01 April 2018 – Easter Day

posted in: Sermons | 0

Rev’d Jonathan Gale

What a surprise poor Mary Magdalene must have got. She arrives to anoint the body of her beloved Rabbi, and is confronted by an empty tomb and an angel who tells her he is risen and that she should go and tell Peter and the disciples to meet him in Galilee. Can you imagine the turmoil in her mind!

Have any of you seen the new movie called simply, Mary Magdalene, that came out earlier this year? It shows, O so believably, what an influence she probably had on the company that followed Jesus. No wonder God chose her to see the resurrected Jesus first and to relay the news of the resurrection. She was in all likelihood Jesus’ closest follower.

She was not, as Pope Gregory, I think it was, declared, a prostitute. In about 2013 The Vatican announced they had been mistaken in that, and made her a saint. She had seven demons cast out of her, but all that did was prove she was cleansed of the things holding her back from following God.

Mary is mentioned in Luke 8:2 as one of the women who provided for them* out of their resources. We don’t know exactly when it was or how she became a believer but it could have been no different from the way just about everyone else did: they heard Jesus speak the words God gave him to speak and they responded in faith.

As Paul wrote to the Romans, 17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. (Romans 10: 17)

As Paul is busy telling the Corinthians of the great apostles Jesus appeared to in resurrected form, he includes himself as the least of them and ends with these words, 11Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

It doesn’t matter who was instrumental in preaching the gospel when you were saved, says Paul. Whoever it was, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

There is life-changing power in responding positively to the story of how Jesus both died on the cross and was resurrected by the Father three days later.

Jesus didn’t have this message because when he preached he hadn’t been crucified yet. What he said was, “The kingdom of God is upon you. Repent and believe the good news. What was the Good News? The Kingdom of God had arrived because he had arrived! That was Good News. By the time the fractious apostles had watched him die rather than live, they were open to another – more theological – understanding of what  the significance of the cross and resurrection were.

It wasn’t simply the message as a Jew would have understood it – the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel – but one that was open to all, namely that the death and resurrection of Jesus had opened the way for EVERYONE to access God because Jesus had paid the price for sin on the cross and had overcome the death-price by rising from the dead.

Can you imagine Mary, a Jew, computing that!

Do you know what cognitive dissonance is?  Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.

I reckon that had to be the experience of Mary as she realised her dead Rabbi was alive. I reckon it had to be the experience of Mary as she realised (which all Jewish followers of Jesus eventually did) that the Kingdom of God was not simply a matter of a Jewish triumph over their enemies, but a matter of a family that God was creating – open to all – and effected (brought about) by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It was this message that Paul preached across the Roman Empire and central to it was that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

So we proclaim and so you have come to believe, says Paul

I want to challenge us all at this Easter time. Our realisation of the resurrection, not simply in our heads, but deep down in our spirits, comes when we hear the Good News because, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

And while we can experience a transformation like a birth when we respond to this message in faith, and my prayer is that each of you has; the real transformation comes by consistent exposure to the word of Christ

The message of the world, consistently bombarding us via secular media, is that God is a figment of the imagination, a psychological crutch.  Only consistent exposure to the word of Christ will protect you from that.

Mary Magdalene faced her cognitive dissonance and came out the other side a transformed child of God.  And so, on this day when we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, like Paul, I offer you some cognitive dissonance: in spite of all the secular messages that are beamed at you night and day; Jesus is alive and is calling you to turn and follow him.

As Jesus said to Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20: 29)

Will I be able to say to you in the future, So we proclaim and so you have come to believe?

There are many Marys just waiting to witness your resurrection, your passing from death to life.