‘Mary Magdalene, the first evangelist’

Easter Sunday, 2024
John 20:1-18

John’s account of the resurrection of Jesus begins and ends with Mary Magdalene. In verse one she is heading to the tomb of Jesus before it is even daylight. At the end of this initial resurrection account, in verse 18, she has returned to the city, for the second time that morning, and is proclaiming to the disciples that Jesus has risen. There can be no doubt of the significance John gives to Mary in this story.

But just who was Mary Magdalene? How does she come to be the first witness of the empty tomb? The first to see and hear the risen Lord? And the first to proclaim his resurrection?

Mary Magdalene was so-named in the gospels because she was from the town of Magdala, which lay on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee between Tiberius, the regional capital to the south, and Gennesaret to the north. Little today is known of the town, which was destroyed in the Jewish uprising against Rome in 70 AD. Archeology suggests it was significant, urbanized town, and we also know that the building of boats and the drying and pickling of fish were the dominant industries there. Rabbis at the time of Jesus criticized the inhabitants for their lose morals. None of the Gospels mention whether Jesus visited the town, but given that it was in Galilee and that one of his early and most devoted followers was Mary from Magdala, it is safe to assume that he had some ministry there.

Mark and Luke tell us that Jesus cleansed Mary from seven demons (Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9). So Mary was a woman who was in a great deal of strife and pain before meeting Jesus. She was a woman who owed Jesus everything. From the time that Jesus healed her it seems that she did not leave the close band of disciples who followed Jesus. She is mentioned in all four gospels, and all four list her as being a witness both to the crucifixion and the empty tomb. And John and Mark agree that she was the first person to see the resurrected Jesus. She stood beside Jesus’ mother Mary and John at the cross. And when others left, she remained to see where Jesus would be buried (Mark 15:47), which is how she knew where to go before dawn on that Sunday morning. And that is basically what we know of Mary Magdalene. She was not the Mary who anointed Jesus before his death, and there is no biblical evidence that she had been a woman of ill repute.

But what we do know of Mary is enough.

Apart from John, it was the female disciples of Jesus, including Mary, who did not run and hide when Jesus was led to the cross. When Jesus was dead and others left in despair, it is Mary who stayed to see where his body would be taken. And it was not the disciples who went to the tomb before dawn as soon as the Sabbath was finished. It was Mary Magdalene.

And that is where John picks up the story. Mary shows up at the tomb apparently with no plan as to how she roll the sealing stone away so as to further minister to Jesus’ body the traditional rites for the dead. But in the early light she notices something unexpected. The stone has already been rolled away. She looks into the tomb and finds it empty.

Her thoughts race. She is not thinking that Jesus has risen, but that his body had been stolen or moved. She does the only thing she can think to do. She hurries to be place where Peter and the other disciples are hiding, probably the upper room they had rented for the Passover, the same room in which a few days earlier they had eaten with Jesus and he had washed their feet. She wakes them with the news, and Peter and John rush to the tomb to see for themselves what has happened. They do not wait for Mary as they run. And John does not wait for Peter. These are people still in grief and shock, and now in a panic.

John arrives first and sees the tomb empty apart from the linen burial cloths, but does not go in. Peter runs straight past John when he arrives and goes into the tomb. It is indeed empty, and the linen wrappings are lying where the body of Jesus had lain, but the head wrapping, or Soudarion, is rolled up, or folded, laying separately. And this is an odd and interesting detail. But it is an important detail, for the evangelist tells us that when he saw the burial cloths for the head in his state, he believed. But why?

Many have speculated on the significance of the head wrapping laying folded and separate to the other burial cloths. If you look on the internet you will very quickly find one recently popular theory that a folded napkin in Jesus’ time meant that a dinner guest was coming back. Some versions of this story say that it applied only to kings. So the point is that the folded head covering meant Jesus would be returning.

But there are problems with this explanation. Firstly, napkins were not used at table for meals in this period. And even if they had been, it would be a long leap from napkin to burial head covering and from dinner table to tomb. More importantly, no source from the ancient world has ever been given that cites this custom, and no biblical commentary even mentions it. A more thorough search of the web reveals an explanation. The story first arose on the internet in 2007, not in Jesus’ time. So we will need to look elsewhere to understand the significance of this detail.  

Another view is that the presence of the burial cloths simply demonstrated that the body of Jesus had not been stolen or moved. After all, who would strip a body of burial cloths, then move the body, leaving the wrappings behind. And if they did, why take the time to fold them neatly?

A more powerful and more likely explanation is to be found in looking more closely at the meaning of the Greek verb entylissein, literally to wrap or to roll up in an oval shape. Translators have long struggled with how to translate the word, and have often settled on ‘wrapped up’ or ‘folded’, as this seems to make sense in the context. But what if John literally meant that the head cloth was still wrapped in an oval shape? This would convey the sense of the head wrapping as still in-tact, in the shape of the head and face which it had covered. That is, it had not been unwrapped. The many ointments used by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would have been more than enough to hold the cloths’ shape in place. And such cloths did not simply fall loosely off. When Lazarus was raised he came out from the tomb completely wrapped in his burial cloths and Jesus has to instruct those standing by to unwrap him. So, if the head cloths were still wrapped and in place, perhaps even with the outline of the head and face still showing, that would have been quite remarkable. If Jesus could appear through walls and closed doors, as happened later that night, then it seems John is telling us that his resurrected body simply left its burial cloths without unwrapping them. It would explain why John tells us that when he saw the burial cloths in this manner, he believed.

Whatever the situation was with the burial cloths, it was clear that something truly extraordinary had taken place in the tomb.

With nothing else to investigate or be done, Peter and John decide to leave. And the focus shifts back to Mary. For by this time, Mary has certainly caught up, and has arrived at the tomb. But Peter and John do not wait for her. They do not share with her their thoughts. They do not stay to keep vigil with her at the empty tomb.

In hindsight, they should have waited. For things are about to turn from mysterious to miraculous.

First, Mary, who is still weeping, sees two angels in the tomb, one sitting where Jesus’ head had been, and the other, his feet. She likely rubbed her tear covered eyes thinking she was seeing things. But the visions spoke audibly to her. They asked a simple question of Mary: ‘Why are you crying?’

On the surface of it, it was a silly question. Mary was at a fresh tomb. Someone she deeply loved had died. Why did they think she was crying? But Mary gives them an honest and obvious answer to the question. Not only was Jesus dead, but his body had been taken away and she does not know where it has been laid. The wording of her answer to the angels’ question is virtually identical to what she had said to Peter and John when she found them earlier that morning. Her concern has not changed. The missing body has added grief upon grief for Mary.

It is a natural response. We often see the relatives of those killed perhaps in a boating accident, or plane crash or some other way in which the body has not been found. They are still coming to terms with the loss of their loved one, but now all they want to do, all they can do, is find the body to say a proper goodbye. That is the situation Mary was in.

