Love interrupts: the historical life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (talk transcript)
Matthew 27 1-66
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. 2 So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”
Jesus Before Pilate
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus] Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
“Barabbas,” they answered.
“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The Soldiers Mock Jesus
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.
The Crucifixion of Jesus
As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. They came to a place called Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: this is Jesus, the king of the Jews.
Two rebels were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
The Death of Jesus
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”
Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[e] went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”
Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph,[f] and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
The Burial of Jesus
As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.
The Guard at the Tomb
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”
“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.
This transcript is taken from my sermon on Good Friday 2011 at St Mark’s Church London.
The Lost-ness of humanity
I’ve spent a lot of the week thinking about the Cross. Reading Matthew’s gospel account and pondering it. I’ve watched on DVD that film The Passion of Christ. And in all my reflections I’ve been lost for words.
Firstly, lost in the sheer awful reality of it. (I don’t mean lost in the sense of being mystified and how it could have happened. That distancing response we use as we watch the news: as ‘how could something so awful happen?’ We see in the crucifixion of Jesus something here all too familiar about what we are like.) I mean lost in the reality of it and my place within it. The way that all human attempts – all my attempts – to be in control, in charge, all claims to do things my way, end up here. In nailing an utterly and totally righteous man to a cross.
To see what is happening on the Cross is to be rendered utterly silent, lost. All our pretensions to be ‘sorted’, in control – all the ways we try and construct meaningful lives for ourselves in our own strength and power – laid bare. Exposed for what they really are. Isaac Watts begins his great hymn in that place too:
When I survey the wondrous Cross on which the Prince of glory died. My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
There is no avoiding this revelation of the utter futility of human claims to do it ‘my way’. The utter lostness of humanity. But to fully see what is happening on the Cross is not to be left there. In fact, to want to stay there – weeping at our iniquity – is to risk a kind of self-indulgence. It is to try and find a way back through our own horror and remorse at what happened. The kind of approach to sin which says: ‘Lord, I hate myself for what I did. And because I am so sorry, it will never happen again’. The Cross is an end to sin. But NOT because the world was shocked at itself, and turned over a new leaf.
Rather, because there isn’t a way back from here. This is the final judgement of sin and of this world. It is the final whistle. On the Cross Jesus shows us where all sin leads. We are rightly totally lost in the face of it. Rendered silent and powerless by the reality of it.
A New Beginning
But because it is an end – it is also, by the grace of God, a new beginning. Jesus breaks the silence with his words from the Cross that reveal he is making a way to a new world. In Matthew chapter 27, we see everyone is involved with Jesus’ crucifixion: Judas, the chief priests, Pilate, the crowd baying for blood, the soldiers, the passers by who mock Jesus as he hangs on the cross. We see the range of human failings: pride, fear, selfishness, unbelief. The lostness of our world. The futility of sin.
But then, in verse 45, all of these voices fade into the background. And God is at the centre. He always has been, but now we truly see. The story of the crucifixion which everyone thought they were in control of is revealed to be the story of the Crucified. And what we see now in the Cross leaves us lost… but this time, in wonder.
The universe turns on this moment. Everything else fades into the background. Darkness comes over the land in the middle of the afternoon. And Jesus cries out ‘Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?’ ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’
Like all cries of lament, this is a cry of faith: “My God”. This is utterly different from the fear and unbelief that has put Jesus there. Jesus is bearing for us God’s wrath for the entirety of sin – for all the world, for all of history.
‘Come down’, the bystanders say, ‘and we will believe’. But it is precisely because He does not come down that He is Our Saviour. Jesus will not prove to the onlookers who he is by a show of force. He is not interested in self-justification. Self-centred power. He has come, not to prove himself. But to be our Saviour. I find myself lost in wonder that Jesus is there, willingly, lovingly, for my sins. He won’t be moved from that place. Whatever it takes to make a way for me, for you. He remains with me even unto death, that I may have a new beginning.
Lost in wonder at the foot of the Cross is the place where we find bearings for everything else. A whole new way of seeing the world and what life is all about. A new beginning in which we believe not because of might but because of love. A new humanity built upon self-giving love. And what Jesus accomplished on the Cross is something far beyond anything we could have imagined. He makes a way for us to be one with God for ever.
Through Jesus we are one with God
The atoning power of the Cross of Jesus Christ. At-one-ment. Through Jesus we are one with God. In verse 51 we read that the curtain in the temple separating the people from God’s presence – the Holy of Holies where only the High Priest could go once a year – is torn in two from top to bottom. Heaven to earth.
