June 10, 2010 David Balzer

Jn 20: The Day Death Died

Here’s some statistics I’ve discovered about D.EATH. I found them on the internet, so they MUST be true. 31 people have died since 1996 by watering their living Christmas tree … while the tree lights were still plugged in. 19 people have died in the last three years choking on Christmas decorations they thought were chocolate. And 3 people die each year … testing a 9 volt battery on their tongue.

Woody Allen said this about d.eath, “I’m not afraid of d.eath, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

We might joke around, but the reality is that D.EATH ITSELF is hardly a laughing matter. Because when it comes down to it, d.eath is something to be FEARED. To be respected. He says, “Don’t mess with me. Show me some respect. That’s MR D.eath to you.”

You see, he’s coming to get you. And there’s nothing you can do about it. He’s the schoolyard bully in the game of life. He chases you in the playground. He follows you down the back alley. He teases you all the way home. “Someday I’ll get you!”

We smell him in the hospital. We feel his long spindly fingers touching us in the nursing home. He jumps out at us from the shadows of an X-ray.  We slow the car down as we pass him at the traffic . And our senses are filled with him as we peer through the window. At the twisted metal. The broken bodies.

It’s Mr D.eath, and we want to stay well away from him. Every year we spend billions of dollars doing it. Health clubs, fitness programs, low cholesterol diets, anti-smoking cures, surgery. Anti-aging remedies. Cancer treatments. Even cryogenic preservation.

But there’s no escaping him. He’s the great equaliser. There’s no or ISM as far as d.eath’s concerned. He doesn’t care how old or young you are. How rich or poor. Whether your black or white. Male or female doesn’t bother him either.

He’s the great problem for humankind. He’s a problem SCIENCE or TECHNOLOGY are never going to solve. Political theories can’t ORGANISE him way. International peace treaties won’t fix him either.

BUT HE’S NOT UNBEATABLE. … THAT’S THE STORY OF EASTER. The good news of Easter is that MR D.EATH HAS BEEN DEFEATED.

But it wasn’t any new cure, or wonder . No special program of exercise or meditation. In fact, it wasn’t a HUMAN answer at all.

It took AN ACT OF GOD. A miracle. God stepping into human history to do something we couldn’t. He raised Jesus from the . He defeated d.eath. That playground bully finally met his match.

And just like kids laughing in the playground after the bully’s gone, we can experience the benefits, too. Because by trusting in what Jesus has done, WE CAN BEAT D.EATH!

So let’s look at the events of that first Easter together. As John’s recorded it for us.

It’s very early Sunday morning. And we’re peering over the shoulders of the first eye-witnesses. It’s about 36 hours after Jesus has died. And one of Jesus’ friends, Mary Magdalene, gets up early to visit the grave. She’s expecting a huge stone to be covering the opening. But when she gets there, she’s in for a surprise. v1 tells us the stone had been removed from the entrance.

Imagine you were her? “What’s going on? I’m sure this is the right tomb. Maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me. Or perhaps I’m just dreaming. Everything so dark. Maybe I’m finally ing under the pressure

What would you do? Well, I’d do exactly what SHE did. I’d run for help! Look at v2. She goes and finds two of Jesus’ CLOSEST friends. Two of his disciples. Simon Peter and John himself. The one who wrote these words.

(John 20:2 NIV)  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved (that’s John), and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

I’m guessing they were still in bed. Mary arrives breathless. Shakes them. Jumps up and down on the bed. And starts babbling some nonsense. “Jesus’ body’s disappeared!”

And in Verse 3. They wake up pretty quickly. They throw on some clothes and start running for the tomb. Still pulling on a sandal as they run out the door.

John gets there first. And he looks into the tomb. Perhaps he’s too scared to go in. He just peers around the corner. All he can see are the strips of cloth that the body was wrapped in.

Peter’s a bit slower. But when he arrives, he just barges straight in. Verse 6.

(John 20:6-7 NIV)  Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, {7} as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

And then John builds up the courage. Perhaps Peter even yelled, “Hey John, Get in here and look at this!” So John comes in, and he puts two and two together. Verse 8.

(John 20:8 NIV)  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and BELIEVED.

Up until that time they hadn’t realised that Jesus HAD to die and rise from the . They’d thought that d.eath was the end. Just like it was every other time. That all their hopes of Jesus being THE NEW KING were over.

But once they’d seen the empty tomb, and the folded grave clothes. They finally put two and two together.

But what about Mary? She wasn’t so lucky. She’d been the first to DISCOVER the tomb. But she was a bit slower to get back there. And she didn’t work out what had happened. But once the men leave, she plucks up the courage, and sticks her head inside. Verse 10.

(John 20:10-11 NIV)  Then the disciples went back to their homes, {11} but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb.

