Don’t hold on…Jesus is risen John 20:1-18
He has risen! We can only imagine what someone would say and do if they suddenly saw a dear friend alive, whom was thought to be dead. We can only imagine what Mary did when she first saw her dearest friend and saviour Jesus, whom she was certain, was dead, now risen and standing before her. What would you do if you thought someone you loved was dead, perhaps after a terrible accident or after being lost, and then you suddenly saw them?
Of course you would run and give them a great big hug and hold onto them tightly in great joy. You would hold onto them, never wanting to let go, thinking, ‘Now we are together, nothing will separate us.’ Naturally, we would want things to return to the way they were before the incident, wanting everything the same, wanting the relationship to be the same, wanting the future to be a continuation of the past.
Mary of course acted in the same natural way we would if our dear friend whom was dead, but now stands before us alive! She grabbed hold of him, she hugs him and does not want to let go of him. Things were going to be the same again; going to return back to normal. Jesus was once again going to be walking with his disciples and caring for them again, teaching about the kingdom of God; by his very presence, his victory over death, shows that he is right in his claim to be the messiah, the resurrection and the life. What a joyful future it will be, now that the future is going to be the same as the past.
But can it ever be? Can the future be the same as the past, now that Jesus has risen from the dead? Can the past be held onto, now that Jesus has over come the past?
As Mary clung to Jesus, he said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ With these words Jesus announces that the past is finished with, there is no going back or holding on to the past. His death and resurrection dealt with the past. Things are not the same the other side of death and resurrection. Here, where Jesus lives forever, dawns a new life forged in forgiveness and sustained by his presence with us through his word and sacraments.
Jesus’ telling Mary ‘not to hold on me, I’m going back to my God and your God’, is not a word of rejection, but a word of hope and acceptance. A word that tells us that the past is over; there is no need to hang onto it anymore. Our God, because of Jesus atoning death on the cross, does not hang on to our past sins, as Psalm 103 announces ‘The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’
Mary certainly understood Jesus’ words in this way and released her grip on Jesus, knowing she will never lose him again, even in her own death; for he is the resurrection and the life. She does not have to hold onto him for fear of losing him again, because from now on he is going to be present in a different way. He is to return to the Father, in order to be present always and at all times and in all places, bringing forgiveness and peace through his word and sacraments. Jesus is giving her the freedom to now go and live without hanging onto burdens of the past. Guilt and shame of the past, are forgiven. Now she has the freedom, courage and hope to announce ‘I have seen the Lord!’
Today we witnessed the baptism of Logan and Gus. Baptism brings the cross and the resurrection to us now. Through his ascension to his Father, Jesus is present now by his living word and holy sacrament, giving victory over sin, death and the devil, as his word promises ‘whoever is baptised and believes will be saved.’
Here today, in the waters of baptism, Logan and Gus died to sin, went to the grave with Jesus where the old sinful nature was put to death, and now by the power of Jesus resurrection, the living word of God brought Logan and Gus to new life in Jesus. St Paul says ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. ‘ You can go from here today and say ‘I witnessed a death and resurrection!’
Each baptism is a new Easter miracle, a new death and a new resurrection to life in Jesus. From this moment on for Logan and Gus, and from the moment of your baptism on, the past is finished with; we no longer hang on to the past or live as we did in the past. We may want things to be the same and naturally, we still try and hold on to our sin or grievances, like we hold on to a friend. But in baptism the old sinful nature was put to death with Jesus and our new self, which is brought to life in Christ, now lives.
Jesus words ‘do not hold on to me’, give you and me the freedom to let go of past guilt, to let go of past hurts and sinful ways, let go of fear and of anxiety, because in letting go, we are confessing our sin and allowing Jesus to forgive. Our future is now no longer a continuation of the past, but is a new freedom, forged in forgiveness and sustained by his presence with us through his word and sacraments.
In fact, every time we confess our sins to God and to each other, and receive a word of forgiveness from God, either through the pastor or when in private, through another Christian, the miracle of a new Easter happens; a new death to self and a new resurrection to life in Christ is enacted upon us by the very words of Jesus, ‘If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.’
The life of a Christian is always about the cross and resurrection. Going to church always revolves around our dying and living, and discipleship is always centred on Christ’s call to let go of the past and to live in the forgiveness of Jesus, just as the prophet Micah said ‘And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.’
Our life is a life worth dying to live for, because Christ died for us and now lives in us by faith. His resurrection is ours through baptism, his life is ours, his righteousness is ours, all that is his is ours by faith, trusting in Jesus very words to you and me today ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ Amen