One sacrifice once and for all. No mediators now. God has become one with us. So that, through his death and resurrection, we might become one with him. (“The unassumed is the unhealed” Gregory Nazianzen c.380AD)
Creation itself – the physical and natural world – is the first to respond (v51b). Then the Centurion speaks the words that Matthew hopes that his readers will echo and know to be true: “Surely he was the Son of God”. Words that are established for all eternity in Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter morning.
And what is our response? As we stand in the place of the centurion at the foot of the Cross. Isaac Watts ends that hymn with his response.
“Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
Archbishop William Temple used to say that we should freely sing that final line with everything we’ve got, or freely stay silent. Because only you can sing them and mean them. No one can (or should even attempt to) compel you to sing those words. The Cross – Jesus’ love for us – does not demand anything in the sense of forcing us to say or do anything. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
Mother Teresa’s poem ‘Anyway’
That is one of the most breathtaking things as we look at the Cross. Jesus died for me, accepted my sin on his shoulders. Before I had even accepted him. Before I had asked for his help, he loved me unto death anyway. That’s the grace of God. His faithfulness and compassion. His infinite love. Jesus died knowing that some would respond, others wouldn’t. But he died for us all… anyway.
That love, God’s kind of love, is what inspired Mother Teresa to write her famous poem ‘Anyway’:
“People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centred;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.”
For God, Love is the only way. Love is who He is. And so, as well as seeing in the Cross, how much Jesus loves us. We also see how much he loves the Father. ‘In the final analysis’, to use Mother Theresa’s words, it is between Jesus and his Father. About Who God is. Jesus’ love for us and his love for the Father go hand in hand.
His prayer on the Cross: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing’. ‘It’s not about me, it’s all about them’.
His prayer in the Garden: “Yet not my will Father, but Yours be done”. ‘It’s not about me, it’s all about You.’
This nature of God, his way of love, is at the heart of Paul’s hymn in Philippians chapter 2. He writes: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:”
“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant … he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
Those verses sum up what Paul calls the ‘mind of Christ Jesus’. And it is one of self-giving love in total freedom. ‘It’s not about me, it’s all about Him’. Jesus says it of the Father. He is obedient even to death on the Cross. And the Father says it of the Son: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The Cross is our way to salvation. But it is also a glimpse of God’s glory. It is also about who God is…anyway. Love personified. God became human for us, because He is love. He died for us, because He is love. And He did that for all of us, because He is love. He did it whilst we were sinners. He wanted to do it even if we would not accept it, because He is love. Love is Who he is. His way.
And this is the key to the freedom we find at the foot of the Cross. The choice we face as we stand at the foot of the Cross is one of freedom. We are not coerced into anything. We are not shamed into loving God. He IS love. And because of his love we are free. Paul writes to the Galatians: “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free”.
Stay at the foot of the Cross until you know that. Don’t take up your Cross without first seeing God’s love. His total acceptance of you, as you are, on the Cross. Jesus did not have to die for us. He chose to. The Cross is an expression of who God is. Who you are in Jesus is the beginning and the end of the story. You have to do nothing for God other than receive his grace by faith.
The objections to the language of sacrifice always come from a mistaken belief that sacrifice is necessarily imposed. Something one doesn’t do freely. ‘Who would freely sacrifice themselves for another?’ our modern culture asks. The answer in the Gospel comes back, ‘One who loves unconditionally, whose self is utterly secure in that same love’.
If we follow Jesus in this way of love, we don’t find that our problems disappear, but we find a God “whom to serve is perfect freedom” (Book of Common Prayer). Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it”.
To anyone afraid of those words – and I do not want to minimise the cost of discipleship – please see the logic of love in this following of Jesus: Love so amazing so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. It is love that compels us (2 Cor 5:14). Nothing else could (or ever should). We do not “take up our cross “, give “my soul, my life, my all”, in order to be loved by God. His love is unconditional. He died for us while we were still sinners. He did it freely because he loves us. He died so that we can be utterly free to accept it or not. Only when one is in a relationship of unconditional love can one make sense of phrases like “love compels” or “love so amazing so divine demands“. Ask any parent who loves their son or daughter if it feels like a choice and they will tell you that it is much deeper – it is part of them. We do not respond to the cross of Jesus in order to win a higher place in God’s eyes. But simply because of who we have found in Jesus. Love personified. Mother Teresa said of her missions: “Our vocation is not the work… [our work is just] our means to put love into action”.