She’s almost too afraid to look. She’s hoping for the unbelievable. It’s like the next of kin at the morgue. The body comes out. Covered in a sheet. And you’re wishing it’s NOT your son, or daughter, or mother, or brother. And as the sheet’s drawn back, you hope against hope that it’s a face you’ve never seen before. A stranger. You don’t want to look. You’d almost rather NOT know. But you HAVE to find out.

And that’s the situation Mary’s in. And what does she find? Look at v12. It’s going to turn out better than she could have imagined. Because the unthinkable has happened.

(John 20:12-16 NIV)  She saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. {13} They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” {14} At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. {15} “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” {16} Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

It’s Jesus! Mary can’t believe her eyes. She runs towards him to hug him. But Jesus gently tells her that he’s got more important things for her to do. She’s to go and tell everyone else what’s happened. And in v18, that’s what she does.

Jump forward a few hours. Later that evening, all the disciples are together. They’re meeting in a locked room because they’re scared of the Jews. By this time, the Jews are probably TEARING JERUSALEM APART trying to find the body of Jesus. They’re just as WORRIED/ as the disciples are EXCITED.

When all of a sudden. (Verse 19. Look at it). Jesus comes and stands among them. And he says, “Peace be with you” Don’t panic. Don’t be scared. I’m no ghost. Or a vision”. And he shows them the holes in his hands and side. You can only touch a body if it’s REAL.

But he’s not JUST about making them comfortable. Because he’s got a job for THEM TOO. Verse 21.

(John 20:21 NIV)  Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I AM SENDING YOU.”

And he promises them his Holy Spirit. To equip them to do the work he’s got for them. They need HIS Spirit because they’re continuing what HE’S been doing. Telling people about God. And how they can get right with him.

But there’s ONE disciple who’s missed out on all the action. Verse 24. It’s poor old Thomas. DOUBTING Thomas is what we call him today. For some reason he wasn’t there with the rest of them.

And in some ways I’m glad. Because he’s a bit like me. And I think probably a bit like you too. Because he was going to take some convincing. He wasn’t gullible. Easily-fooled. The physical facts were that people just didn’t rise from the ! Verse 25.

(John 20:25 NIV)  … But Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”                  SHOW ME THE NAIL MARKS!

And it’s easy for us to be like that too, isn’t it? “It’s all just a bit too much like a fairy story. Just a figment of people’s imaginations. A crutch to help them limp through this life.

It’s a story that’s just kept getting bigger as the years went on. Like the fish I caught. “It was THIS BIG” The story keeps getting bigger.”

But Jesus has a surprise for our Doubting Thomas. Look at v26.

(John 20:26-29 NIV)  A week later his disciples were in the house again, and (THIS TIME) Thomas was with them. Though 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; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. STOP DOUBTING AND BELIEVE.” {28} Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Doubting Thomas changes his tune. The physical evidence is overwhelming. And if it’s good enough for Thomas, then it’s good enough for me.

Jesus says to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe”. And he says the same thing to me. And the same thing to you. “Stop doubting and believe”.

And the verdict? Thomas BELIEVES. “My Lord and my God!” Only GOD could do what’s happened. Only GOD could defeat d.eath.

The doubter believes. The skeptic is convinced. The dying one gets life.

And all of those things can be true for us too.

So what ABOUT you? What does this story have to do with you? Plenty! Because you see it’s not just a story. A historical event that’s stuck in history.

It’s an account with a PURPOSE. John wrote all of this down for a REASON. And it’s all to do with Mr D.EATH. Look at what he says next. Verse 30.

(John 20:30-31 NIV)  Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. {31} But THESE ARE WRITTEN THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and THAT BY BELIEVING YOU MAY HAVE … LIFE IN HIS NAME.

You can have LIFE. Just like Jesus beat d.eath, you can too. And the way to do it is simple. It’s much easier than cryogenics, or suspended animation, or even plastic surgery. John says that if you BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, then you can have life. That’s ETERNAL life. EVERLASTING life. A future, in heaven, with God, that never ends.

So what IS it that we have to believe?

It’s believing that Jesus is the CHRIST. God’s chosen SAVIOUR. YOUR Saviour.

It’s believing that you NEED saving. Believing that without Jesus, your sin and rebellion against God have got you headed for D.EATH. For an eternity without him.

But God’s done an amazing thing. Instead of d.eath coming to US, He’s allowed JESUS to die on our behalf. To be punished instead of us.

So to believe that Jesus is the Christ, is to recognise that Jesus has died in YOUR PLACE. To recognise that YOUR sin deserved d.eath, and that Jesus hung where YOU should have hung.

To believe, is to say with Thomas, “MY Lord and MY God”. To believe, is to recognise that YOU deserved to die instead of Jesus. That you’ve lived your life in rebellion against God.

To believe is to accept God’s offer of eternal life. And if you do that, then the Bible PROMISES you eternal life.

Mr D.eath can be defeated. That’s the guarantee of Easter.

Is that something YOU know?

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