Then Mary becomes aware that there is someone else present apart from the angels. There is someone behind her, outside the tomb. She turns and sees a man whom she presumes to be the caretaker. And after so many tears since Jesus was killed, and now even more that his body in missing, there is little need of explanation as to why she does not recognise Jesus. He asks her, just like the angels, why she is crying. Again, it must seem to her an obvious question. But the man adds to the question by asking, ‘who are you looking for?’ Well, she is in a cemetery. She could only be looking for a grave. And clearly she has found the grave she is looking for. The questioner seems to know more about what is going on in Mary’s mind than a stranger should, but Mary does not pick up on this. Instead, assuming him to be the caretaker who has just showed up for work, she asks where the body had been taken. Perhaps the authorities have decided someone crucified as a criminal should not be buried in such a prominent section of the cemetery. She will quite happily take the body somewhere else.

Then the man says a single word. Her name. ‘Mary.’ And that is all it takes to spark sudden and complete recognition. Her tears of grief turn to joy as she cries out ‘Rabbouni! Teacher!’ She grabs hold of Jesus to hug him, to assure herself that he is real and that she is not dreaming. Jesus says she should not cling to him as he has not yest ascended to the Father.

Then Jesus gives her a task to perform. She is to go the disciples and tell them what has happened. She is to proclaim to them the good news that Jesus has risen from the dead. This she promptly does, making her second trip that morning to the room where the disciples are hiding. Breathless, she announces, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ then tells them the whole story.

Now this story is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, people simply do not rise from the dead. So at the very centre of this story is the event of the resurrection itself. It is an event that changed the history of the world and transformed millions of lives.

Also remarkable is Jesus’ choice of the first witness to the empty tomb, to his resurrected body, and the first to proclaim his resurrection. Women were not highly valued as witnesses in Jesus’ time. Rabbinic law, which began to be codified about a century after the time of Jesus, said that the testimony of women was not admissible in court. Other evidence suggests that it took the testimony of two women to equal that of one man. And Mary Magdalene was not even a prominent, respectable woman. Jesus could have appeared to Pilate, to the high priest, perhaps to Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, members of the Sanhedrin. Even Peter and John would have been a more strategic move to get the proclamation of the good new going.

But consider this. Jesus waits for Peter and John to leave the cemetery. Only then does he reveal himself – to Mary. His intent in revealing himself first to Mary Magdalene was clearly not to make a big impact in the arena of acceptable evidence. The reasons underlying Jesus’ decision would seem to have been much more personal and profound than such concerns.

So what is the takeaway message from this story for us, on this Easter day, some two thousand years after the first Easter?

I think it is simply this. It is the power of the message that Jesus is risen that transforms lives – that transforms the world. It is not the fame or respectability of those proclaiming the message. It never has been. Even now, it doesn’t matter who we are. How unimportant we think we are, or how invisible we might feel. Like Mary, we are given a task by Jesus – to tell people the good news that he is risen. That he has conquered death. And from the simple of power of that proclamation – ‘He is risen’ – everything begins to change.

Mary was the first to proclaim this good news. But she was far from the last. The message that Jesus lives, that death is defeated, continues to spread. On this Easter, may that message change your life. And may God use each one of us to stand in the line of succession of Mary Magdalene, and pass on the story of Jesus’ victory over death.

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!


Pastor Mark Worthing.
Port Macquarie.

He is risen indeed!

The Text: John 20:1-18


This phrase rolls off the tongue easily enough for Christians on Easter Day – but how do we know that it is true? A resurrection is not the easiest thing to believe.

We’re told that we live in a ‘post-truth’ age, that the truth doesn’t matter, that it’s relative, that it is what you make it – but do we really believe that to be true?

The truth does matter to us.

If some truth is threatened, like an issue of equality, then we will fight to preserve it. If your integrity was being called into question or if you had been slandered in some way then you would want the truth to be known. And show me a parent who doesn’t care when their child is caught lying. Instead we teach our children from a young age to tell the truth.

Jesus had come to speak and enact God’s truth. At the beginning of John’s Gospel account we are told that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us’ and that ‘he came from the Father full of grace and truth’ (1:14). Jesus himself said: ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’ (14:6). At his trial Jesus told Pilate: ‘everyone on the side of truth listens to me’, to which Pilate famously replied: ‘what is truth’? (18:37-38).

The truth was that Jesus had come to die for us. He had come to Jerusalem to be betrayed, condemned, mocked, flogged and killed. Good Friday was not a miscalculation – a case of sticking his neck out too far, too soon. Good Friday was God’s Son, the Messiah, choosing to enact God’s saving truth.

It was the truth from his own lips that led to the guilty verdict at his trial before the Jewish ruling council. The truth was that we needed the innocent Son of God to die for our sin and guilt. So, armed with that truth, Jesus went willingly to the cross to suffer and die for us – to be our way, truth and life.

But I don’t imagine a single follower of Jesus went to bed that Good Friday night comforted by this truth, comforted by his death on the cross. There was no joy or hope or life for them that day. Instead there was only sadness, despair and death.

That was the reality they had to deal with. That was the new truth they were confronted with less than 24 hours after Jesus had shared the Passover with them and told them: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust me’! They had this truth to come to terms with and it wasn’t pretty.

Good Friday on its own has nothing to give us really. All it gives us is an innocent man dying an unjust death. It is not the first time something like this has happened in human history and it won’t be the last.

But Good Friday is not on its own. We don’t stop our Easter celebrations on Friday – we simply pause them in anticipation of what is to come.

That is the benefit of hindsight for us. The first followers of Jesus did not have that luxury. They were dealing with a ‘full-stop’, with the conclusion to a life story. They were involved in the funeral arrangement stage, where the next thing to be done was to see to it that Jesus at least had a decent burial.

That is what the women came to do that morning while it was still dark. They weren’t coming to see how the life of Jesus could continue. They were coming to give it a fitting end.

And even that consolation was taken from them.

They arrived to find that the stone had been rolled back, exposing an empty tomb. The body was gone. This did not change the ‘full-stop’ into a ‘comma’ for them. They did not interpret an open tomb and a missing body as a potential resurrection, as a possible continuation of a life cut short. Why would they? Humanly speaking that was impossible.

No, all it did was interrupt their plans of giving Jesus a fitting send off. In our John reading we are given an insight into the distress this discovery caused Mary Magdalene and how intent she was on getting answers. She wanted to find out where ‘they’, whoever ‘they’ were, had put the body of her Lord.

The scenario quickly developed into something resembling a primitive crime scene investigation – CSI Jerusalem. Unfortunately the detective in this case, Mary, was not an expert in investigative techniques. So she rushed to get Peter and John. They came quickly – but they needn’t have bothered. They inspected the tomb, saw the strips of linen and the folded up burial cloth, and then went home again. Thanks for the help boys!

