John 20:1-18

2 John 1:1-6

            The strangest news was beginning to be shared.  It made no sense to those telling of the news and as well as to those who receiving the news.  People were stunned and left with minds that were whirling and wondering.  Could it be true?  Mary Magdalene and the other women started the news.  They had gone to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning.  The stone that had sealed the tomb shut was open allowing them to enter the tomb.  They found the was empty.  Jesus’ body was gone.  So too were the guards who had been there to prevent anyone going into the tomb.  They were gone.  Two men in white, angels perhaps, said Jesus had risen from the dead. What does that mean?  Risen from the dead?  When the women returned to the city to share the news with others, two men, Peter and John ran to the tomb and only found the grave clothes that had once wrapped Jesus body.  Mary had followed Peter and John back to the tomb.  After the men returned home, Mary said she saw him.  Him who?  Mary said she saw Jesus.  Mary said when she realized Jesus was standing in front of her, she fell to the ground and grabbed him around his feet.  It was such a good feeling to hold onto him because Jesus was not dead; he was alive!  Did you hear that news, Jesus is alive!  Could it be the true?

            What is truth?  What you believe about the news coming from Jerusalem 2,000 years ago determines the entire nature, direction, purpose, and meaning of your life now and for all eternity. Let that sink in for a moment. What you believe about the news is the most important thing you will ever consider in your life.  If you believe the news that Jesus arose from the dead to be the truth, then you will live your life one way.  If you do not believe the news about Jesus to be the truth, then you will live your life an entirely different way.  The belief or non-belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is a fork in the road that everyone must confront.  There is a funny thing about forks in the road, you cannot choose both.  You must choose one.

            As this news that Jesus had risen from the dead first spread throughout Jerusalem and then onto to Samaria, and then modern-day Syria, Turkey, Greece, and Italy people began deciding whether they believed the news or not.  Those who believed this news to be true began living in a new way.  They who believed this news called themselves followers of the Way or those who belonged to the Way.  Those who did not believe tried to insult those of the Way by calling them “Christians.”

            The lives of the followers of the Way were completely changed.  “42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).  These people believed Jesus had been raised from the dead.

            The basis for our faith in the resurrection in Jesus today comes in part from the drastic and dramatic change the people of the Way went through in their lives.  These people believed that their fellowship with Jesus in the here and now as well as for eternity had been restored.  They believed that fellowship with Jesus meant they had found forgiveness, grace, and salvation that could never be taken from them.  Everything about these people was open to change because they believed Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was the truth. 

            “What is truth?”, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate asked Jesus shortly before ordering Jesus to be executed.  Jesus had shared with Pilate that Jesus was born and came into this world to testify to the truth.  And everyone on the side of truth listens to Jesus (John 18:37).  But what did Jesus mean?  What is the enduring truth?

            In a Roman sense of truth, which is largely the way our society sees truth, truth is about the factual representation of events summarized by accounting for who did what, when, where, how, and why.  The factual representation of the events 2,000 years ago matter.  What are the facts?

  • Fact. Jesus was crucified on a cross, was stabbed with a spear, and died.
  • Fact. Jesus dead body was removed from the cross and buried in a tomb carved out of rock.  In ancient days, tombs were left unsealed for three days to allow the family to make daily visits to check on the body of their loved one to make sure the person was dead.  They feared mistakenly burying someone who was alive.  In Jesus’ case, the authorities wanted no one to check on Jesus so they moved a rock in front of the opening to the tomb, placed a seal on the rock threatening anyone who might seek to disturb it, and then posted guards to make sure no one entered.  As far as the authorities were concerned, Jesus would never be seen again.
  • Fact.  On the third day following Jesus’ death, women came to the tomb hoping to give a final treatment to Jesus’ body, but his body was not in the tomb.
  • Fact.  As abruptly as the disciples began grieving Jesus’ death on the cross, the disciples abruptly stopped grieving the death of Jesus.  Instead of grief, the apostles exhibited joy and began speaking about Jesus being alive.  Some 500 people believed Jesus arose from the dead and that for forty days Jesus talked with them, ate with them, and taught them before Jesus was lifted bodily into heaven.

These the facts concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus as seen through the events.  We read these truths in our first Scripture reading from the Gospel of John who described women coming to the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid.  How they found it empty and that Peter and John ran to the tomb.  While Jesus said these things, these truths about events, would be said about him, this was not the central truth that he came to share.

