GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ is risen!

GETTING THE MESSAGE/Christ is risen!


Easter is this coming Sunday, and it is good to remember the hope that the resurrected Christ gives to fallen men in a fallen world. This is the faith particular to Christians: Christ’s resurrection is not only the object of our faith, but the example of our hope. In Christ shall all be made alive.

John tells his account of the resurrection, not only to give historical details, but to point out theological truths connected with it. Clearly, one of these truths is Christ’s victory over death.  John points out that when he and Peter got to the tomb, they didn’t see the body of Jesus, but they did notice the linen cloths and face cloth used in the burial of Jesus.

We read in chapter 19 that 75 pounds of aloe and myrrh had been used in the process of wrapping the body of Jesus with these cloths. It would have been no easy process to unwrap all the linen saturated and coated with these spices. Yet Peter sees all the linen cloths and the face cloth folded by itself. It is not the scene you would see from someone stealing or moving a body.

Rather it points to a mission accomplished once and for all. It is symbolic of the death of death. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he commanded that the grave cloths be taken off of him to set him free. Here, Jesus’s resurrection means all those united to him will not be bound by death any longer. Even if they die, yet shall they live (John 11).

His resurrection was a public acceptance of his mediatorial work by the Father. All the prophets pointed to a Messiah or Savior who would reconcile sinners to God. The Son of God came into the world to die, and die he did, for our sins that we might live through him. His whole life was in service to God, standing in the place of men. The discarded linen cloths and folded face cloth means we can approach God face to face in his name. Death has lost its sting. 

Jesus accomplished what he came to do. He then ascended to the Father (verse 17) where he reigns as king, spreading his kingdom with the conversion of every soul who looks to him for life and peace with God. It is a great comfort for the Christian to know Christ has sweetened the grave to make it an entrance to true freedom and joy with God forever.

We also see the love Christ has for his people. Mary Magdalene is prominent in the story. Her devotion to Jesus is evident. She weeps at the grave because the body is missing. The resurrected Jesus then appears and asks her why she is weeping. Who is it she is looking for? She was looking for a corpse, but the one she seeks though he died, yet he lives again.

When Jesus spoke to Mary she didn’t recognize him; she thought it was the gardener, someone who was in charge of the place. She was right about him being in charge, but wrong about who it was. Jesus corrects her by calling her by name, “Mary.” There is great consolation in anyone calling your name in a loving way. Here the sacrificial Lamb of God, the now resurrected Savior and Lord of all, calls her by name in a way no one else can.

Think about your sins for a moment. Not the struggles, trials, and pains in this world we all suffer from; just sins, and even reduce it to only the sins of your heart, your thoughts. Then imagine the Holy God coming and calling you by name. If you have conviction of sin, you would want to run and hide. But with the Lord is forgiveness and Mary knows that forgiveness.  Jesus calls Mary, not to accuse, but to express his love for her.

Mary, now recognizing the Lord, embraces his feet in humble adoration. The reason he directs her to not cling to him is because he has even greater felicity in mind for her and all his people. He is going to ascend to heaven and then send the Holy Spirit, so that the truths about him become clearer, convey deeper depths of his love, and show the light of His eternal glory.

Jesus calls his sheep by name. They hear his voice and follow him. If you believe in Him, it is because he called you in the way he called Mary. If you have never harkened to his voice, now is the time to do it. Call on Christ, come unto Christ, and live.

The Rev. Chris Shelton is pastor of Union’s First Presbyterian Church.

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