Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006

“Victim or Victor?”
John 20: 1-18

(1)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. (2)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.” (3)Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. (4)The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (5)He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. (6)Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings laying there, (7)and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. (8)Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; (9)for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
(10)Then the disciples returned to their homes. (11)But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; (12)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. (13)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.” (14)When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. (15)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.” (16)Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). (17)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.’” (18)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.

he Roman Empire did not succeed in ending the life and ministry of Jesus Christ on the Cross. The powerful conqueror of the world could not take His life and bury Him in a sealed tomb. Easter records a glorious Resurrection! Jesus refused to be a Victim and became a Victor, over death and the tomb.

Those first three disciples who found the tomb empty represent the uncountable millions who have believed in Him over the succeeding two thousand years. Simon Peter, John the Beloved and Mary Magdalene represent our faith in Christ.

Mary Magdalene was the first person to see the empty tomb and then have a conversation with the Risen Lord. She did not recognize him at first. She was not expecting him to be alive after seeing him dead. She initially thought he was the gardener, but then Jesus called her name and she recognized his voice calling out for, “Mary!”

She probably first heard him call her name when he cast seven demons out of her, as recorded in Mark 16:9. We do not know what the nature of her possessive evil was but the old preachers used to make it sound real bad. They were encouraging the teenagers on the back pew to believe Christ can forgive any sins no matter how evil and vile. Mary Magdalene was always a hero of mine. She was on a track to nowhere in her lifestyle but became a Saint of the Church. What’s not to love and honor.

At both colleges that C. S. Lewis taught during his career were named Magdalen College, Oxford University and Magdalene College, Cambridge. Somehow the British pronounce the names “Maudlin,” and Oxford drops the e, but both lift high the great moral example of a sinner becoming pure through salvation in Jesus Christ. Truly a Victim of sin became a Victor over sin.

Also, the impetuous, rough fisherman Simon had his name changed by Jesus as a way of illustrating the completely new life he was given. Most feel that Saint Peter was a natural born leader and had a contagious personality. When he experienced that first Easter, his life took on a new purpose and he literally gave his life to fulfill Jesus’ will for him. The Grace of Christ became the victory in his life.

And the best friend of Jesus, John, was probably a bit of a stuffed shirt before Jesus freed him up to be open and honest with people. He became an effective evangelist and authored the most beloved Gospel of John. He was the only Apostle to die a natural death. The stories say that the people of the Isle of Patmos literally loved him because he loved them, and it was just natural that they all came to love his Savior too. This compelling love still seeks us and opens a Victorious Life for each of us!

Jesus arose from death and the promise is that all of His Saints will too. Although we serve under a death sentence, we all live with an irrepressible sense of certain victory! Our Resurrected Savior wraps a rainbow around the cloud of death and calls to serve Him in Victory! Will we be Victims of sin and death, or Eternal Victors?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
Easter Sunday, April 16, 2006