Our vocation is love. To simply share in the life, the way of God. Love so amazing, so divine. Demands my soul, my life, my all. We are “Jolly Beggars” as CS Lewis put it. We stand at the foot of the Cross knowing we can say nothing, other than ‘Thank you. Praise You’. And we discover that in our total dependence upon God in this place, we find the life of Christ. His way of love.
John 20: 1-18
The Empty Tomb
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
A Good Ending
I think there’s two kinds of movie watchers. I’m afraid I’m in the latter category.
The first kind watch the movie and quite like the suspense of wondering what’s going to happen next. And then there’s people like me who quite like watching a film with someone who’s seen it before so that I can ask them as we go along, “What’s going to happen next. What the ending is going to be.”
I don’t know if you read books, you might be someone who reads a novel. And when it gets all a bit tense, you turn to the final page just to check the all is going to be well. Well, if you’re like that, Christianity is such good news, because Jesus has risen from the grave and shown us the end of history today.
Here and now we can know where our lives are going. We can know that the end is good because of Jesus.
Sin, failure, death, they don’t have the last word. Things looked, in history, to be heading all in the wrong direction until Jesus came. Jesus came and we found a God who identifies with us. That’s what we look at at Christmas time. God with us, God one of us, God just like you and me. But the Gospel doesn’t end there. The Gospel is that God doesn’t only identify with us, He intervenes, He changes the course of history. The cross is God’s ultimate, yes, to humankind. Jesus willingly, identifying with us, dying in our place in love. But it’s also about an intervention. On the cross we also see a no, God’s no to sin. On the cross, Jesus bears the cost of all our sin, all our failures in life. He bears that no for us.
And the question left on Food Friday as we gathered just two days ago. Is that the end? Jesus’ life had seemed to be all about new beginnings, new starts for people, healing, freedom, but the disciples left on that Good Friday wondering “Is this the end?” They got to the tomb on that third morning with the same question, “Is this the end?” And they discover the greatest divine intervention in all of human history. God has raised Jesus from the dead. He said no to death. He says no to sin on the cross, Jesus bears that for us. And in raising Jesus from the dead, He says no to death, no to sin and death, having the last words, no to the cross being the end of the story.
It’s so important that we know this word that we use in church. Resurrection. It’s so important that we know what it means. Jesus raised some people from the dead like Lazarus, but they died again. Jesus’ resurrection is a wholly new thing. Jesus totally died. He was dead and buried and God raised Him resurrected Him from the dead, never to die again. Death defeated. In that complete end, it had to be a complete end because of our sin to get it dealt with. It made a way for a truly new beginning, a new birth into a living hope, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Therefore Paul can say “Where oh, death is your victory? Where oh, death is your sting.” The sting of course a death is our sin. If Jesus hadn’t paid for our sin on the cross, death would be the end for us. But with it paid for, death has no sting because it’s not the end. There is resurrection. It hurts now to lose those we love, but there is no sting in death for those who believe in Jesus, because he has paid the price for sin. Death is not the end. The resurrection of Jesus showed that the cross was not a defeat, the cross was a victory. God’s ultimate yes to us, to life with Him. The resurrection is His yes to eternal life for us. Paul writes, sorry. Peter writes in the New Testament. He says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In His great mercy and His great love, He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
A Living Hope
It’s a living hope. It’s a hope that we can know today. So often we think of hope as something aspirational, something that we want in the future. Christian hope is a living hope. It’s a hope that lives in our hearts. It’s something that we can know in our lives. So many people today live without hope. Feeling like life has a grim inevitability to it. There’s things that they regret, that they can’t un-change, they can’t change, and they think, “Well life can’t get better because I can’t change the things I wish I could.” Or perhaps things have gone wrong for them and have closed down their horizons and they think there’s no hope. Life without hope is a dark place. It’s the place that Mary is in as she arrives at the tomb that Easter morning. John says nothing by accident and he says it was still dark. Her heart was still heavy. She was still wondering, is there hope? But Jesus meets her there. He says, “There is hope. There is resurrection. God has intervened. I’m alive.”
As Raniero Cantalamessa says, he’s the preacher to the Pope. He gets the job of preaching to the Pope. That’s quite a scary job, isn’t it? And he said, “Easter is the birthday of hope.” It’s when hope is born. There’s not much mention before that of the word hope. But after that, in the pages of the New Testament, you find hope on almost every page because it was what we were waiting to know, that death is not the end. Our fears are not the end of the story. The regrets that we have, that we can’t change, they’re not the end of the story. God has intervened.
