The First Sunday after Easter, 2017
The Epistle – 1 John 5:4-12
The Gospel – John 20:1-10
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Christ is risen!
Being only one week from the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Christ from the dead, we have not at all gone very far from this event.
If we are to recall this event and all that surrounds it in “real time” then imagine what is happening only one week after Jesus rose from the dead.
He had already begun appearing to His followers. He had already shown them the nail scars in His wrists and feet and the spear to His side.
News was spreading fast about Him rising and appearing. We can safely assume that many who were accepting the facts of the event were putting their faith in Him and their lives and own personalities were rapidly changing.
For someone to rise from the dead in this fashion…and to cause all of those things He said about Himself…. rising again from the dead…it had to be a life altering experience.
Today we are taken back to the day of His resurrection in our Gospel. Mary Magdalene and some other women arrive at the tomb sometime before the sun rose. It was light enough for Mary to mistake Jesus with the gardener…so visibility was mostly clear.
She saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.
She ran to tell Peter and John what she found.
And yet her first reaction to this was that someone had taken the body out of the tomb and put it somewhere else. Peter and John arrive and confirm what Mary reported. Sure enough, the stone was rolled away and they went inside.
Once inside they found the linen clothes that were put on Jesus’ body. They saw the face cloth that was on His head…and it was not lying with the rest of the linens but by itself in a separate area.
The linens lying separately and the head piece in particular… lying folded gives us this sense of composure by the one who folded it. This is not a hurried individual, but one who rose and took the time to fold this cloth.
D.A. Carson in his commentary on this passage also says that…. when the text says, “He saw the strips of linen lying there, [it was] evidence enough that no-one had simply moved the body.
Nor would thieves have been likely to leave behind expensive linen and even more expensive spices.”
No one would take the time to fold things up if they were stealing the body of Jesus. They would be taking it, body, linens and all…and the expensive spices too!!
The last line in today’s Gospel reading is this, “Then the other disciple, [John] who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;  for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.  Then the disciples went back to their homes.”
John’s last line there is, speaking about himself that he went into the tomb, saw things as they were (and no Jesus) …..but he believes.
Luke, in his account tells us a bit about Peter…since the two of them arrived about the same time. John arriving first but Peter is a close second…and Peter goes into the tomb first.
Here is what Luke tells us. “…Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”
Peter is said to be marveling. John is saying he believed. It should be understandable that the state of any two people finding what these two men found would possibly be different.
Carson again, “Most of the early witnesses came to faith in Jesus as the resurrected Lord not because they could not find his corpse but because they found Christ alive; ….
but John testifies that he came to such faith before he saw Jesus in resurrected form. And he took this step, not simply because the tomb was empty, but because the grave-clothes were still there.”
So faith came to most of them after they saw Jesus alive. An empty tomb could have brought a variety of ideas to mind. This seemed to do it for John.
It’s hard to compare ourselves to this event and say “what would we do if a relative came back from the dead?” There are too many differences here to list.
We need to keep focused on this account in particular…of Jesus rising from the dead and then work through what is said to have happened to them once they hear the news Jesus was gone…
Find the tomb empty.
Find the linens.
See him alive.
It should simply be accepted by us that each of them would have the eyes of their faith opened at various times and in various ways.
John’s faith seemed to come alive in a different way and at a different time then Peter’s. No one is superior or inferior here. In John there seems to be a kernel…a seed of faith springing forth.
For Peter it may have taken a bit more time.
The opening of our eyes to see Christ happens differently for each of us as well.
John is laying out or admitting his guilt and that of the others when he says here, in other words, that they had forgotten the words of Christ, but also, that they did not believe the Scriptures.
These were the two things they had the entire time Jesus was with them. The Scriptures and Jesus telling them about it.
Because of this, of not believing the Scriptures which predicted this event…and of course Jesus constantly telling them before He died about this, their faith was in many ways deficient.
And we too should draw from this a bit of instruction.
When we too are weak in faith, it is the Scriptures that should be where we find strength. They are the words of God and they can be relied on because they are true and binding.
And though we only have the Bible, we have more than that because they contain the words of Christ. So really we have both bound up in one place.
So it is the same John, the one who began his journey afresh… the day he saw the tomb opened and the linens lying there…it is he who also writes to us the words we heard in the Epistle lesson.
John’s testimony captured in his Gospel tells us about his faith. His faith was one thing when he was with Jesus, reclining with Jesus at the Last Supper. …standing by at the foot of the Cross watching Jesus die…taking Jesus’ mother into his care. His faith was one thing at that moment.
It was deflated at the death and burial of Jesus. And yet the first things he sees that Easter morning are what ignited a small spark of faith in him once again.
So he places emphasis on this event in his writing and how it is the event or the thing that each of us should think about and let fan the flames of our own faith as well.
To the Epistle. He writes, “…everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
The resurrection does just that.
The resurrection is the evidence and the proof that Jesus is the Son of God.
Everyone who believes this is born from above.
If we here believe this today, this morning, we are born from above.
Knowing this in Greek is so much more helpful. Thankfully we have trusted theologians who can tell us how this sentence reads in the original because in the English we don't quite get the tenses of the words.
Great Anglican theologian John Stott says, “‘Our present, continuing activity of believing is the result, and therefore the evidence, of our past experience of new birth by which we became and remain God’s children.’ We believe and, in fact, do everything else of a spiritual nature precisely because we have first been made alive.”
God moves in us first to believe….in this case here this morning, the resurrection. And we do believe it and continue to believe it because God causes us or helps us or sustains us to believe it.
He creates that belief in us.
And what does this belief…this faith do among other things??
It overcomes the world.
Recall these are some of the last words Jesus spoke.
At the Last Supper, Jesus tells them this, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, ESV)
John was there, obviously when Jesus said this. Now he has the faith to understand what Jesus meant and he imparts that to us using similar words.
Here is what he says again, “…Everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith.”
The faith we are to have is one that serves to overcome the world.
He says this to encourage us and so that we understand that victory has already taken place and is won...and that we should know it and live by the knowledge of it.
Our life of warfare continues.
It will for the rest of our lives with pain, loss, suffering and death.
We have some sort of conflict almost every day. But God is not arming us for a one-day battle…but for a lifetime battle.
And our faith is not to be just for one day either. Our faith is the continual and perpetual work of the Holy Spirit in us.
We already share in the victory Christ has won by being a member of His family and a child of God.
And we should live by faith “…as though we have already conquered.”
That is how we overcome the world. Our faith.
Our faith in the Resurrection of Christ among other works of God.
And again, John says, “Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”
If we believe that, then the victory is ours to partake of and we can live in light of that through anything.
Though John refers to himself as “the Disciple whom Jesus loved,” he is not beyond some sharp criticism.
This is obviously born of a convicted man. He goes on to close out the section today this way.
“…for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.  And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (ESV)
It is Christ and Christ alone. Solus Christus.
Very simple yet very sharp and to the point.
If we disbelieve God we make Him out to be a liar. And though God does not lie, for us to disbelieve Him compounds our sin against Him.
So belief is vital. And belief in the resurrection is vital in particular.
God has given us eternal life. As believers we have life. It is there for us. It is available to us. We enter into it in part now, and we enter into it fully at the last day.
Whoever has the Son, has life.
The gift of God is life. Christ has given that to us. His resurrection confirms it.
So we must go on blessing God for the resurrection of His Son. For in His resurrection, He has overcome the world and by faith in Him we too share in that victory.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.