Sunday, April 05, 2015

EASTER Something To Die For

John 20:1-18    (NRSV)
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. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Somebody asked me a rather interesting question the other day.  They wanted to know if I believed in a "Literal Resurrection of Jesus."

I love questions like that --- don't you?
Because what they were asking me, really wasn't what they asked!

Do I believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus?
The answer to me is simple!

Of course, I believe in a literal resurrection of Jesus

But as we talked it was clear what they really wanted to know was, if we had been there on that day 2,000 years ago --- could we have videotaped the resurrection of Jesus.
And to that question, my answer is a resounding: I DOUBT IT

I do not believe that the resurrection was something that could be captured on film

However, I do believe that it was "real"

Whatever happened following Jesus death was real to those who followed him.

They encountered Jesus in some new and powerful ways --- that I don't think they even expected.

But it changed their lives ---- and it changed history.
And it changed my life

As we gathered together on Friday, I encouraged you to place yourself at the scene of Jesus crucifixion.

And as we remembered and witnessed the terrible events of that day --- I was struck by the words that Jesus called out from the cross.
"Father, forgive them!"
"For they don't know what they are doing."

I meditated on those words all weekend.

Forgive them?

Forgive us?

Do you remember Thursday Evening --- Jesus when in the Garden of Gethsemane asked if there could be another way?

It is becoming clear to me --- there could be NO OTHER WAY for God to show us what God is really like.

But before I could get there --- I had to wander in the wilderness.
          Not for 40 days and for 40 nights

But in many ways, I have been wandering in that wilderness for almost 55 years.

Tony Jones shares a great story about attending a large youth gathering.

There were hundreds of kids at this event.
No doubt driven by hormones as much as spiritual curiosity

On Friday, the highly touted speaker for the weekend gave a talk in the evening chapel service that endeared him to all of the kids.

He told funny stories about himself in middle school and how nerdy he was, and he set himself up as a credible authority on spiritual matters.

Then, on Saturday night, he brought the heat.

He shared a story that many of you may have heard of the years --- one that I certainly have encountered many times

He told us a long, detailed story about a poor peasant woman in Russia who lived with her toddler daughter in a dismal, Soviet- era apartment.

They had a horrible life, but at least they had each other.

Then, one night as they were sleeping, the shoddy Communist construction gave way during an earthquake, and the building collapsed on top of them.

The mother was pinned beneath a huge piece of concrete.

Miraculously, the young girl was unharmed, but they were both trapped in the rubble, with no way of escape.
A day passed, but no one came to their rescue.
The little girl began to grow weak, and she complained to her mother that she was hungry and thirsty.
Another day passed, and the mother began lapsing in and out of consciousness.
She knew that her young child would die of dehydration soon if she didn’t do something.

On the third day, the mother realized that she was going to have to make a sacrifice for her daughter.
So she reached out for a piece of broken glass, and she slashed open her palm and directed her daughter to drink her blood in order to survive.
The girl did as she was told, and she was rescued.
          The mother, of course, died.

We were on the edge of our seats
what love the mother had to sacrifice herself for her daughter!
          Who doesn’t want to be loved like that?

Now the speaker was worked up into a metaphorical lather, and his voice rose as he addressed the assembled eleven and twelve year olds, turning the rhetorical corner from the Russian mother to Jesus.
Jesus is like that Russian mother, he told us, and we are the helpless little girl.
Jesus’ blood on the cross saves us the same way that the daughter was saved.

Then the speaker went on explaining the ancient practice of execution by crucifixion.

He went into excruciating detail about the pain of having spikes pounded through your wrists and ankles, about the enormous amount of blood, about the humiliation of hanging, naked, six feet in the air, and about how death comes slowly and agonizingly, not by blood loss, but by suffocation.

We heard about the extreme agony, even desperation, felt by a victim of crucifixion as he pulled himself up on the spikes in his arms and pushed himself up on the spikes in his legs to catch a breath until, completely exhausted, he couldn’t rise anymore.
Unable to inhale — coughing, choking, dying.

Now our speaker was screaming, sweating, spitting.
 “That’s how much Jesus loves you!” he cried.

He died for you in the most horrible, gruesome manner that the Romans could imagine!

