Who is this Man? Resurrection Sunday

March 31, 2013

Who is this Man?:  Easter Sunday
(This message was written to pick up where the Good Friday
Message left off.  I started the service
with the section and then after worship came back to the point Who Do You Say I
am?)
It’s a brand new day.  The darkness of Friday has given away to the
bright light of Sunday.  On Friday they
had watched him die. On the Sabbath they had mourned his death.  And now the darkness gave way to light and
the tears gave way to laughter.  Because
on Friday Jesus had died, on Saturday Jesus was dead in the tomb.  But today is not Friday and today is not
Saturday.  today is Sunday and Today
Jesus has risen from the dead. 
If you had of asked any number of people in the darkness of
Friday afternoon: Who is this man? The answers would have been completely
different than the answers that you would have heard with the sun brightly
shining on Sunday.  Same man, same point
in time, completely different answers. 
But on Friday, those who would describe Jesus would say that
he was a heretic, that he was deluded, some would even say that he was innocent
but they would all agree that he was dead. 
Dead and buried.  They had watched
him die and they had seen him taken down from the cross and then they had looked
on as he had been laid in the tomb and the rock had been rolled into
place.  But that was Friday and this is
Sunday.
Perhaps the first open acknowledgment of who Jesus was came
from a most unlikely source and it happened not on Sunday but late on
Friday.  When Jesus had died on the cross
and the afternoon sky became like night and the earthquake shook Jerusalem we
hear this testimony from the man who oversaw Jesus death.  The man who only hours before would have
denied the very personhood of Jesus, he was just another in a long line of
people who Rome had decided shouldn’t live and the Centurion had made it his business to make sure that Jesus’
death would be painful and humiliating.
But something had happened and as he stood before the body
of the man he had killed a sudden realization came over him and we read in  Matthew 27:54 The Roman officer and the other soldiers at the crucifixion were
terrified by the earthquake and all that had happened. They said, “This man
truly was the Son of God!”
It is interesting that in the Gospels we read that the first
to acknowledge Jesus at his birth as the Son of God were gentiles, the
Magi.  And here we read that at the end
of his life, that those who acknowledge him as the Son of God were gentiles,
the Roman Soldiers.  The sad thing about
this story though is that this is all we read about these soldiers.
There are commentators who would say that this was a point
of salvation for these men, but there is nothing to suggest that is the
case.  We don’t see them in the upper
room, there is no record of them on the day of Pentecost, and they never appear
in the narrative of the church.  But at
that point in time if you had of asked the soldiers at the base of the cross:
Who is this man?  They would have
replied: He is the Son of God.
It would appear that they had a head knowledge but that
knowledge never travelled the 18 inches to their heart to make them changed
men.  And there are those here today who
would acknowledge that Jesus was more than a man, that Jesus is indeed the Son of
God but have never let that knowledge change their lives.   And
they have never surrendered their lives to the risen Son.
We don’t know what happened between the time that Jesus was
laid in the tomb before the Sun sat on Friday and before it rose on
Sunday.  We have no account of what his
followers and families did during that time. 
What happened during those thirty six hours must have paled next to the
events of the day before and the day after. 
We may not know what happened
on Saturday but we do know what happened early Sunday morning. 
In Mark 16:9 we read After Jesus rose from the dead
early on Sunday morning, the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the
woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.
The first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, this is the Mary
Magdalene who Dan Brown tried to turn into the Bride of Christ in the book “The
DaVinci Code”.  But that is fiction.  This is the Mary who tradition tried to turn
into a prostitute, but that is fiction as well at least we don’t know that it’s
fact. 
At different times in history Mary of Magdalene
has been identified as Lazarus’s sister, the “sinful” woman mentioned in Luke
7:32 and the woman caught in adultery in John 8 that would be the entire “Cast
the first stone” story, but there is no evidence for any of those theories.
The longest description of Mary comes in Luke
8:1-3 where we read Soon afterward Jesus began a
tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News
about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with
some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them
were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife
of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were
contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
What do we know about Mary Magdalene? 
Grom that one passage We
know that she was from Magdala a village that used to exist on the shores of
the Sea of Galilee. We know that Mary followed Christ as a disciple,
that Christ had delivered her from seven demons, we don’t know what those
demons were and if anyone tells you what they were they are simply speculating,
read my lips we don’t know.  What we do
know is that it was a life changing experience for Mary.  Because she began to follow Christ, and she
began to financially support Christ.
