The Crowning Moment of Easter

March 23, 2008

 

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

John 20: 1-18

1Early 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. 2So 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." 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9or as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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." 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

15Jesus 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."

16Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.'" 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Happy Easter!

 

Our topic and our title for today is “The Crowning Moment of Easter.” Let me ask a question – what was the crowning moment of Easter? When did Easter really, really happen? What was the moment that divided the darkness from the light? What was that critical moment when the dawn rose like thunder, and Easter took place? What was that moment?

 

Let’s look at the scripture and discover it together. Jesus had walked the earth. He had healed people. He had taken people whose hearts were broken, and made them happy again. He healed the sick. He gave sight to the blind. He gave hearing to those who could not hear. He went about preaching the Good News of the love of God everywhere. And now, this Jesus, this beloved One, who came to be the King of our hearts, fell in to the sin of the world. All the accumulated sin of everyone who had gone before and everyone who would ever come after was concentrated upon Him as He went to His death on the cross. He took the burden of our sin to Himself. He was crucified, and He died. All the evil that ever had happened and that ever would happen was focused in that one place at that one time.

 

His followers were heartbroken. They didn’t know where to turn. They had placed their hopes upon him. “We had hoped,” they said to one another after His crucifixion, “We had hoped that He would save us all, and now He is gone.”

 

Three days later, the women went to the tomb and saw a remarkable thing. The tomb was empty. And they had a vision of angels who told them that Jesus was alive. But they were saddened and confused. They went back to tell the disciples. John and Peter ran to the tomb. And they were confused. The body was not there, but they didn’t know what to think. Was that Easter?

 

Mary, beloved Mary, sat at the tomb and wept. As she wept, she heard a gentle voice. “Woman, why do you weep?”

 

And through the veil of her tears and her agony, she said, “Sir, Gardener, if you are the one who has taken that body, I need you to tell me where you have put Him, and I will go and take Him myself.”

 

And then, my friends, something remarkable happened, something more remarkable than the rolling away of the stone, something more remarkable than the falling to the earth of the guards like dead men. The Easter moment happened just then, because Mary heard upon her ear one word. One word, from the Lord Jesus. “Mary.” And she turned, and her eyes were opened, and she knew that it was Jesus. It was Jesus, speaking her name.

 

And I would suggest to you, my friends, that that was the Easter moment. That was the crowning moment of Easter, when Mary heard her very name spoken by Jesus, Himself. That was the decisive time. That’s when darkness turned to brightness. That’s when the midnight turned to dawning. That’s when despair turned to hope. That was Easter!

 

And the Good News is this, for you and for me. If in your private time of prayer, if during those times when you go to speak with the Lord, you would just be still, invite the Lord to speak your name. Hear Him speak your name with love, with encouragement, with affirmation. If you will just begin there, Easter will happen for you.

 

That’s where it all begins, my friends, when you know that God cares so much about you that He knows your name, that He wants to speak your name, that He has wonderful things to tell you. “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well-pleased.” “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Hear Him say that to you in your time of prayer. Hear Him say your name with love and comfort, because that’s where faith begins. That’s where Easter begins, knowing that your name is written upon the heart of God.

 

It is my prayer for you, my friends. In your silent time, take that moment. Hear the Lord speak your name. “Joseph.” “Richard.” “Allen.” “Susan.” “Barbara.” “Claire.” Whatever your name may be, hear the Lord speak your name, and hear the affirming things he has to tell you. And if you do, Easter will happen for you. Not just for the blessed Mary, but for you, because God loves you. I do, too. Happy Easter. Amen.

 

© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski