Resurrection Sunday 2024

March 31, 2024 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Other

Topic: English Passage: John 20-21

We began our service this morning by reading from 1 Corinthians 15. There, God says that everything about the Christian faith depends on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are told that if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, the Bible is pointless, the ministry of the Apostles and the church is meaningless, and our faith is futile because there is no life after this one. First Corinthians 15:19 says—If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

If death is the end of this life, then following Jesus means nothing. The only reason someone should follow Jesus is because they believe that He offers something to us outside of this world. And the proof of that is Jesus’ resurrection.

The Christian faith isn’t a blind or generic belief that some man, somewhere in the world, at some point in human history, came back from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is not a fairy tale. The Christian faith is a historical faith. It is rooted in real events in a real place at a real time with real people.

Almost two thousand years ago, a man named Jesus, raised in Israel, in the city of Nazareth, claimed to be God in human flesh. He healed people of their diseases. He cast out demons. And He spoke of a new life that was to come—a better life, a renewed life. Jesus’ miracles were previews of what that new life would be like, a life in which all our problems were wiped away, including death.

But He also said that this new life was impossible for people to achieve on their own. Jesus was going to bring it about, but only certain people would qualify for it. The requirement to enter this promised kingdom was perfection. Jesus said to the people, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

That left people with three basic choices. Number one, you could reject Jesus’ message by assuming this new life either didn’t exist or had some other criteria required for it. That was the general position of the Greek and Roman philosophies. They rejected Jesus’ idea of reality and eternity. It was incompatible with what they taught and believed.

Number two, you could accept what Jesus said and assume you qualified by your own righteousness. That was the position of the Jewish religious leaders. They assumed they would enter into the kingdom of heaven because they were righteous enough for it.

The third possibility was this: you could accept Jesus’ message and recognize that you did not qualify for it. So, you would humble yourself before God and cry out for mercy.

The only people Jesus affirmed were those in group number three. According to Jesus, those who rejected His message, or those who assumed they were righteous enough on their own, were destined for eternal judgment before a holy and perfect God.

For those in the third group, however, God would grant mercy. How? He would do it by allowing a man to take their place in the judgment of God. A man would live a perfect life on their behalf, and then, also on their behalf, be put to death for sinners. Jesus was that man. He came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

And so, Jesus gave Himself over to the Jewish authorities and to the Romans, and they put Him to death on a cross. A perfectly innocent man suffered and died on behalf of those who would trust in Him.

But how could the people be sure that Jesus was saying the truth? Were they just supposed to hope in His message, and then wait until they died to find out? No. As Jesus predicted, two days later, He rose from the dead.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the culminating act of the Christian faith. Without that event, this book and our faith is meaningless. Without the Resurrection, Jesus is a fraud.

Now, in recognizing the importance of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we don’t want to make the mistake of assuming that it was the end of His ministry. As important and significant and necessary as the Resurrection was, it was not the end of Jesus’ ministry. There was still more that needed to take place.

Jesus demonstrated His power and authority over sin and death, but then what? The kings and rulers of our world, when they do something significant, they want to announce it. They want the world to know.

Well, Christ wants the world to know that He was raised, but His plan for that to happen is not what we might expect. Rather than show Himself to the crowds and to the leaders that mocked and rejected Him, Jesus’ plan was to put the proclamation of His message in the hands of His own disciples.

After His resurrection, Jesus has two primary objectives—demonstration and direction. Demonstration and direction. He is going to show Himself to His disciples, that's demonstration, and He is going to instruct them in their task.

The disciples are going to receive a personal affirmation of Jesus’ resurrection, and then they will be commissioned to go out in Jesus’ name with Jesus’ message. For the followers of Jesus at that time, there will be an affirmation, and there will be a commission. There will be a demonstration and a direction.

Today, we are going to be looking at the final two chapters in John’s gospel—John chapters 20 and 21. We’ll be picking up the story on Sunday morning, the day of the Resurrection, and we’ll be seeing the events play out in 4 different scenes. Each scene includes some interaction with Jesus where He shows Himself to them and also, to one degree or another, indicates the mission they now have.

The first scene is on Sunday morning, and the primary character is Mary Magdalene. Let’s read verses 1 and 2—Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. [2] So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Mary’s intention was to find someone to open the tomb for her, and then, in accordance with Jewish custom, and as an expression of her love, she was going to add perfume and spices to the body.

But as she approaches, while the sun is barely beginning to rise, she notices that the tomb is already open. So, in the confusion and sorrow of that discovery, she immediately runs back to tell Peter and John. This would be as if you went to Rose Hills to visit a grave, and instead there was a giant pile of dirt next to the grave and an open hole. “Where’s the body? Where did they take it? Where’s Jesus?”