Mary was left to continue the investigation on her own. Surely we can understand why she wanted to know the truth about the whereabouts of the body of Jesus. We know from experience how important the funeral and burial are in the grieving process. It provides a sense of closure and enables the bereaved to move on in their lives without their loved one in it.

Thank God those plans were interrupted! And we do have God alone to thank for the change of plans. They were coming for closure and for a fitting end and God gave them an open tomb and a new beginning.

The grieving process, where the bereaved were taking steps to ensure they could try and move on in their lives, was interrupted by the risen Lord himself who re-entered their lives. Jesus started with Mary, calling her by name. Later that day he would come to his other disciples, standing among them to bring them resurrection peace and joy and hope and life.

The truth of the cross meant nothing without the truth of the resurrection. They now had the complete story and it would still take some time for this truth to sink in. But you can’t tell me that this truth didn’t matter to them. It mattered all right! It mattered so much it changed the course of their lives.

With the death of Jesus they had come to a full stop and weren’t sure what to do next. With his resurrection the story was continued and it continued with the promise that it would not end. They were now moving on with their lives, but moving on with the risen Lord at the centre of their lives. Death had lost its sting; it had lost its ability to cast a shadow on their lives. They now lived with a sense of purpose that only resurrection light can bring. This purpose bursts forth from the pages of history as we hear them declaring boldly that Jesus is risen from the dead and that he is Lord!

This confession comes from the lips of a man who denied his Lord three times at his trial. It comes from the lips of a distraught woman who just wanted to find where they had laid the dead body of her Lord. It comes from the lips of countless others who should have been in disarray, but were now united in their declaration of this amazing truth.

This is a confession that has continued to echo down through the ages, all the way to this time and this place. For their truth is our truth.

We believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. But we also believe that on the third day he rose again from the dead!

That is a truth that sets us free. It sets us free to live with a renewed sense of purpose. It sets us free to serve under a Lord who not only died for us but who also now lives for us. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! So, let’s get on with life; let’s get on with it, with the presence of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus at the heart of it. Amen. 

‘Re-member you need help’

Luke 24:4, 5, 6
While they were wondering, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lighting stood beside them. The men said, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He is risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee.

            Many people look out on a beautiful day and say, “God is good, what a wonderful thing He has made!” Many look out on that same beautiful day and say, “what wonderful beauty, it’s amazing how this world comes together!” They both see the beauty, they both speak a truth, yet for one it’s obvious that God Almighty, Creator of all, is at work; whereas for the other they just don’t see that, for them Creation is not proof of a Creator. And you know this, that two people can look at the same thing and see in it something different; especially if you’ve every helped a child find something, ‘go get your teddy,’ ‘I can’t find it,’ ‘look there it is on the couch, there, just up a bit, yep you’ve found it now.’ Sometimes we need help to really see what we’re looking at, to understand what is going on; we even need help to remember.

            Named across the gospels, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, Salome, Mary the wife of Cleopas, Susanna, Mary and Martha of Bethany, and possibly others came to the tomb to visit Jesus and to anoint His body after the rushed burial before the Sabbath’s rest at the end of Friday. Yet when they came to the tomb it was open. They saw the open tomb, they entered and saw the empty grave clothes, they saw the evidence yet they wondered. They did not understand what they were seeing. They did not remember what Jesus had said, who Jesus was. They needed help. And God sent His messengers, in Greek His angelous, to help them. To help them see the message, the Truth, to help them remember Christ’s promise. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, He has risen! Remember how He told you, while He was still with you in Galilee: “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” After these helpful words, they remembered Christ’s words. These women, disciples of Jesus, needed help to see what was in front of their eyes, needed help to understand the Truth.

            Now they understand they are sent back by God to the eleven who would be sent out by God into the world, or in Greek, they are apostles to the apostles. Eight or more witnesses to God’s message through His angels. They try to help the Eleven out of their grief, guilt and despair and tell them all that had happened, yet the eleven in their despair did not believe. However, Peter and John did get up and run to the tomb, they saw Christ’s burial clothes sticky with Myrrh, lying by themselves and went away wondering. The women had helped them out of paralysing despair, into a confused, yet perhaps hopeful, wondering.

            Then Peter, after Christ Himself revealed the Truth, is again helped by a vision and the work of the Holy Spirit to share God’s love with Gentiles and welcome them into God’s family. As we heard from the Acts of the Apostles, Peter helps Cornelius to understand the Truth of God’s grace. And later Paul is also helping young Christian congregations sending out letters to help them understand, to know the Truth of the Gospel, the Truth of Christ’s Church, the Truth of God’s work, God’s help through visions, angels, pastors and women.

And this has been the case all the way through our history, down to today. We all need help. We all need encouragement. All of us at some point or another fail to see what is right in front of our eyes. This is why God has given us companions, as He said in the Garden, ‘it is not good for the human to be alone, I will make a helper’ (Genesis 2:18). This is why He has given us parents, to help us grow up into the lives God has given us (Ephesians 6:4). This is why He has given families, and especially our Christian family, the family of God, Christ’s Church (Hebrews 10:19-25). And this is why we gather today; to help each other together remember the Words of our Lord; to be united with the wonder of all the Mary’s and also Peter; to remember that Christ did not stay dead, He was not defeated, yet rather He rose, He took His life back from death, He rose and stood in victory over the gates of hell, the devil and the corruption of this world. Jesus resurrected, and now He stands victorious over your sin, your death and your demons.

Jesus, the Word of the Lord, stands forever! He will not be shaken and His victory is sure, so hold firmly to Him as you struggle. Remember to take your stand with Him and not the distractions of this world. Remember your brothers and sisters in Him, help them and seek their help. Remember the help of God, yes visions, angels, people, yet most certainly Jesus Himself and His good words passed down for you. And remember we don’t always understand what we see, you need help.

And so, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever! Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.

‘Speaking eggs and praying buns’

Psalm 118:17
I will not die, but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done!

            Shouts of joy and victory! Christ is Victor! Our enemies are defeated! Sin is dead, the devil is bound, and death O death where is your sting? It’s gone, that’s why we’ve chocolate eggs, not chilli or prickle ones. Now, I know they’ve only been chocolate for 200yrs, but the egg has always been a symbol, a reminder of Christ’s empty tomb, His death from which comes life. It looks like a stone, something dead; and yet from the chook egg comes a live chicken, at least if there’s been a rooster involved. A symbol of life out of death, and now it’s sweet chocolate, a reminder of Paul’s words, ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’ (Philippians 1:21). For the Christian death is now nothing to be feared, it’s merely a temporary pain. For we know we have been baptised into Christ, the rhythm of His life, into His death and resurrection (Romans 6).