And we know that she was the
first person to see Jesus after the crucifixion.  And if you asked Mary: Who is this Man?  I’m
sure that she would have responded “He
is the one who changed My Life” 
He’s
the one who set me free from my demons”
And in response Mary gave Jesus
the life that Jesus had given Mary. 
I would suspect that there are
many here today who could say the same, that Jesus changed your life and set
you free from the demons of your past. 
The question is, have you been willing to give Jesus the life that he
has given you?
The miracle of grace is a
changed life, that when we ask Christ to forgive us that he forgives us.  Over and over again the bible describes that
experience as a new beginning, a new life, being born again, become a new
creation.  And at that point we are given
the opportunity of a brand new life.  The
bible tells us to repent, that is to turn away from our old life, but that’s
not enough.  We are told to repent and
turn to God, that is: start a new life. 
Jesus delivered Mary from her
demons, whatever those demons were.  But
for her that was just the beginning,  the
beginning of a life following Jesus. 
Perhaps you think of a particular point in time when you “became a
Christian”, the day you asked Christ to forgive you, or the day you committed
your life to him.  But that should have
just been the beginning of your becoming a Christ Follower, when we actually begin
to follow Jesus.
Throughout the gospels there
are accounts of people delivered from their demons, people who were healed and
restored.  They each had an encounter
with Christ, as did Mary on the day he changed her life, but for Mary that was
just the beginning of a life committed to following the Jesus who had set her
free.  The same Jesus who offered Mary a
new life wants to offer you a new life. 
Mary accepted the gift, will you?
 But news of the resurrection wasn’t just for
Mary and the other women.  In Mark’s
account we read Mark
16:5-7
When they
entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the
right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You
are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is
risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell
his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.
You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
Did you catch that? 
The angel told the women “Go and tell his disciples, including
Peter.”  I don’t know if the apostles
decided that Peter no longer deserved to be a part of their group or if that
was a decision that Peter made himself.  But the messenger wanted to be clear that
Peter was to be included in the news of the resurrection.
I’m sure it didn’t take long for the news of Peter denying
Christ to make its way through the group, I’m just not sure who would have
known.  Perhaps John or one of the women,
but other than that we are told that all the other apostles had scattered and
hid.  Peter may have denied Jesus with
his words but the rest of them denied him with their actions.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
Peter had been one of the first to be called to follow
Jesus, Peter was the first to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah, Peter was the
one who offered to die for Jesus and followed that up by cutting off the ear of
one of the guards who came to arrest Jesus. 
But that didn’t matter, because when push came to shove Peter blew it,
and that’s what we remember him for on that day.
When Jesus was taken away Peter followed from a distance to
see what would happen to his friend but three times he was confronted about his
relationship with Jesus and three times he denied that he even know Jesus.  Even to the point of cursing and swearing.  And if it wasn’t enough that he denied him in
front of strangers,  Jesus was led by just
in time to hear Peter’s last denial.
Imagine being at the darkest moment of your life and hearing
the person who you considered to be your closest friend denying that they had
ever met you.  Peter knew what he had
done and he left a broken man.
And we have no idea where he had been since then.  When those at the foot of the cross had been
named, there was no Peter.  When the
bible speaks about those who took the body of Christ down from the cross and
carried it to the tomb there was no Peter. 
Was he too humiliated by his failure to face his friends?  Did he find in their faces a painful reminder
of the Jesus whom he had denied? 
However on the first day of the week we find him back with
the other 10, perhaps it was a matter of seeking safety in numbers or simply
the fact that misery loves company.  But I
wonder if he had separated himself from the group even as they gathered in the
same room?  
But the news wasn’t just for the ten it was for the
eleven.  Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter.  Yes Peter, this news is for you as
well. 
And if you had of asked Peter:
Who is this man?  He would have told you:
He’s the One Who Gave Me a Second Chance. 
Have you ever felt that you have denied Jesus?  That he has given you the chance of a new
beginning, and like Peter you started well. 
But then something happened.  And
you feel that through your actions or through your words you have denied your
relationship with Christ.
Maybe a mistake, a slip or perhaps a conscience decision to
deliberately disobey but you feel that you’ve let him down.   Let me be clear today, the same Jesus who
offered Peter a second chance is offering you a second chance as well.