Karma or Grace
There is a different outcome to what we think is inevitable. I’ve read recently an interview with Bono, the lead singer of U2. He said something fascinating to me. He said that all religions, except belief in Jesus Christ just basically mimic the way the physical universe works. In the physical universe, there’s cause and effect, you act and something happens and then you can’t do anything about it. You basically get the results of your actions, the consequences of your actions. He said, that’s the basic idea of karma. What you put out comes back to you, but he says, grace, what God does for us in Jesus Christ offers us something completely different. He says, this “Love interrupts. Love interrupts the consequences of your actions, which in my case is a very good news, indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff. I’d be in big trouble if karma was going to be my final judge. I don’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the cross because I know who I am.”
He knows what he’s like. We all know what we’re like. We need something better than karma. What goes around, comes around. We need a God who intervenes. A love that interrupts our consequences and turns them into something utterly new, utterly unbelievable to us before Jesus rose again, that there could be such a new beginning, such hope. If you’re here today and you’ve given up hope that life can be that much different to what you’ve experienced so far. This is the good news of Easter morning. Easter Day is for you. Easter Day is the day to realize afresh that when Jesus rose from the dead, the situation that looked beyond all hope, Be brought hope into all of our lives. He brought an excitement that we can know, whatever we face, that love can come into our lives and change that reality. Eternally, because death is not the end, but here and now because Jesus has given us His Holy Spirit, we can know the same power, this is what it says in the New Testament, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead in our hearts, in our lives today.
And I want to finish this talk by looking at how. We see how in this passage, we see what happened to John and to Mary. There’s a poignant moment in that interview with Bono where the interviewer stops him. And he says, “The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world, I wish I could believe that.” Bono understands, he doesn’t brush that question aside. He says, “When I look at the cross, what I see up there is my sin.” Actually use a different word, but it’s asterisked out, so I’m going to use the word sin. “What I see up there is all my sin and everybody else’s. So I asked myself a question that a lot of people have asked, who is this man? And was He what He said He was? And there is. And that’s the question and no one can talk you out of it and no one can talk you into it.”
It’s true. No one can talk you out of or, into believing in Jesus. Because believing in Jesus is too important. If God’s death on the cross and his resurrection was His yes, to us, believing in Jesus is our yes, to God. It’s our way of receiving everything that He’s made possible on the cross. He’s never going to force that upon us. He’s not going to talk us into it. He wants us to see it and believe it to receive it.
In John 20, we see how this happens. Let’s look at what happens to John first. Mary goes to the tomb, she sees it empty apart from the linen. And she goes to Peter and John, she says, “They’ve taken the Lord away. I don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and John run to the tomb. And I love this. This is John’s Gospel. And John makes it very clear that he got there first. We read both were running, but the other disciple, that’s Jesus, outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He comes back to that again. He wants us to be really sure that he’s the faster runner. And Peter finally arrives, I honestly have sympathy, he’s my namesake, puffing, and blowing. But he goes past John and he goes into the tomb. And in verse six, we read that he sees the strips of linen that were wrapped around Jesus’ body, lying there. He sees the cloth that was around his head folded to one side.
Seeing with the Heart
And what we read there in verse six, if you see where it says he saw the strips of linen. That word for seeing the verb is basically, it means to observe, to take note of. It’s the kind of seeing where we take information in, but simply that, we just take in what we see. But then look at what happens next. Finally, the other disciple, John who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. And the word that he used is there for saw is a different word, it’s the same word in English, but it’s a different word in the Greek. And it means inward perception. Seeing with the heart. He saw the same facts that Peter saw. He saw the same scene, but in his heart, something said, he knew Jesus is alive. He believed. He didn’t have answers to all his questions, we read in verse nine, that he still didn’t fully understand, but he saw and he believed.
And that process of moving from information that we take in about Jesus, to transformation, where we see with our hearts is what is happening all around the world every single day, thousands of new people becoming Christians, as they see. And they don’t just hear about it, they don’t just see it as in an informational way. It transforms their lives. It’s that same process that Bono talked about. We look at Jesus, we look at the cross, we look at the evidence for the resurrection and we ask ourselves the question, “Who is Jesus?”