So, after hearing Mary, Peter and John rush out to the tomb. John gets there first, and all he sees are the linen wrappings, but he’s waiting for Peter. When Peter gest there, He goes into the tomb, and sees the same thing. There’s no body there. There’s no meeting with Jesus at this point, and the disciples didn’t understand the prophecies of Scripture. John has faith in the Resurrection, but there’s no proof yet. And so, the disciples go back home, not sure what to make of all this.

By that time, however, Mary is back at the tomb. Let’s pick up her story in verse 11—But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. [13] They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” [14] Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.

Jesus looked much different than the last time she saw Him hanging on a cross. Mary’s eyes were blurred with tears and probably cast down with sorrow. She notices a man standing there, but she isn’t turning to face Him. And Jesus asks her the same question the angels had asked,

Verse 15—Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Mary is desperate and confused. She had come to grieve at Jesus’ tomb, but now she’s devastated because she can’t do that anymore. “Maybe this Man works for the owner of the land. Maybe He has something to do with Jesus’ body. Where is it? Where is He?”

Jesus’ mercifully and lovingly ministers to a woman in her anguish and sorrow who won’t even look Him in the eye. Verse 16—Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

Mary immediately recognizes this is Jesus. The Man who had freed her from sin and from demon possession was back, and he called he by name. This is Jesus’ affirmation.

All Mary can do is embrace Him. She clutches Jesus with her hands. She is never going to let Him out of her sight again.

And now Jesus moves from the demonstration of Himself to His direction. Verse 17—Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Jesus isn’t upset about Mary’s expression of love. But He wants her to know that there’s more that needs to be done. She can’t hold onto Him forever. He is going to ascend to the Father. But before that, He needs to meet with the disciples. So, in obedience to Jesus, Mary runs off and tells them what happened.

This takes us to scene number two. Jesus will meet with the disciples. Mary was marked by sorrow . The disciples at this point, are marked by confusion and fear. They don’t know what to make of what Peter and John and Mary had told them. And they don’t want to end up dead like Jesus.

Verse 19—On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” [20] When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Again, here is Jesus demonstrating or affirming the reality of the Resurrection. The same Man that they saw hanging on a cross two days earlier, and whom the Romans had affirmed as dead by piercing His heart, was now standing before them.

And after the demonstration, we get the direction. Verse 21—Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” [22] And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. [23] If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

What Jesus does here is give to His disciples a promise or a preview of what is to come. Just like the Father sent Jesus to the earth, Jesus is going to send out His disciples. Jesus spoke of forgiving people’s sins, and now the disciples will have the responsibility of affirming who it is that truly is a follower of Christ. Before that happens, however, Jesus will give them His Spirit.

The Spirit doesn’t come right now. Like I said, this is just a preview or a promise that it’s going to happen. There’s no life change in the Apostles at this point. One disciple is missing. And Jesus Himself had already told the disciples that the advantage of the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come until the Son went away. Once Jesus goes away, He will send the Helper. Jesus will equip them for their mission.

Let’s move on again to the next scene, scene number 3. Jesus showed Himself to Mary Magdalene. He meets with His disciples, and now we have a meeting focused on a specific disciple named Thomas.

Verse 24—Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Mary was marked by sorrow. The disciples were marked by fear and confusion. And now we have Thomas who stands out to us because of His doubt. He has people he trusts telling Him that Jesus has been raised from the dead, but he refuses to believe.

So, Jesus gives another demonstration the following Sunday. Verse 26—Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” [27] Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” [28] Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

He’s not “doubting Thomas” anymore, is he? The very same words that Thomas used to express his doubt, Jesus uses to demonstrate the reality of the Resurrection. And Thomas responds immediately. This is the Lord. This is God in human flesh.

And once again, Jesus moves from His demonstration to His direction.

Verse 29—Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

How do people get that extra blessing? How are people going to believe in Jesus if they don’t see Him? Someone is going to have to go out in the name of Jesus and proclaim that He has risen. That will be the task of the Apostles and, in the subsequent generations, it will be the task of the Church. Jesus is risen, now go tell the people.

The demonstration of the Resurrection comes with a direction. The affirmation of the Resurrection comes with a commission. The disciples of Jesus have a responsibility that has been delegated to them.

And this is what led John to write this gospel. John wants this blessing to come to all who read this book. Verse 30—Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; [31] but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

John’s gospel could have ended right there: Believe in Jesus and you will have eternal life. That’s what John wants for his readers, and that’s what Jesus’ disciples should want for the people around them. We want people to hear about Jesus, believe in Him, and receive eternal life.

But instead of ending the gospel right there, John gives us one final scene in chapter 21. There’s no explicit mention of how much later this happened, but we know it was within the 40-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, mentioned in Acts.

Scene number 4 includes the disciples, but its primary focus is Simon Peter.

The disciples go to Galilee, where Jesus promised to meet them again, and while they are waiting there, seven of them go fishing at night. They spend all night on the lake but catch nothing.