            So, we pray together with Him, ‘I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done!’ And another food that proclaims Jesus’ victory is the hot cross bun. The cross is obvious, Christ died that shameful and excruciating death; then traditionally spices are used, as incense and myrrh on His body to the tomb (John 19:39); but His death is sweet for us (Colossians 1:22), He’s the firstfruit of the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:20), so there’s the fruit and sugar; also no flat bread buns, because Christ is Risen indeed! Hallelujah!

            So, we can proclaim His victory with each egg we eat, every bun we munch, that our lives are joined to His and He sustains us according to the Promise. This is the Gospel of peace through Jesus Christ, Lord of all! (Acts 10) No need to fear this mystery, for God has revealed today His salvation, we have seen it! (Mark 16; Luke 2:30) By God’s grace hold firmly to the Good News of Christ’s victory and don’t reject it. (1 Corinthians 15) For ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this and it’s marvellous in our eyes. The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ And as we join with Him, ‘give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.’ (Psalm 118)

            The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now unto the Resurrection. Amen! Christ is Risen!

Pastor Joseph Graham.

Easter Sunday

The Text: Matthew 28:1-10


That first Good Friday must have seemed anything but good. Along with some other faithful followers, the two Marys had seen their Lord tortured and suffering in unthinkable agony. Mocked,humiliated and left to die. They sat on the sidelines and watched the life drain from His once strong body. The One who had spoken with such authority and hope, now lifeless and hanging on a cross. All their hopes were snuffed out just as surely as His life was. After taking His body down from the cross, they had done all they could. Hurriedly preparing Him for burial so they could observe the Sabbath, they left that garden tomb with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness.

And so when dawn breaks on the first day of the week, they tentatively make their way back to the tomb. Every step bringing them closer to the hopelessness they left behind on Friday. Every step bringing them closer to the tears and grief and despair they know is coming as they prepare themselves for the sadistic mocking that seems to come from every tomb and grave.

Jesus final words from the cross were ‘it is finished’. But to the ladies and to all who looked on, it seemed as though death had had the final word.

Isn’t that the way we experience life and death as well? Even as Christians we live out our days, knowing the hope that is ours in Christ, and yet every grave we visit seems to mock us. Every funeral we attend seems to taunt us to doubt the resurrecting power of Jesus Christ. Tempting us to despair, to heart break, to hopelessness. As long as we remain this side of eternity, the grave will always seem deceptively powerful. And now that he is defeated, the Devil will always try to convince you that it is the end. But today the Holy Spirit reveals the hidden truth for all who trust in Jesus for forgiveness. He reveals the divine reality that death is not strong enough to hold our Lord and so is no longer strong enough to hold any of us who have our lives in Him. Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed!] And because He is risen, death and the grave look completely different to us.

It’s not that we’re supposed to suddenly see death as a good thing. But in light of the Easter resurrection death is no longer the fiercesome enemy it once was. Jesus has made His way through death to life. In paying the penalty for our sins, He has broken death’s hold on us and transformed it into a doorway to eternity. As we live and even as we die, we can do so knowing that our Lord and Saviour has been through the valley of the shadow death and has come out the other side. He knows the way and has promised to be us to the very end of the age – and so He will even lead us through death to life. Because Jesus lives, because His tomb is empty, our graves are no longer the pits of hopelessness they once were.

Is there any better news than that? Why is it then, that most of the time our lives don’t seem any less filled with anxieties than the disciples’ were? If we know that Jesus is risen from the dead, if we know He has conquered our greatest enemies, why are we so often just as afraid, just as worked up, just as worried as the ladies were on that first Easter morning?

From our text it is clear that the reason the two Marys were despairing is the same reason our lives lose that resurrection joy and confidence shortly after the chocolate buzz wears off each Easter. And that reason is that we forget what Jesus has told us. You see when the ladies showed up at the tomb, we get all distracted by the fact that an angel spoke to them. But all that angel did was remind them of what Jesus had already said.

“Do not be alarmed”, the angel said, “I know who you’re looking for. Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified; nailed to the tree; taken down dead and carried right here! Well, ladies, you are lookin in the wrong place. He has risen. He is not here. He’s alive! You didn’t really think that death could hold Him down, did you? I mean, you knew Him! You saw what His Word could do. Off you go. Go tell His disciples that He is going ahead of you all to Galilee. You’ll see Him there, just as He told you.”

Just as He told you! If the ladies had simply remembered Jesus’ Word, they would have spared themselves a whole lot of heartache! But so often we forget what He has said, and even when we remember the words, we forget how reliable they are. Jesus’ promises come true no matter what. The problem lies with us forgetting or doubting what He has told us. Today we are encouraged to give up arguing with Jesus and believe and rejoice in what He tells us. You’ll find that every word of the Lord proves true. The ladies did, and when they remembered the words Jesus had told them, their fear of the unknown was now mixed with an overwhelming sense of joy. “Just as He told you.” How many of the anxieties and worries of our lives would evaporate if we always remembered what our Lord told us and what He has accomplished?

But, of course, wrapping your mind around the resurrection is no easy task when the reality of life starts to bite. Death and all sorts of other hassles seem to be the only things that are guaranteed in this world. We’re used to carrying each other to the grave. We’re used to saying “goodbyes” that are forever in this age. We’re used to trying to sort things out ourselves. Feeling responsible for our failures. Overwhelmed by the sin and shame that still weighs us down. Feeling condemned that even after celebrating a life time of Easters, you still don’t have your act together.

But remember what Jesus has told you. Remember what His word declares has taken place over these three holy days. He is the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in Him, even though they die, will live forever. He came not for the healthy, not for those who had their act together, but for the sick and stumbling like you and me. He has swallowed up your sin and shame and left it lifeless in the tomb. His blood has washed you clean as snow and He has promised to keep you in true faith as you simply listen to Him. Jesus has conquered death and the grave and is risen to reign eternally for you

Listen to these words of the risen One. He told us that death couldn’t hold Him – and He was right! And He tells us that He will meet us today to fills us with His resurrection blessings as He comes to us in bread and wine. At the altar this morning, He will pour more life into you than you’ll ever need; more forgiveness than all the world’s sin; more joy than all the sorrows of this age; more peace than all the fretting of your life. Just as He told you! Amen.

Easter Sunday

1 Corinthians 15:22
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.

  Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

Resurrection Sunday the Great Celebration of life over death, Jesus bursting from the grave to new and vigorous life! He, just like all people descendent from Adam, died; died on the cross. He was buried, but death could not hold Him, death is defeated and in Jesus there is no fear of that final enemy. Still today we search for ways to delay death, try to fight that enemy that comes for all people; many intelligent people are searching for a way to prolong our lives here on earth, to improve the quality of life as we age and even to try and find a way for immortality in this life. Certainly much good has come from this, but this world is not perfect, it is sick with sin and suffering. Our forefather Adam and Eve the mother of the living, turned away from God and went their own way; they left the source of all life, God Almighty, and tried their luck with the serpent and knowledge. And still today all humans are good children of that couple, seeking for more, for immortality, stability and power in this life, going our own way and rejecting God’s love and life itself. We all face death because of our sin and like an addiction we cannot get out by ourselves.

            But we are not by ourselves. Jesus is with us. The Holy Spirit was sent to walk alongside you, to advocate and encourage you. In baptism God promises that we are now His children, restored to His family like the prodigal son. In baptism we are together with Jesus, we are joined back to the source of life, so now death has no power over us (1 Corinthians 15:54-55)! Jesus says that those who believe will not perish, even if they die, still they will live (John 11:25)! Glory to God our Father! This is the wonder of Resurrection Sunday, that Jesus rose from the dead, not to die again as Lazarus, the widows child, or any number of people who have come back from being dead. Death no longer has any power of Jesus, He rose from the dead not just for His everlasting life, but for yours. If we are joined with Him in His death to sin, surely we will rise again in a new, everlasting and glorified life like His (Romans 6:1-14; Philippians 3:21).

Jesus rose, and as certain as that is, you who are joined to Him in baptism and Holy Communion have life everlasting. On Good Friday we see our sin and evil destroyed, wonderful thing that this is, without the new life of today we are left suffering in this evil world. But this world is not the end. Those scientists that seek to extend life, even if they are successful will not reach the peace, joy and love that only the Triune God provides. With Jesus we are truly free from sin, from guilt and shame, free from the destruction our desires bring on ourselves, freed from sin, death and the devil. Yes will still suffer temptation and evil in this world, just as Jesus did, but just as it was promised that we would be freed from the power of sin and death, so He has promised, that just as He died and rose, so too you and I will be renewed when He returns at the resurrection of the dead, when sin, death and the devil will be destroyed. Now this wonderful comfort, you are forgiven, you are in Jesus a new creation a new life, this is not just for you, but for all people!

We heard from Acts Peter’s realisation that salvation was not just for the Jews, but for all people in all the world, for us and every different type of person. This offer of forgiveness and new life is for all people. So Jesus told the disciples to preach, to speak of His love to all people, to testify that Jesus is the judge of the living and the dead and that everyone who trusts His forgiveness is forgiven. It does not matter if you are Greek, German, Tigrinya, Australian, rich, poor, the nicest person down the street, a rapist, or even a politician; this message, this Good News, is for all people. For all people have turned away, all have sinned, all people face death, but God rich in mercy, many times more merciful than us, does not wish our destruction, rather that all people turn back to life, to love, to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, Lord of all and saviour of sinners. In sin all die, but in Jesus all will be made alive.

And the peace of God which passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and forever. Amen.

Pastor Joseph Graham

Easter Sunday


Matthew 28:1-10


Dear Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we do not fear, but trust in the words of our resurrected Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Hands up all those who have ever felt an earthquake? Our brothers and sisters in New Zealand are all too familiar with feeling the earth shake beneath their feet.

I’m sure they would tell us that this can be terrifying, because there is nothing firm, nothing staying still and secure for you to stand on. The best approach is to get to a place that at least might offer at least some protection from falling objects, or to keep you safe from the walls toppling down on top of you.

But there’s another type of earthquake that most of us have felt, or will one day feel. This is where our life gets very shaky. The things that we have trusted as firm and secure have suddenly become very insecure. For example, you may have had a good job, secure investments, and a great house to live in. But how did, or would you feel, if you lost your job, all your hard earned investments or your house was lost?

Or, perhaps it’s not property, but you may have had good health. You do everything right, you look after yourself, eat and drink the right things, but then your health fails. Your strong legs, hands, or heart become very shaky and you feel you will never be the same again and you grieve for lost opportunities.

Maybe you lose friends or family. You may have had a good spouse that was taken away by tragedy, or through bitter and gut wrenching divorce. You may have lost siblings or close friends that you think you will never be able to replace.

Whatever it is, we have either faced it or will one day face it. We will be faced with times of upheaval, turmoil and our future will look very shaky. The things we had previously put our faith in, or relied upon, are snatched like a rug from under our feet, and we grasp at anything that promises even a glimpse of security.

Now imagine you are Mary Magdalene or the other Mary. Your world has been tossed up, shaken and torn. The man, who promised so much, had been gruesomely killed and laid to rest in a tomb. This man had performed miracles, he had stood up to teach those in authority how to live according to God’s Word, and he had even raised people from the dead. Yet, when he died without a whimper, your hopes and dreams are shattered. Where is your hope now?

As you try to cope with the emotional earthquakes over the past few days, you go to the tomb to see it once more. On your way, you experience a physical earthquake.

The guards at the tomb also feel the earthquake. Along with the shaking of the ground, they see an angel of the Lord in shining white who rolled back the stone in front of the tomb. Most appropriately, they did the only logical thing when faced with such strange sights – they shook like an earthquake themselves and fell over as if they were dead.

It’s strange that St Matthew alone focuses so much on earthquakes and shakings. There are several times in his gospel account where he points out a violent shaking. For example, when Jesus died, the earth shook and rocks split. The guards around Jesus saw the shaking and bore witness that Jesus is the Son of God. When Jesus rose from dead, the earth shook once more and the guards witnessed it again.

Matthew is trying to tell us something.

He is trying to point back to other times when the earth shook. As we look in the bible, we see that when the Israelites were around Mt Sinai, the earth shook. God sat on Mt Sinai and the ground shook. Perhaps Matthew is pointing to the fact that when the earth shook at these times, God was present on earth? These were times when God acted. These were times when God sent his judgement.

God was in action at the time of Jesus’ death and at the time of his resurrection.

Yet earthquakes bring fear. Where is our security when everything has changed, moved all around and been taken away from us? As the two Mary’s walked toward the tomb and felt the earthquake, did they think, ‘Oh, it’s ok, God’s at work?’ No, in fact they were terrified. Their whole world had been turned upside down.

At the time when they thought God was absent and defeated, the angel said those wonderful words; ‘Do not be afraid.’ Later, when they hurried from the tomb with mixed feelings of fear and joy, how did Jesus himself greet them? ‘Do not be afraid.’

Why shouldn’t they be afraid? Why shouldn’t we be afraid?

Because God is at work. In the midst of turmoil and upheaval, God is at work. As Jesus is raised from the death, God’s judgement has been carried out. Our wicked foe has been defeated. Jesus rose triumphant from the grave. Death has been defeated.

Yeah, yeah, so what!

We’ve heard this a hundred times before.

Every year, and even a few times during the year, we hear those words. We hear Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. We hear death has been defeated. But what has that got to do with my struggles at work, my struggles at home, my fading health and my loss of friends and family?


It’s when the physical, emotional and mental earthquakes surround us and we feel like we are on shaky ground, the words the angel and Jesus spoke to the women are the most welcome and reassuring words we want to hear: Do not be afraid.


Because what’s the worst that can happen?

We could die.

Well, in this case, do not be afraid! Death is defeated and life is victorious.

Since we are joined to the body of Christ through baptism, we have already risen. Jesus has already died our death for us. He carried our shame, guilt and punishment for our wrongs to the grave with him. He entered that great devouring mouth called death. But instead of being swallowed by that gaping and hideous mouth, he devoured death itself. Death now has no teeth. Previously our picture of death was this huge mouth full of rows upon rows of razor sharp teeth, waiting to gobble us up. Instead, the mouth is no more harmful than a newborn baby with those massaging soft gums.

Now, since he has risen to new life, we too have risen with him. Through Christ and his resurrection, we have already crossed over that dark chasm and now live in the light of eternal life.

This is the reason we do not fear – because death has lost its sting. Because Christ lives, we live also.

This helps us face our daily earthquakes. We discover that when we think we only have shaky ground, we instead have the most secure ground available. We have a secure ground that can never be shaken.

We have the secure ground of God’s precious Word: those wonderful words that come in the midst of our earthquakes. Words like ‘do not be afraid’ and ‘your sins are forgiven.’ Here in this church, we have a sanctuary from the world’s earthquakes. Here we gather in a sanctuary which provides peace, comfort, and forgiveness.

We have secure ground in Jesus Christ and his resurrection. Those wonderful words ‘He is risen’ reassure us that there is life after death. There is light after darkness. There is hope after hopelessness. There is security and peace even when all things are shaken about. Here as we celebrate his glorious resurrection, we receive that joy and hope in Christ.

When our world seems to shake and quiver, remember those wonderful words of Jesus: ‘Do not be afraid.’ Take his Word for it. He has gone ahead of us to heaven. He waits to meet us there at the appointed time. There we will see him with our own eyes and he will greet us again with grace, joy and peace.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The napkin is still folded


John 20 : 1 – 18

Looking at verse 6- 7

6 Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, 7 while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.

In bible days, when someone died, it was the duty of a family member to close the eyes and kiss the cheek of the dead. When Christ died, it was the duty of two men, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus.

 They went to Pontius Pilot and begged that they be allowed to take the body of Jesus. As they were given permission they removed the body from the cross and placed it into a new tomb that Joseph had prepared for himself. They washed the body and wrapped it in white linen, closed Jesus eyes, kissed His cheek, and placed a napkin over his face.

 As they walked away from the tomb I’m sure they would have been silent, sadness would have overcome them, and they would have felt like there was lead in their stomach and a lump in their throat. I’m sure they would have thought that it was all over, the end of a dream, and it only lasted three short years.

 The next days must have passed like an eternity for them, however, for those days I am sure the devil and his demons would have rejoiced, the forces of darkness, thought they had won. The Jewish leaders, as well as the Roman government, congratulated themselves on their brilliant scheme.

 But, on the third day, something wonderful and miraculous happened, on the third day God the Father said to an angel in heaven, “Go and bring my Son”.          And as the angel’s feet touched the ground, the stone rolled away,    and up from the grave,  Jesus arose…. He lives!!!!!!!!!!

 In the Gospel message Mary, Peter and John all went to the tomb and saw that it was empty,  but there was something interesting in the tomb,     something that caught their eye.They saw that the grave clothes had been tossed in a heap, BUT THE NAPKIN  that was placed over Jesus face was folded neatly and placed at the head of the stony coffin…… Is that important?……….Absolutely!!

 The Gospel of John tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not thrown aside like the grave clothes. The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of the coffin.

 In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little of the Hebrew custom or tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the master and servant and every Jewish boy knew this tradition.

 Now if the master had finished eating, he would rise up from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and then would screw up the napkin and toss it on the table……… The screwed up napkin meant,…………. I’m done……….. The servant then knew, he was to clear the table.

 But,…. If the master got up from the table, folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant WOULD DARE NOT TOUCH   the table, because the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, “I’m not finished yet”.                 The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back”!!!

 Peter and John spent three years with Jesus; they watched Him as He opened the eyes of the blind, as He literally raised people from the dead. They saw Him heal the sick, the compassion He had for the poor and the lonely, the outcasts……… Then…….. They watched Him die.

 As they saw Him die all their hopes and dreams would have shattered!!     All they could think of was, “IT’S OVER……..IT’S ALL OVER”. …….For three days they were in the depths of despair, the lights of their soul had gone dim……. Peter even said I’m going fishing;                      I’m going back to what I used to do.

 After three days they saw the empty tomb, BUT THEY ALSO SAW  the folded napkin.              “He’s not finished yet;……..He’s coming back”.

 I thank God today that “He’s not finished yet”

 Right now Jesus is busy saving souls; the bible says that Jesus came into this world for one reason,……to save sinners. John 3:17 “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved”.        

In the eyes of God there are only two kinds of people, those who have already been saved, ………. And those who need to be saved.

 Some mistakenly say that good people are saved and bad people need to be saved. This is incorrect as all need to be saved; there is no-one so bad that they cannot be saved.

 We are all sinners in need of saving. In God’s eyes there is no difference, there are no big sinners or little sinners. In God’s eyes, there are sinners like you and me who have been forgiven, and then THERE ARE the sinners who have not yet been forgiven, but certainly CAN BE.

 ‘The napkin is still folded,            He’s still saving souls”

 A few days before Christ died, He took the disciples aside and told them what was about to happen. He said, “I’m going to be betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified. Then He looked at the disciples and said, “All of you are going to desert me when the heat is on”.

 Peter in true fashion rose up in typical style and said, “Not me”.

 Can you see Jesus shaking His head saying to Peter, “You are going to deny me three times before tomorrow”?

 Now let’s go forward in time when they found the empty tomb and the angel tells Mary and the other women to tell the disciples to meet with Jesus in Galilee.

 Mark 16:7 “Now go and tell His disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see Him there, just as He told you before He died.”

 Can you imagine how Peter might have felt.  Jesus wants to see him, what for? He not only denied Jesus three times, but he also cursed and he ran off deserting Him.

 Peter was in total despair, He couldn’t have meant him, He would have meant the other disciples,    not me.                            But they replied that the angel had named him,the disciples and Peter!!

 Why did Jesus want to see Peter?………. To rebuke him? ……………No to restore him!
One of the sweetest scenes in the Bible is Peter and Jesus coming together, and Jesus hugging him and saying,“Peter do you love me”?

