Sermon: Walking with Jesus…who brings victory
Reading: John 20:1-18
Sermon Date: April 1, 2018
Can you recall a moment when you have been genuinely shocked and surprised? What happened? How did you feel then and now?
In fulfilment of the prophecies, Jesus’ obedient walk with God has taken him to His death on the cross outside Jerusalem. Buried in a sealed tomb, guarded by soldiers, His followers are distraught and in hiding – fearful of arrest and execution. Three days have passed……
Questions: (see Helpful Hints)
Read John 20: 1-10
Put yourself in Mary Magdalene’s shoes. Recall all that she had witnessed and experienced during her walk with Jesus leading to the tumultuous events of ‘Passion Week’. Having seen Christ crucified and then buried in a sealed tomb guarded by soldiers, how do you think she was feeling as she awoke (assuming she was able to sleep) early that Sabbath morning?
Why did Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus (Matthew 28:1), rise before sunrise and visit the tomb with “…spices and perfumes that they had prepared at home…” (Luke 23:56)? What does this reveal about them?
Read John 20:11-18
Given the position of women in the time of Christ, it was surprising to many that the risen Christ appeared first to Mary and instructed her to be the first witness to his resurrection. Why and for what reason(s) do you think Mary was ‘chosen’?
Why do you think the angels and then Jesus ask the same question of Mary, “Woman, why are you crying?” and then Jesus intentionally asked, “Who is it that you are looking for?”
Verse 17 is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament to understand. What do you think it means?
In the text, did you notice the pattern of seeking Jesus, finding and then witnessing for Christ as transformed people? How people of sorrow and fear are transformed by their encounter with the risen Jesus?
Like Mary and the disciples, we have walked together with Jesus through Lent to the Cross and Resurrection Sunday.
As we reflect on Christ’s resurrection and on all that we have learnt through our walk in recent weeks, how can/ought we now walk onwards with Jesus today?
What difference does it make that we are walking with the risen Saviour, empowered by the same Holy Spirit within the love of God our Father?
Spend some time in discussion before praying for each other and the ministry of the church as we walk onwards together in Christ for Christ.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
In the culture of the time, women were ‘second class citizens’ and not considered reliable witnesses in court. Accordingly, it would have been reasonable to assume that Jesus would have selected maybe Peter, James, or John to be the first witnesses of His resurrection. Or if it was a woman, he might have preferred Mary of Bethany, who anointed Him just before His death. But Mary Magdalene was first.
This decision is even more interesting when we recall that Mary is thought to have had a ‘past’. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Although there is no biblical evidence to support the common view that Mary had been a prostitute, it is reasonable to assume that Mary had a sinful past before coming to faith in Jesus and then walking with Him as His disciple.
Given this, Jesus’ decision to appear to Mary Magdalene and invite her to be His witness is remarkable and important. It reveals that God’s ways are not the ways of man and significantly, that Jesus offers His forgiveness, new life and partnership in ministry to everyone who genuinely seeks, receives and honours Him.
Neither Jesus nor the angels asked those questions to gain information. Lovingly, they asked the questions of the distraught and bewildered Mary to enable her (and us) to realise that Christ had risen and what the astonishing implications of His resurrection were/are.
Why is Mary told by the risen Christ not to hold on to him while Thomas will shortly be invited to place his hands on Christ’s hands and side where the nails and spear had punctured his body (John 20: 27)?Following detailed study of the biblical text in the original language, theologians tend to support the following interpretation:
In surprise and worship, Mary had fallen to her feet, face down before Jesus and was grasping Him by His feet (see Matthew 28:9). In our language, Jesus’ reply can be paraphrased:
‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father, so you don’t need to hang on to me as if I were to disappear permanently. This is a time for joy and sharing the good
news, not clutching me as if I were a jealously guarded private dream come true. So, go and tell my disciples that I am in the process of ascending to my Father and your Father.’
This makes the contrast between the prohibition to Mary and the invitation to Thomas easier to understand. Mary is told to stop because her enthusiastic and relieved grasping of Jesus suggests she doesn’t really understand what is happening. Although Mary now believes Jesus is alive, she doesn’t understand that Jesus must ‘walk on’ and so must she in her faith journey with Him.
In contrast, Thomas was told to touch Jesus because he didn’t yet believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead and was therefore the Messiah.
The fact that Jesus is in the process of ascending to His Father in heaven conforms to the significance of the Ascension as described in Luke 24:51 and Acts 9:1-11.
Jesus is in the process of ascending because, having risen from the dead, His abode is no longer in this earth. Jesus is no longer constrained “…in the days of His flesh...” (Hebrews 5:7). Accordingly, in the days ahead, although Jesus will appear to His disciples and others on many occasions, He was no longer continually ‘with them’ physically as He was before His crucifixion.
To fulfil His promise (see John 14:2), Jesus is now preparing His disciples for his final glorious ascension (Acts 1:11) so that the Holy Spirit can then be given (John 16:7) and the Great Commission be fulfilled by the disciples in the years to come until He returns in glory (John 14:3) to complete God’s salvation story.