Like Peter you may think that he has written you off and
that he could never forgive you.  But
that’s not the case.  The same Jesus who
offered Peter a second chance wants to offer you a second chance.  Peter accepted the gift, will you?
When Jesus appeared to the
disciples, and to Peter there was one missing. 
We don’t know where he was, perhaps he was running an errand, or
visiting an old friend but the bible tells us in John 20:24-25 One of the disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin),
was not with the others when Jesus came. They told him, “We have seen the
Lord!” But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his
hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
  And for the next two thousand
years Thomas would have a new nickname, the doubter.  But seriously we can’t know what the reaction
of the other disciples would have been if they hadn’t seen Jesus because they
had, you can’t say for sure whether or not you would have believed without
seeing because you weren’t there. 
Thomas’ life had been turned
upside down.  A week before he had
watched his teacher being swept into town on a wave of adulation.  Was this an indication of things to come?
Could Jesus be the one to bring Israel back to her former glory, to get rid of
the hated Romans?   And then Thomas
watched as Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified.  He had just gotten his head around the fact
that Jesus was dead and now everybody was saying that he wasn’t, that he was
alive and they had all seen him.  Well
everybody except Thomas, what was with that?  
Have you ever had times of
doubts in your Christian life?  If Jesus
really loves me then how come . . . ? 
And you can fill in the blank.  If
Jesus is really God then how come . . .? 
And you can fill in the blank. 
How come my kid’s sick?  How come
I lost my job? How come I lost my spouse? 
Why do I keep doing the things I know are wrong?
And then we feel guilty about
having doubts. 
I think if you asked Thomas: Who is this man?  He would reply He’s the one Who Understood my Doubts. 
Jesus didn’t write Thomas off because Thomas had doubts.  Instead he answered those doubts.  But not right away.  Listen to the rest of the story.  
John 20:26-28 Eight days later the disciples were together again,
and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as
before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. Then he
said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into
the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” “My Lord and my
God!” Thomas exclaimed.   Eight
days?  Wow, for eight days the other
disciples bubbled with excitement and Thomas simmered in doubt. 
But when Jesus showed up he
didn’t condemn Thomas for his feelings, he didn’t criticize him for “not just
believing”  Instead he said “You needed
to see to believe, well here I am.”
There are lesson there for all
of us this Easter, it’s all right to have doubts, that’s human.  But God doesn’t always work on our
timetable.  I’m sure that Thomas wondered
why he was kept waiting, the other ten had seen Jesus on resurrection
Sunday.  And we probably never understand
God’s timetable.
But the resurrection was as
real to Thomas in his time as it was to Mary and Peter in their time.  And because of Thomas we know that we aren’t
the first to doubt.  And because of Jesus
response we know that we won’t be condemned for our doubt if it leads us to
believe.
Because of the Resurrection we
can still answer the question: Who is this Man? 
By saying,   “He is the one who changed My Life, Who Gave me a second chance and who
understands my doubts.
Because here is the promise for
you today;  John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have
seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Closing of the service. 
So here we are.  Resurrection
Sunday 2013.  We have looked at the
possible answers that several people could have given to the question: Who is
this Man?  And in May and June we will be
looking at that question in depth as we look at how Jesus has changed the face
of the world as we know it.  But the real
answer to the question Who is this man? 
Cannot be given by Mary, Peter, Thomas or even Denn. 
Before the resurrection and before the crucifixion Jesus asked Peter and
the other apostles “Who do people say I am?” 
Their response is found in Mark 8:28 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say
Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.”   All understandable answers each
in their own way.  Now listen to Jesus’
response:  Mark 8:29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”
Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.”
You see folks it doesn’t matter
what or who others say Jesus is or was. 
All that matters today, for you is who do you say Jesus is?  Who is Jesus in your life.  He can change your life.  He can offer you a second chance.  And he can answer your doubts.  But only if you ask him to. 
If you were asked that question
today, Who do you say he is?  What would
be your response?  A historical figure, a
great teacher.  Maybe you would even say
with the Soldiers “He truly was the son of God.”  But he wants to be your saviour?  And only you have the power to make that
happen.   If you have never made the
decision to allow Jesus to change your life today is the day.  If you feel like you have let him down and
you need a second, or hundred and second chance today is the day.  And if you really want to believe, today is
the day.