Sunday, March 27, 2016

SPECIAL HOLIDAY THEFT: Stealin' Back Resurrection

"Cling-Free Forever!” - John 20:1-18

            I don't suppose too many of you are planning on doing laundry on Easter Sunday, or on any major holiday.  But, if by chance you are, I can recommend something to use in the dryer. 
            Have you heard of “Cling Free?”  I've been married 28 years, and my wife still has to remind me to use this stuff when I throw some clothes in the dryer.  I guess it works;  if you don't use it, certain clothes tend to cling in the wrong places and create all kinds of static electricity, and in general they don't look good.  Apparently "clinging" is not a good thing in the world of clothes and laundry.
            What about the human world; our world?  Do we regard "clinging" as good, or do we use that word when we think of people who can't seem to leave us alone, who "cling" to us far too tightly, who strike us as a bit immature?  We call them “clingy” almost as a diagnosis.
            But there is good clinging, isn't there?.  We expect an infant or young child to cling to parents; new parents find out quickly that a new baby literally clings to his mother.  The Bible commands a husband to cling to his wife.  We expect a devout religious person will "cling" to God, especially in difficult times.  We simply will not be entirely "cling-free" in certain relationships; and up to a point, that's OK. 
            As we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, we'll look at what some of the followers of Jesus were "clinging" to, as they began third day after they watched Him crucified.

John 20:1-18 (URLV)

           1 Now at the first of the week, Mary Magdalene is coming early, darkness still being, into the tomb and she is seeing the stone having been carried out of the tomb. 2 She is running, therefore, and is coming to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, whom Jesus was befriending, and saying to them, "They carried the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they placed Him." 
            3 Therefore Peter went out, and the other disciple, and they were going into the tomb. 4 Now the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead quicker than Peter and he came first into the tomb;  5 and after stooping, he is seeing the linens lying, nonetheless, he did not enter in. 6 Therefore also Simon Peter is coming following him, and he entered into the tomb, and he is observing the linens lying,  7 and the handkerchief, which was around His head, not lying with the linens, but rather apart, having been rolled up into one place.  8 Then, therefore, also entered in the other disciple, who came first into the tomb, and he saw and believed. 9 For not yet did they know the Scripture, that it was necessary for Him to stand up out of the dead ones.  10 Therefore the disciples went away again to themselves. 
            11 But Mary stood before the tomb outside weeping; as therefore she wept, she peered down into the tomb,  12  and she is observing two angels in white sitting, one toward the head and one toward the feet, where was lying the body of Jesus.  13 And those are saying to her, "Woman why are you weeping?" She is saying to them that, "They carried away my Lord, and I do not know where they placed Him."
            14 After saying these things, she turned to the back and she is observing Jesus standing, and she did not know that He is Jesus.  15 Jesus is saying to her, "Woman why are you weeping?  Whom are you seeking?"  That woman, thinking that He is the gardener, is saying to Him, "Lord, if you yourself carried Him, say to me where you placed Him, and I will take Him."  16 Jesus is saying to her, Mary!"  After turning, that woman is saying to Him in Hebrew, "Rabbonai!" [which is saying "Teacher!"]  17 Jesus is saying to her, "Do not be holding Me, for not yet have I gone up to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them I am going up to My Father and your Father and My God and your God"
           18 Mary Magdalene is coming, announcing to the disciples that, "I have seen the Lord," and these things He said to her.

Context:  Let’s review the circumstances a bit. The disciples in this passage had followed Jesus, learning from Him and living with Him, for three years.  They had just shared a deeply emotional Passover meal with Him, and the same night they watched helpless as He was arrested, tried before what we would call a "kangaroo court," and subjected to the most painful means of execution used in the Roman Empire, death by hanging on a cross. The Gospel of Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene, the only woman mentioned here, had become a follower of Jesus after He rid her of 7 demons.  She also stood at the foot of the cross as her Lord died.  Now, on the third day after all this, she discovers the body of Jesus missing, and runs to tell the apostles. As we see Mary, and Simon Peter, and John "clinging" to Jesus, let's zero in Jesus' words to Mary in vs. 17.  Literally, Jesus says, "Stop clinging to Me!"  Why? What was so terrible about Mary, and the apostles, clinging to Jesus?