            The truth Jesus was talking about dealt with the understanding about God. The truth Jesus was talking about dealt with the kingdom of God.  The truth Jesus was talking about was ridiculed at first, then violently opposed, and then accepted as self-evident by those seeking the truth.  The truth was spoken about by the apostle John in our second reading today from the letter we call, 2 John.  He wrote, “The elder, To the lady chosen by God and to her children, whom I love in the truth—and not I only, but also all who know the truth— because of the truthwhich lives in us and will be with us foreverGrace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.  It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us.”  John’s central point is that Jesus came to guide people into the Truth, that is into alignment with the living God.  Jesus came to show us God by living out life here on earth in the human form of Jesus.  Jesus was and is the visible imagine of the invisible God.  John wrote in 1 John “That which was from the beginning, [Jesus] which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”  John’s point was that Jesus who was with the Father in the beginning is someone John and others experienced through their senses of touch, hearing, and seeing.  Jesus is real and he appeared to them.  In Jesus, was the truth about the very nature of God which John described in our reading today as grace, mercy, and peace.

            “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love” (2 John 1:3).  Grace is a kindness given to one who does not deserve kindness.  Grace is an attitude of forgiveness and restoration.  Grace is a quality through which someone can extend joy to another. Jesus offered grace, a kindness to all the people, because Jesus wanted people to know the truth that God has grace, an unending kindness.  Paul wrote, “How much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Romans 5:15).

            “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love” (2 John 1:3).  Mercy is a pardon and release from an end that is predictably tragic, clearly disheartening, and obviously inevitable. We cannot save ourselves from our own sin and so Jesus offered mercy in the form of a pardon for sin because he wanted people to know that truth that God is merciful.  How are we to view such mercy?  Far too many people then and now think of God as a captain of a ship standing at the gangplank as people enter.  God asks your name and then looks through the ship’s manifest he holds in a clipboard before you board.  If your name is there, you can enter.  If not, then he points you to move toward the gangplank leaving the ship and move toward hell.  In reality, because of God’s mercy, God is more like a captain of a rescue ship.  He is reaching over the rails of the ship grabbing hold of people to get on the ship before they drown.  He is tireless in his rescues.  God is always calling out, “Grab my hand.  Swim closer, draw nearer!”  God desires to lose none because God is merciful.  Hell is not for the weak.  Hell is for the strong, for those with a spirit so arrogant that it cannot be crushed or broken, and so is unable to surrender to God.  Jesus offered mercy because, the truth is, God is merciful.

            “Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love” (2 John 1:3).  When we think of peace we think of peace as freedom from disturbance or a period of no war. Peace used here is peculiar. Peace is a permanent tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is.  The peace God desires for us is permanent. It is a feeling of tranquility. We do not fear facing God because Christ intercedes for us.  Because we do not fear God, we do not fear people, circumstances, or even viruses. Because we are at peace within ourselves, we can be peaceful with people.  Jesus said, “27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).  Jesus gave us peace because God is a God of peace and does not want us to be fearful people.

            The truth Jesus came to share is God, a God of grace, mercy, and peace and a God who is most visible, most real, most experienced in love.  God raised Jesus from the dead because of love.  In the kingdom of God, power is always, always, shown by giving life.  Therefore, faith in the resurrection of Jesus gives rise to the promise of the fullness of life experienced by living together now and forever in God’s love.  This is the fork in the road.  The resurrection calls us to choose to live life in God’s love.  We know that in God’s love, nothing good is ever lost. In Jesus, we are made good and therefore are never lost.  We read this truth about love over and again in Scripture:

  • God is love (1 John 4:8).
  • God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
  • But God demonstrate his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

The truth is the resurrection of Jesus is about love.  The resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate this day radically reveals the mystery of love.  For us to be radically changed by belief in the resurrection of Jesus, we must live our life in and through love.  The Apostle John highlighted this point in the final two verses from our reading today, “5 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”  To believe in the news of the resurrection of Jesus is to be empowered to walk a life in love.  Love is the Way.  Love is the Means.  Love is the Result. 

      What is Truth?  The Truth is God.  A God of love who gives life lived in the richness of grace, mercy, and peace. Jesus came to testify to this Truth and to call us to follow him in a life of love.  Those on the side of truth listen to Jesus.  On this Easter Sunday, I want to encourage you to listen to the resurrected Jesus and walk this day forward in love.  Amen and Amen.