by herself.

But soon her seemingly hopeless situation was about to change. She met the risen Jesus. He was alive. Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” So Mary went excitedly and told the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them what Jesus had said to her. But her telling them this must not have made much difference to them. This is because verse 19 says ‘When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house were the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews. Hearing that Mary had seen the Lord did not make much difference to their lives. But all this was to change for them and the difference was their seeing and encountering the risen Jesus for themselves. You see seeing is believing.

For as we read on we see that Jesus presented himself the disciples  like Peter who had denied him; to Thomas who doubted him, he supped with his disciples, had a barbecue on the beach with some of them and he talked with his followers. Seeing and encountering the risen Jesus really raised the faith of the disciples, the risen Jesus had been brought to life again. This restored the hopes that they had lost. If it had not happened the disciples would never have had the courage, the audacity or the nerve to say another word about Jesus in public, let alone to claim that He rose and is Lord of the living and the dead.

What a difference seeing and encountering the risen Jesus made to Mary and the disciples. It was life changing for them and they went into all the known world to tell others about the risen Jesus. They went out and turned the world upside down and the world has never been the same since.

Things have not changed 2000 years later. Encountering the risen Jesus is still life changing. Jesus is still in the life changing business. Encountering the risen Jesus can transform our lives. For we may know our Bible back to front, we can attend church every Sunday, we could have been Baptised or Confirmed but this is only part of the story. We need to meet and experience the risen Jesus to get the full story, to experience life abundantly, to gain that peace that is beyond understanding, to have a real sense of hope. Have you experienced the risen Jesus? Remember that Jesus said ask and you will receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened to you. Mary had to look for Jesus but she found him and her life was transformed.  I will share a bit of my own experience. I have always believed in Jesus. I had attended Sunday school, Bible Class, attended Church every Sunday during my high school days and confirmed. But the turning point in my life was when I saw and experienced Jesus at a Bible Class camp in my last year at school. Remember the Bible Class camps? I saw Jesus is the lives of those who attended and my life has not been the same. Seeing and encountering Jesus at that Bible Class camp made all the difference in my Christian life.

The risen Saviour can make a difference in our lives in another important way. It makes the Scriptures come alive. If you personally know and have experienced the Jesus of the Scriptures it makes them come alive for you. It is like reading a good book about your hero and it is even better if you have met them. And because you have met Jesus, and seen him in action you, know even more that what you are reading is true.

Finally, I would like to finish with a comment about verses 17 and 18 where Jesus says to Mary “Don’t hold on to me! I have not yet gone to the Father. Jesus has changed and he explains that in their new relationship she cannot hold on’ to the risen Christ. Instead, she has a task, to be an apostle of the resurrection. Jesus sends her to tell the news to the disciples who would have met him themselves is only they had not gone home. So Mary Magdalene goes and does this. So if we have seen and experienced the risen saviour then we should be just cling onto him and keep him for ourselves.  The Good News of the risen Jesus is too good to leave to ourselves. We must go out and tell and, most importantly show others that Jesus is risen and is alive in the world.  For telling and showing go together for we call tell others about Jesus until we are blue in the face, but it means nothing until we show in our lives that Jesus is alive. People must not only hear us talking about Jesus, but we must also reflect Jesus in our lives. For seeing is believing. This is so important in today’s society that says ‘don’t tell me, show me’. The same with our Church, it is not enough just to say Jesus is alive. People also have to experience the risen Jesus in Churches and if this does not happen then are nothing a more then empty tomb. Are you reflecting the risen Jesus in your life?

So Alleluia! Christ is risen.

He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Let us all go and show others that this is the case.

May you all have a great Easter Day and may every day be an Easter Day with the risen Jesus. Amen.