 Did you notice!!.. Jesus does not mention anything about Peter’s denial, .. Jesus does not mention anything about Peter’s Dessertion of Him,……… Did you notice that Jesus didn’t mention anything about Peter’s cursing?
Do you love Jesus?Jesus loves you.The napkin is still folded.

 Are there friends, neighbors or maybe even a member of your family that you are concerned about…… It’s not too late……… Go to them……. Tell them about Jesus. Do it in love, be gentle, understanding compassionate.

 We are to imitate Jesus and He was always gentle and loving with ordinary people like you and me. Nowhere in the New Testament will you find an account where Jesus was abusive or scolded an ordinary person like you or me.               Yes He was critical of the Pharisees and Sadducees,         but not the ordinary people they were the leaders, AND THEY BURDENING THE PEOPLE TERRIBLY.

 Jesus wants you and me to be a part of His great commission,.. ……we are to be the messenger,………. He will do the rest. ………God does all the real work, we deliver the message, God opens their heart so that they can hear the truth. It is Jesus who will bring them home.

 Now let’s look at the key issues. When Jesus arose from the dead,…He folded the napkin to let us know He is coming back, His work is not finished.

When Jesus met with Peter in Galilee He didn’t remember any of Peter’s sins. He hugged him and asked him “Do you love me”.Do not be concerned, Jesus won’t remember your sins either. I beg of you, don’t wait until it’s too late.right no.. the napkin is still folded.

 Jesus won’t scold you; He will hug you like He hugged Peter and ask you, “Do you love me”. The napkin is still folded                    Amen.


Let’s pray.  Dear Jesus, you suffered so much to save us, help us to remember all that you have done for us. Help us never to forget that you love us, and you are coming back for us. Amen.

Pastor Ian Kotzur

Easter Urgency

Text: John 20:1-9

We have, unwittingly, set a tempo with our current Easter celebrations that is quite contrary to the nature of the event.  We have the longest of long weekends…  A break…  People go away…  Switch off…  Shift our focus from the everyday and escape into wall-to-wall footy, or family get-togethers, or a lounge-chair, chocolates and a book…

Our weekend, even if it is ‘busy’, usually lacks the sense of urgency that drives the story in the Gospels:  secret plotting, finding the right moment to make the capture, money taken and then almost immediately returned, the repeated plea to “keep watch!”, a rushed trial full of movement between three courts (two of them uncomfortable and unwilling), a hastily considered trade-off for another criminal, and even a hurried crucifixion constrained by the Passover regulations and timetables, a nearby tomb procured quickly, and incomplete burial rites.  It is an urgent business.

…and no less urgent on the Sunday morning, as today’s Gospel makes clear.  At the first light, they run!  The waiting during the Sabbath and the darkness has been an agitated waiting.  They are not resting.  They are disturbed.  They are uncertain.  They are distressed.  They have been dragged—urgently—through the trauma of the previous days and they are unsettled about the “what next?”.

And…as you will know from hearing the Easter story over the years…when they are confronted by the fact and by the message—“He is risen!”—they do not calm down, or become less agitated.  The urgency continues.

The implications of Jesus’ resurrection necessitate urgency.

This was not the first miracle.  This was not even the first healing in which someone who had died was made alive again.  But this was an event in which the worst of human injustice, oppression, hatred, and cruelty had been offered by religious and secular authorities alike, as a public statement, as an assertion of power and authority.  And over and against this powerful, public statement Jesus had said, “Father, your will be done”; “Father, forgive them”; “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.  And the one who openly identified with the weak, the ill, the poor, the displaced, the outcast, the hated, the oppressed, the suffering, and the dying—the powerless—the one who openly identified himself with those who suffered the worst of sin and evil in the world—he didn’t assert power and authority, but offered himself over to the will of the Creator.  He gave his life into the hands of the one who created all…in the beginning…and said, “It is good.”  In the middle of the mess, of all the ugliness of sin, he handed it back to the one who said, “It is good.”

And to that, God answered with the resurrection.

And to that answer, they ran…with urgency.  To that answer.  To that declaration.  To that new creation.  To that new “it is good”.

We have developed a bit of a tradition in the Church—(and even if we don’t really ‘own’ it we will have to, at least, recognise that it is a perception held widely)—that the only time we get urgent about things is when we are facing the grave.  Historically, we ‘evangelise’ (which means we ‘tell the good news!’)—we evangelise with some sense of urgency if we think that someone might miss out!

But the urgency of the first Easter springs from a much more immediate question:  What are we going to do tomorrow?  How are we going to live tomorrow?  We, who have followed the one who serves, who keeps forgiving, who releases from guilt for sins past and into new opportunity, who is generous in time and spirit and gives all he has to those in need, who distinguishes not on the basis of ‘who belongs?’ or ‘who deserves?’ but on the basis of ‘to whom can I show love?’ & ‘to whom can I be neighbour?’—we who have learned the day to day reality of grace from God walking with us…how are we going to live tomorrow?  As they ran to the tomb they wondered!  Is it over?  Is it gone?  Or is he alive, like he said?  Is he still loving, and giving, and forgiving?  How are we going to live this next day?  This is the immediacy and the urgency of Easter!

Those same followers of Jesus would, in the coming days and years, focus their Easter urgency into proclaiming a message of “hope”.  The New Testament term “hope” has a very definite meaning:  We know that God, in Christ, has forgiven us, and given to us eternal life.  This is made certain in the resurrection of Jesus—his life for us.  There are no ‘ifs’ or ‘maybes’.  This is certain.  Hope is the certainty of the fulfilment of God’s promises.  Easter is the Christian foundation for hope.  Easter is the moment in which the Christian says “I know that my Redeemer lives”—and because he lives, I have life, his life, my life, all bundled into the one.  I am God’s new creation.  Hope is the certainty that looks forward in life because God has demonstrated his absolute power and authority and victory over sin and death.

I think Easter should be our ‘moveable feast’.  Easter should be the Christian celebration we have the day our family welcomes a new baby—a day filled with a sense of urgency over the fact of this new life, this new life created by God.  Easter should be celebrated on the day a new marriage begins.  Or the day we begin a new job, or a new course of study.  Easter should be our celebration at the moment we buy a new home, or build one for someone else!

Easter is the celebration that marks our living in the presence of the God who has declared absolute grace, declared eternal love, declared that he is with us and for us in every circumstance and every stage of life—one with us from birth through all the realities of living, through death and the grave.

And we, like Mary and Peter and John—we can declare “Christ is risen!” with the joy of recognising that our neighbours, like us, have lives to live—and they can live them in the knowledge of God’s loving presence, today!

Urgency comes about at the point of intersection between a question or uncertainty, and an answer.  In our world, in our society, and in our very local communities and families (and selves!) there is often much agitation and anxiety:  Can we save the world from ecological disaster?  Can we save the world from economic disaster?  Can we survive on-going hostility and war?  Can we survive on-going injustice?  Can we survive our own individual weaknesses and the hurt they cause?  Can we live past the next generation?  Or the next day?

