April 4th 2021 Easter Sunday homily on John 20:1-18 by Pastor Galen
The Greatest Comeback Story Ever
Everyone loves a great comeback story. The baseball team that starts out in last place but ends up winning the championship. The football team whose quarterback gets injured but the second string quarterback leads the team to victory. We love it when the basketball team is down by two points but in the final few seconds of the game the rookie player sinks a 3-point shot right as the final buzzer rings.
We love those superhero movies where the villain seems to have won, but then at the last minute the hero rises from the ashes and saves the world. We’re enthralled by those heart wrenching stories where the long lost soldier who had amnesia recovers his memory and in the end is reunited with his family.
But there’s no greater comeback story than Jesus Christ rising from the grave on Easter morning. To Jesus’s disciples, it had seemed that all hope was lost. They watched him get arrested, John and Peter saw him stand trial. Jesus had been beaten almost to the point of death and then forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, where he was hung bleeding and bruised for several hours, hands and feet pierced with nails. And after he had breathed his last breath, a spear was thrust into his side, just to make sure that he was dead.
And there was no doubt about it. He was definitely dead. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea had taken him down from the cross and buried him in a tomb. The tomb was shut and sealed with a giant stone.
It seemed like the story was over.
But the grave could not keep him down. God raised Jesus from the grave on Easter morning, thereby conquering sin and death and hell and the grave. Jesus rose triumphant, never to die again. No other comeback story could ever compare with Jesus rising from the grave on Easter morning!
A Comeback for the Disciples
And because Jesus came back, Mary and Peter and John and the other disciples also experienced a comeback as well.
You see, when Jesus died on the cross, Mary Magdalene, whose life had been transformed by Jesus, probably thought the story was over for her as well. Jesus had given her a level of respect and dignity that probably no one else in her life had afforded her until that point. Everyone else looked at her and remembered her past, what she used to be. But Jesus looked at her and saw her inherent worth and dignity before God. He saw that she was a beloved child of God who had been born again – born anew. Following Jesus had given Mary new purpose and new meaning in life. But on that Good Friday when she saw Jesus hanging on the cross, and when he said “it is finished,” she thought that she was finished as well.
And then there was Peter. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times, said he didn’t even know Jesus. Peter probably thought his story was over as well. He had messed up too badly, and now Jesus was gone, and Peter thought he would never have the opportunity to tell Jesus he was sorry.
But then Jesus came back! And Mary Magdalene got to be the first person to see Jesus in his resurrected body. Not only that, but in a society where the testimony of women was not even permissible in court, Mary became the first preacher of the Gospel, as she was sent to proclaim the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the rest of Jesus’s disciples!
And Jesus’s comeback for Peter as well, because in Mark’s account of the resurrection, when Mary Magdalene and the other women came to the tomb on that Easter morning, the angel specifically told them to tell Peter and the other disciples that Jesus was alive. And so Jesus’s comeback was a comeback for Mary, and for Peter, and for all the disciples, and yes a comeback for us as well!
You see, because Jesus rose from the grave even when all hope seemed lost, we too can have hope. Because Jesus was victorious, we too can be victorious. Jesus conquered sin and death and the grave for each and every one of us, making it possible for us to be set free from the sin that has kept us in bondage. Like Mary, we too have been given new meaning, and new purpose in life. Like Peter, we too can be healed, and cleansed, and forgiven.
And so no matter what tests and trials you may be facing, no matter what you might be going through, you can rest assured that because Jesus rose from that grave on Easter morning, we too can be victorious.
Jesus is Coming Back
Even when we’re down to our last breath, even when it seems that all hope is lost, we can still have hope, because Christ rose from the grave! And the Scriptures tell us now he has ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, preparing a place for us.And one day Jesus will come back to take us home to be with him. And so there is hope, even beyond the grave.
In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, the Apostle Paul says, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (KJV).
The hymn writer Philip P. Bliss wrote, “When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah! What a Savior!”
Death could not keep him in the grave. He rose victorious that Easter morning. Because He lives, we too can live. And one day he will return to take us home to be forever with the Lord.
That’s the greatest comeback story ever told!