1a.       They Were Clinging to the Past and Hoping for Its Return.

               1b. They were clinging to the dead body and the grave of Jesus.

                         1c.       The word tomb is used 9x in these 18vss.  They are either coming to or going from the tomb practically the whole morning
2c.       Mary actually stands outside the tomb crying; she refuses to leave.

                    3c.    None of this seems unnatural to any who have lost a family member or close friend through unexpected death.  But the clinging is much deeper

              2b. They were clinging to Jesus as they had known Him on earth.

                      1c. Again, why not?  Shouldn't they be allowed their memories?  Should we cut them some slack?
2c.   Here's the problem with this picture:  Jesus had promised them something more about Himself, and they've forgotten it in their grief.

2a.      They Should Have Been Clinging to the Present and Hoping in the Futue

             1b.  They should have been clinging to the promise of the resurrection

                                 1c.     Jesus promised them He would rise from the dead on the third day; this is the third day!
2c.       Verse 9 says they didn't yet understand the Scriptures, the OT passages about the death and resurrection of the Messiah, but John, the "other disciple," finally believes when He sees that the grave is indeed empty.  Mary still thinks someone stole the body!  The gospel of Luke says that Peter went home "wondering."    Here, 1 out of 3 understood.

            2b.  They should have been clinging to Jesus Christ raised from the dead and gone back to heaven with the Father, and Who promised to come again and raise from the dead all those who believe in Him.

3a.       But:  Would We Have Done Any Better?
             It's easy to pick on Mary, and Peter, and John for the wrong kind of clinging when we sit here 2000 years later with the rest of the story.  Chances are we wouldn't have done much better: 

                 1b.      We humans just seem to cling to the wrong
things or the wrong people

                 2b.    We often cling to things that aren't necessarily
           bad or evil, but can be bad for us if we cling
           too tight
1c.   we cling to our jobs too tightly sometimes

2c. we cling to our hobbies too tightly, especially if our jobs aren't exciting enough to cling to

 we cling to sports events:  football, basketball, baseball, hockey--and not just the men anymore, either
we cling to television; sometimes we schedule our lives around certain TV shows
some people cling to music:  concerts and CD's and videos; and not just R & R;  people become just as obsessed with classical or jazz or country, or even gospel
6c.  parents cling to children and children cling to parents long after that time when the relationship should have changed

                  3b.   People cling to bad relationships, to alcohol, to illegal drugs, to legal drugs, even to legal drugs that helped them get off illegal drugs

4b.  But more than anything, people cling to the past ... we cling to memories

           1c.     Now remembering the people and events of the past is not bad in itself;  we call that history, whether its the history of 1000 years past, or our own family history. 
             2c.    But:  when we cling to that past, to those memories at the expense of the people and things with whom we live in the present, we call that nostalgia.  We remember the past not as it really was, but as something much better than the present.
             3c.       In our scripture today, the word "tomb" comes from the same Greek root from which we get our English word "memory."  Should that surprise you?  Do we not refer to grave stones as "memorials?"  The Toledo Yellow Pages has 14 listings of cemeteries,  6 of which have the word "memorial" or "memorial" in their name:  "Memorial Park;"  "Memory Gardens."
             4c.       This kind of nostalgia, this kind of "memory," this kind of "clinging," is like death, because it cripples us from any healthy activities and relationships in the present.  It keeps us from knowing our family and friends as they really are;  

            But much worse, nostalgia keeps us from knowing God as He really is.  Some of you are clinging to things today that are keeping you in a near-death state, when right before you is Jesus Christ offering to make you "cling-free" from your past, your hurts, your bad decisions, your obsessions, your deepest pain, your deepest regret, your deepest sin. 
            Some of you may even be clinging to an idea of Jesus as simply a "good teacher," or a "kind man," or "great philosopher," or even as a "tragic figure" who lost His life only because He tried to be nice in a not-so-nice world.  If that's the case, you are clinging to the wrong Jesus.

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