Today God proclaims again, and reminds us again, that he has heard our prayers, our cries, our dying breath, and has made his statement:  I am the resurrection and the life.  Believe and me, live, trust, hope, be certain.  I am for you.  And trusting in me you will always live.

Urgency comes at the point of intersection between a question and an answer.  We are surrounded by a world with the question.  You know the love of God and the life of God for the world.

I urge you to be urgent in celebrating and proclaiming the answer of life in God’s grace.


Sounds too good to be true

Luke 24:5

StMarksThere is a saying: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is” and in this day and age of scams that is pretty good advice. Interestingly, yesterday when I was researching that saying on Google, I was directed to another statement or saying to that of “Opportunity knocks but once” in which alongside the English explanation of such a phrase- was an advertisement from “Charm Date.com” inviting me to date beautiful Russian girls. How in the world this saying was linked on the World Wide Web to the previous saying about being “too good to be true” I’ll never know, because if you had seen how that young lady in the advertisement was dressed and looking at me-you too would have known it was not a scam.

Obviously, I had to turn her down but at least I did reply to the email I received from a compassionate Nigerian General promising me great wealth if I gave him my bank details.

When I receive it I might send some to that girl so that she can buy some more suitable clothing for the Russian winters.

From the book of Proverbs: Chapter 31, verses 4-6: “It is not for kings to drink wine, not for rulers to crave beer, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed, and deprive all the oppressed of their rights. Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish!”

And the Apostle Paul’s words to “Pastor/Evangelist” Timothy in the 1st book in his name: 1St Timothy Chapter 5, verse 23: “Do not drink water only, but take a little wine to help with digestion and illness.”

It’s like looking in a mirror: Beer for the struggling, wine for the Pastor. Twenty four hours in a day and twenty four beers in a carton: co-incidence-I think not.

Words used for myself out of context and most unlike those of the two angels at Jesus’ empty tomb who after seeing Mary Magdalene and friends looking to tend to His body greet them with a quizzical: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ and then continue with ‘He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you that on the third day he would rise again.’

And as we heard from the scripture reading: Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.  But these words seemed to them ridiculous – too good to be true – and they did not believe her (Luke 24:5b-11).

We face the same challenges today.  People will believe in just about anything.
Pills that burn fat so you don’t have to diet or exercise.
Creams that make you look younger.
Ancient secrets to living longer.
People will spend money to take the risk in case it is true.  But try to tell them about Jesus, who rose from the dead and now offers eternal life to anyone who believes? I’m sure you would off heard some more than once: ‘It’s all make-believe.’  ‘I’ve never heard of such a thing!’  ‘It’s too good to be true.’

And, you’ve may have even heard other, not so nice responses to the news of the Resurrection.

Believing in the resurrection was never going to be easy.  It wasn’t then; it isn’t now.

But why?  Isn’t this what everyone wants?  And if it’s true – isn’t this then it is the answer to all of life’s concerns.

Life is full of suffering: death; grief; worries.  Knowing that at the end of this life we will experience eternal life means that the hurt is limited.  The emphasis of Paul in his writing today is that the resurrection of Jesus is victory over every oppressive power in our life, including, and especially, death (1 Corinthians 15:19-26).  The last enemy to be destroyed is death!  And so whenever we doubt or disbelieve in the resurrection of Jesus, death is still the power in our life.  That is when we and others look for anything that will help relieve the suffering, pain and death.  For many it becomes their life search – their job, their wealth, their success.  And when these fail, as they ultimately do, then so does hope for the future.

Even as Christians, these other things can all too often become the focus to bring hope and meaning into our lives.  But when we look to anything but the resurrection then the message of the angels is spoken to us too: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”  Nothing in this life can bring us any comfort despite the promises they make.  When we listen to the media telling us about how to find true meaning and happiness in the idols of this world, then we are looking for the living among the dead.

Amos, the first earthly prophet announced to the Jewish people that: “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “When I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.  People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east: They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.”

Words said to those awaiting the Messiah in Old Testament, and yet, Words that could be said for those looking for the meaning of life still in these days, and Words said to us when we seek the idols of our world that never stop asking for more and more of the same.

Copy a recipe from the endless cooking shows: but still hungry the next day. A world traveller: but still weighed down with those 22 countries I “haven’t done yet.” The latest and greatest gadgets: that are already outdated by the time they’re released. Good things in life that we know are gifts from God, like that of the Gift of God truth’s truth that shows that they still are only things.

Because our hope is in the resurrected life. Our hope that changes the way we live our lives from as if our earthly life is the only life we have, to a life living as witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and declare with absolute joy and confidence like that of Mary Magdalene that  “We have seen the Lord.”

It’s natural to feel the pain and heartache of this life.  When we suffer, we hurt.  When a loved one dies, we grieve.  When we lose a job, we are concerned about paying the mortgage and other bills.  But it’s where we go to for comfort and assurance that matters.  Mary went to the right place, but was looking for the wrong answer.  She went to see Jesus, but didn’t understand the meaning of the empty tomb.  Mary was despaired, but was pointed to Jesus.  When we face our own empty tombs – when we face those times when we feel loss and despair, pain and grief – we are pointed to Jesus.  The empty tomb meant that Jesus was no longer in the grave but is now living with us and in us.

Jesus said before his death, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it” (John 2:19).  On the third day Jesus rebuilt his temple – His risen body, His Holy Church and in His people

We are now living witnesses to the Lord. We have seen the Lord and now we share this living hope in a dying world that has put its hope in the wrong things and still looking for the living among the dead.

Proverbs Chapter 31, verse 6: “Let beer be for those who are perishing, wine for those who are in anguish.”

Yes there is an element in that proverb of deadening the pain of life, but greater the element of deadening the pain of death.

The death faced by the criminals on their way to execution on the cross who were given by  the ladies of Jerusalem a drink of medicated wine to help deaden the pain of suffering.

The wine like that offered to Jesus said to be of vinegar, gall and myrrh.  A cheap Roman wine mixed as a drug to dull the senses of the person being crucified that they may a little easier endure their cross.

The same pain relief offered to but rejected by Christ who willed to taste the full bitterness of death and suffering, that we when bearing our cross see not hope in the perishable of the world, but in the imperishable of Himself, the Risen Lord Jesus Christ here with us today as we will be with Him in eternity.

The Easter story is our story and as He has risen, forgiven in Christ so shall we.

So whether you are here each week, each month, each year – or whether it’s your first time here – let this Easter Story be your story.  Let it renew your life and hope in the living Lord, so that you no longer look for the living among the dead but become the place where others can find life. Amen.