Let’s pick up the story in verse 4. John 21:4—Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. [5] Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” [6] He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. [7] That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. [8] The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

The provision of the fish was another demonstration of Christ’s power and glory. It was a demonstration of His love for the disciples since that would provide food and income for them. But in this case, it was the proof that this man who had called out to the disciples was Jesus.

It would have taken some time for Peter and the rest of the disciples to make it back to land. Verse 9 says—When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.

Jesus didn’t waiting for the newly caught fish to arrive; He made His own breakfast. And then He invited the disciples to add their own fish. The charcoal fire was necessary to cook the fish. It would have also provided warmth, which was especially important for Peter who had jumped into the water at sunrise. But for Peter, a heap of burning coals was a bittersweet welcome.

A charcoal fire has a very distinct feeling and aroma, and there is only one other mention of a charcoal fire in the New Testament, which is just a few chapters back in John 18.

One the night Jesus was arrested, He told His disciples that it was going to happen, and that they would run away. Peter said, “No, Jesus. I will never fall away. I will follow you to the death.” And so, when the soldiers came for Jesus, Peter drew a sword to defend Him. Jesus told Peter to stop, and Jesus was taken to the Jewish leaders.

Peter and John followed the soldiers and were allowed onto the property of the homeowner. And there, outside the home, in the cold, dark night, the servants and the soldiers had made for themselves a charcoal fire. And Peter stood nearby to keep warm.

While Jesus was being interrogated by the high priest, Peter was being asked questions as well: “Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples? Weren’t you there in the garden with Him?” And Peter, who had just an hour ago pledged loyalty to Jesus and drawn his sword, lied. He swore and cursed and denied having any connection to Jesus at all. Peter denied Jesus three times.

And just like Jesus had said, a rooster crowed, and when Peter remembered that, he went out and wept bitterly.

That may have been the last time Peter was gathered around a charcoal fire trying to get warm. He having a meal by a warm fire, but all he can think about is how badly he had failed the Lord. I think Peter’s guilt is eating him up. And then this happens.

Verse 15—When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”

Jesus is probably talking about all the fishing gear. He’s asking, “Peter, are you really devoted to me? Are you willing to give up this life and serve Me?”

[Peter] said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my lambs.” [16] He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” [17] He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

Why did Jesus ask Peter the question three times? It was to match the number of denials. And what especially grieved Peter was that he knew He did not love Jesus enough. He knew he was guilty. He knew that in himself he couldn’t live up to what was expected of him. In fact, the Greek word Peter uses for love is a lower level than the word Jesus used at first.

And so, after the third question, Peter, without any evidence of his love since the betrayal, appeals to Christ’s omniscience. “You know everything. You know that I love you.”

Christ’s ministry to Peter here brings some pain. But pain was part of the restoration. It’s like pulling out a splinter and making sure it all gets out. The pain is part of the healing. Jesus is saying to Peter, “I know what you did. I know how you failed me. But I forgive you. So, leave behind your old life, and go and fulfill the task I have given you. Go and feed my flock.” Feeding Christ’s flock means teaching them God’s word.

Jesus showed Himself to Peter in the miracle of the fish, and once again, He gives instruction. There’s a demonstration and there is a direction. There’s an affirmation and also a commission.

In Peter’s case, following Jesus would mean a life of suffering ending in a cruel death. Verse 18. Jesus continues—Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” [19] (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turns around and looks at John, and wonders if John is going to have to go through the same thing. And Jesus says, “Don’t worry about him. You follow me!”

Those are the final words of Jesus to Peter. You have seen the risen Christ. You have been given the affirmation. Now, you follow me. Feed the flock I have given to you. Preach the word. Minister to my people.

Brothers and sisters, we need to make sure that our faith in the resurrection of Jesus reaches its full expression.

Do you believe that Jesus is risen? … Do you believe that Jesus is risen? … Do you believe that Jesus is risen?

Then in the affirmation of that truth, you need to go and be obedient to the mission He has given us to teach and to proclaim that truth to our families and to the members of our community.

What’s the affirmation we have today? We are not going to see the resurrected Lord until He comes. But we have the affirmation in the teaching of the Apostles and the prophets. We have the affirmation of God’s word. This is the demonstration of the reality of Jesus’ message.

And so, whether you come with the sorrow of Mary, or the confusion of the disciples, or the doubts of Thomas, or the guilt of Peter, Jesus wants to minister to you by His Spirit, through His word and through His people. This is the affirmation we have that will combat our sorrows and our confusion and our doubts and our guilt.

And having been reminded of these glorious truths, having been edified in the truth, we can then go out and fulfill the directive we’ve been given. To teach our children and our neighbors and our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

We who have trusted in Jesus have the Holy Spirit and the word of God. And we, individually and collectively, have been sent out to preach the message. Jesus is risen, and those who trust in Him will have eternal life.

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