It’s what we do every Alpha Course, we go on that journey. If you’ve never done the Alpha Course, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Because every course that I’ve ever done, I did it myself as a guest 14 years ago, and I’ve done it pretty much every year, since at least once. I know I love it because I see people, myself included, going on this journey of seeing that transforms the heart. It’s why John wrote his Gospel. In verse 31, we read, these are written. These things are written in this book that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. And that by believing you may have life in His name. Believing is the way to have life in Jesus.
The Holy Spirit helps us with that. Because looking at who Jesus is isn’t just a historical exercise. We can look at the historical evidence for the resurrection. It’s what we do on week one of Alpha. It’s there in the Bible. It’s in other sources. But we’re not just historians because the resurrection isn’t just a past reality. It’s a present reality. It’s a future reality because Jesus is risen, never to die again, He’s alive. And you can experience that He’s alive here and now by His Holy Spirit. That’s how we know.
Listen to this prayer of Paul in Ephesians 1. He says, I pray, this is to the church, that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints and His incomparably, great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly realms. The power of the Spirit is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. And we can know it in our hearts here and now.
This isn’t triumphalism, it’s not saying that we’ll never suffer as Christians, that we’ll just go through life just pushing out all before us. This is a power that we can know in the midst of whatever situations we face. The same power that overcame death lives in us. And so we need not fear anything, whatever we face. It’s about a power, as Paul says elsewhere, that’s made perfect in weakness, resurrection power. Jesus looked to all the world utterly helpless as He was nailed to the cross. He accepted that for us, but it gave birth to a power greater than we could imagine as God raised Him from the dead. That power is [inaudible 00:21:19] by believing in Jesus.
The Chilean miner, Jose Henriquez. Do you remember him? He was trapped with 32 others. He was number 26 to come out of the grounds. He was trapped underground for 69 days. And for many days it looked like this place where they were, it was like a tomb, was going to be their grave. But he never lost hope. He led many people to Christ underground because he knew of a rescue greater than the rescue that they were all praying for. The rescue that was wrought by God when He raised Jesus from the dead. He knew a living hope in the darkness. He preaches the same message above ground in the light as he preached in the darkness.
He said this in a talk in London, recently, “Young people, you have to receive Christ. There’s no other way. There’s no better life. Here on earth, there is no better life nor in the world to come. Jesus Christ is offering an eternal life, an abundant life. But this is for those who believe in Him, who dare to believe. God didn’t send His son to die for nothing. He didn’t die for nothing. He came to die for you and for me, Jesus gave himself for us, as a rescuer. He is the real rescuer. He can save our lives. You can’t lose out young people. You have to accept God, He’s offering eternal life. He loves you.”
It’s the same message that Bono said to that interviewer, love interrupts. It interrupts the courses of our lives that seem to be hopeless and it brings a living hope. The love and the grace of God. I’ve run out of time. But I want to speak to anyone here who hears this and who says, “I feel like I’ve heard this a lot. I feel like I’ve done a lot of searching in my life for Jesus, but I haven’t found him. I hear talk about God’s love, but I don’t know what it means to experience it.” Take encouragement from Mary. Mary is the last at the cross, she’s the first at the tomb. She’s a very special person. And yet she doesn’t get it. She doesn’t even get it when angels speak to her, she doesn’t get it when Jesus speaks to her and says, “Who is it you’re looking for?”
It’s such a searching question. It’s a question basically, that is saying, are you really looking for me, Mary? Or do you want to find a dead body? Because if you’re looking for me, you should be looking for someone who’s alive. It’s not a critical question, it’s a loving one. But you know what turns everything around for her? It’s when she hears one word, she says to who she thinks is the gardener, “Sir, if you’ve carried him away, tell me where you’ve put Him And I will get Him.” Jesus said to her “Mary.” She turned towards him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” which means teacher.
John writes that word, Mary in Aramaic. He’s put her name in Greek all the way through, but he wants her to know, he wants the reader to know that Jesus calls her by name personally, in the way that he spoke to her all through his life. Jesus will speak to each one of us, personally. He calls us by name. It says in the Old Testament that He’s graven us on the palms of his hands. I like that phrase because I think that’s what happened on the cross.
The question that is the key to the gospel: Who is Jesus? (under construction)
- Evangelism begins with the question of who is Jesus? there is no other starting point because we know God exist because of the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. ntw
- this knowledge is itself a gift: Matthew 16
- video: Rowan Williams who is Jesus for you?