And as he died, he saw your face!
He whispered your name!
Because you are a sinner, he had to die in your place!

God hated you because of your sin!

When he looked at you, all he saw was your sin!

But Jesus stood between you and God, so now when God looks at you, he only sees Jesus.

Tonight, you can accept what Jesus did for you and go to heaven instead of hell when you die.

You can let Jesus stand between you and the terrifying, holy God.

Tonight you have the chance to drink the blood from Jesus’ hands to save yourself.

If tonight, for the first time, you’ve decided to accept what Jesus did for you, angels are celebrating in heaven; stay after chapel to pray with a counselor.

If tonight you’ve decided to recommit your life to Jesus, angels are dancing and cheering; you should also stay after and talk to a counselor.

And if you aren’t ready to do either of those things, you are dismissed.
There’s popcorn and hot chocolate for you in the dining hall.

I highly doubt that I am the only one who has had an experience like that.

If the way to heaven has to do with a spontaneous, fear-driven, adolescent decision, then the Christian faith is in deep trouble --- it is no more than a desperate sales pitch

Think about that message for just a second
          The God who created you
Presumably out of love
now cannot stand to look at you.
You disgust God,

And the ONLY reason God doesn't explode in rage every time God sees you is because Jesus has stepped in the middle and paid the price.

And this isn't just a lesson to our teenagers.

Listen to this from a sermon that Mark Driscoll, at the time on of the largest congregations in the United States, gave to his church

Some of you, God hates you.
Some of you, God is sick of you. . . . God hates, right now— personally, objectively— hates some of you. . . .
The Bible speaks of God not just hating sin, but sinners.
Because sin is of our nature.
Sin is not just a mistake that we make. . . .
You are the problem, not the solution.
You and I are sinners, and by our nature are objects of wrath.
That’s a quote from the Bible. . . . God doesn’t just hate what you do, he hates who you are.
My job is to tell the truth, your job is to make a decision.

This idea that Jesus HAD TO DIE to pay a price for sin is one that I have wrestled with my entire life
          I JUST DON'T BY IT!

And as I have studied the Bible, neither does the biblical witness

Tony Jones in his powerful book Did God Kill Jesus in response to this payment model says this:

In the end, the God behind Payment/Penalty/Punishment is a quid pro quo God. God won’t do this unless his subjects do that. But his subjects are constitutionally incapable of doing what he demands. Instead of realizing that fact and coming up with an alternative solution to his problem, God looks around for someone else who can satiate his thirst for justice, and he settles on his own son.
God swings the barrel of his gun away from us, takes aim at Jesus, and fires.
That’s the God of the Payment model. He may be a God to be feared, but he’s not a God to be loved.

So why did Jesus die?

Like I have said, I am convinced it was not to appease an angry God.

I think Jesus dies for a number of reasons.

One is that we wanted to get rid of him --- We didn't like his message of LOVE.

Jesus demonstrated to us that God is Love and nothing --- not being falsely arrested, or beaten or even death would stop that love.

Jesus shows us that violence is never the way --- the only way is love.

But I think there is a second reason.

Jesus life and death were to demonstrate that God went from observer to participant in the whole gamut of human existence.

Jesus has been there and done that in all of human life

There is NOTHING that we can go through that Jesus has not walked that road already.

And the GOOD NEWS of the resurrection is the promise that nothing will ever stop Jesus from walking that road with us EVERY DAY.

God is revealed in the crucified Jesus --- giving himself to the very last breath --- GIVING AND FORGIVING.

And there could be no other way to show us what we are truly to seek to become.
Like Jesus
          GIVING AND FORGIVING to the very last breath!

And if we are to become like that --- if we are to follow the example of Jesus

The single most important characteristic of any Christian is hope.

In the face of strife and conflict, we are called to hope.

And that hope springs directly from the crucifixion - resurrection event, God’s promise that his commitment to us is not just here and now, but is everlasting.

Yes, God dies in a terrible --- horrible way on the cross, sharing our sorrows.

But God overcomes death and sin and grief and trouble on Easter morning.

And he invites us down the same path with the same promise.

The way of the cross leads to resurrection on a beautiful Easter morning.

That is our hope.

Tony Jones: Did God Kill Jesus

Brian McLaren: We Make The Road By Walking

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