Cadet Michelle Cale – “Because Jesus Lives!”
“Sit there and contemplate the immensity of God.” Choice words, my brother Jeff had when my young nephew William was hounding him…
You know that long, winding stretch of road between Port Alberni and Tofino? William chose that time to bring up his questions of epic proportions…
Jeff stunned our entire carload into silence. Well at least William, for a good minute or so, with saying, “sit there and contemplate the immensity of God…”
John’s Gospel, on the whole, calls us to consider the immensity of who Jesus is, and what God’s plan is for the world. It’s a plan of salvation! One that should cause us immense joy!
William’s need for answers really was just his little boy way of trying to make sense of the world…well, mostly!
We can read into the people who first saw Jesus after resurrection – Mary, Peter, John, the disciples and Thomas – we can ‘categorize’ them and say they were “too much this or that,” or that they were blinded by their limited expectations.
Except… because they lived we have not only an eyewitness account of these incredible events we also can learn from their discipleship.
Resurrection, Jesus transformed to new spiritual life, triggered immense spiritual transformation for them. Mark’s gospel shares Jesus glorified, and in John’s account, each of Jesus’ followers as a result immensely changed.
I have a friend who came up with this incredible plan to get her fifth grade class started off with a bang one year. CSI, Crime Scene Investigation, had as a TV show taken off and she was capitalizing on its popularity. Late August found her decorating her classroom as a “crime scene,” every object and the way the room was put together would unlock the key to week one’s lessons. She went all out!
When I think about the purpose of John’s writing his gospel and in particular, his telling of Jesus raised back to life, I can’t help but see it as a TV show like CSI. John gives the evidence for us to know the truth.
We could get out our equipment and bring in a crew of trained investigators to uncover any hidden meaning. John’s telling has that function. But that’s a kind of mechanical view, isn’t it? If God’s word, The Bible, is God’s living word, then shouldn’t we hear from God in more than just a clinical way?
John’s telling begs something more of us. He, one of the Disciples, one of the twelve closest to Jesus, meant something more. John calls himself “the other disciple, the one Jesus loved.” I don’t think he was being egotistical here! He and Jesus, the disciples together with Jesus had shared in life!
John’s telling begs us to sit and contemplate the immensity of God’s plan of salvation, worked out through his only Son, Jesus, who lived, died and was brought back to life. John longs for nothing more then spurring us on to belief in Jesus and life in Jesus’ name.
So we’ve got the facts – eyewitness testimonies of those who encountered Jesus raised back to life.
We know the scenes – the Empty Tomb and the locked room where the disciples had gathered together.
We even know the cast of characters…. Introducing…
Mary of Magdala, quite literally Mary of the Roman camp, who Jesus had cast out seven demons from, the Mary that followed Jesus to the cross and that Sunday morning would meet him in the garden.
Peter, the one who loved Jesus but had just denied being his follower, three times before the rooster crowed.
And next, “the one Jesus loved,” our eyewitness reporter, John.
The disciples, the twelve who’d been called out of their living by Jesus to follow him along the road of his ministry. No, wait, someone’s missing…
Thomas, the glass is half empty guy that’s fiercely loyal to Jesus but needs more to believe.
The Apostle John writes his prologue to the resurrection and in fact, is now writing his gospel account. Where does he write? Life has changed. Jerusalem has changed. Jerusalem has fallen and the stage is set for a new act….
New Act: The Goal? Mission. The Setting: The whole wide world.
Okay, I couldn’t resist having some fun with that! But it brought us somewhere. Somewhere more, which we get the sense, is what John is trying to do in his writing. It’s that m word, mission. John doesn’t sum up mission in quite the same way as Matthew’s report – go and tell, “to all nations…” (Matt 28:19-20) John links his account together on this premise of “seeing” more in the facts.
Mary’s just doing her thing, showing her immense love for Jesus by getting to his burial site at the earliest possible moment, spices in hand, to carry out custom. Its sometime between 3 and 6 am, so it’s a dusty dark out still and she’s exhausted. She and the other women, the ones who followed with Jesus and the twelve disciples, had sat at a distance from the foot of the cross and watched all unfold. Her grief might be chocking her, but she has a job to do and well, that’s blessing because it reminds her of her love for Jesus.
Wait – the stone’s gone! She runs. She tells someone – well, two someone’s – Peter and John. The race back happens. Confirmation. Jesus’ body is missing. The disciples run off. What? Mary’s alone? Again? So alone in her grief, she doesn’t recognize that Because Jesus lives, he’s now talking to her…
“Mary!” “Mary, don’t cling to me! Go and tell…” Mary, don’t hold on to what once was, though I valued that time and value you, Mary. Cling to hope, Mary, get onboard with the plan Mary…”I’m going to my Father, my God and your God.” “It’s the next act, Mary.”
An early morning footrace finds John reach the garden, the tomb, before Peter. John bends down, squinting, looks in but doesn’t go in. Peter is here now. He’s inside the tomb, examining the strewn burial clothing. John gets it now! Because Jesus lives! What’s that? Peter’s still scratching his head. That the scriptures and words of the prophets were written on their hearts said it would be so, doesn’t click.
Still hanging around town, the disciples meet under the cloak of secrecy, consumed by their fear that those who begged Jesus be put to death were hot on their own trail. If we listened at the door maybe we’d hear something like “Quick, lock the door, Peter!” “Quiet down, everyone, lets whisper…”
“Peace be with you!” “Hey, every good thing to you guys! so great to be with you!” Perhaps… “For heaven’s sake, you don’t need to whisper guys!” “Let’s see some smiles on your faces…” Because Jesus lives: “my Father sent me, I’m sending you. Go and tell. No, no, don’t worry, don’t worry. All’s forgiven Peter, actually all’s forgiven period! What, you’re still caught up on that? Don’t you get it? I love you. I’m the Word, the living Word. I was there at the start of it all. I’m giving you something, just wait it’s coming… [Breath out] New life!
Where did Thomas get to? Did he think he was so much stronger, that he didn’t need to be together with them after Jesus’ death? Oh. He’s here. He’s here! “Thomas, Thomas!” Because Jesus lives. “Excuse us, you need physical proof?”
“Peace be with you!” “Oh good! Thomas! You’re here! Let me show you my scars Thomas. What’s that? Oh. Because I know you, Thomas. I value you. You get it? That’s so great, Thomas. But Thomas? Understand that the best is just to see and believe. But I love you, all the same, just as you are Thomas.”
Well, we’ve filled in a bit of the “details” in John’s version, thanks to the other gospel writers and some imagination. But together we can come to the conclusion that each person did in fact change.
Mary’s love for Jesus intensified, took on a new level! She could still be close to the one she loved but she had a new job to do. Go and tell.
Likewise, John could still be known as “the one Jesus loved!” He had new life literally breathed into him! He had a new job to do. Go and tell.
Oh Peter! How great was the depth of healing he was experiencing! Knowing his failings, knowing his weakness, Jesus still loved him! “Peter! Peter! Go and tell. Peter, because you love me, go and tell. That’s right! Tell my sheep.”
Thomas! Thank you for your loyalty when all the other disciples were so thickheaded back when Lazarus died. You got a sense of the plan. You might have questions, but once you get it, you get it! Go and tell, that’s your worship.”
Those are the facts and the response, the transformation, the very nature of Jesus and the unveiling of the next part of God’s big picture plan. Over these past two years, God’s been working immensely in my life. Transforming me, in yes, sometimes what seems painful ways. I have grieved changing, feared change. But, you’ll be pleased to know that at least one thing about me still hasn’t changed and others pick up on it at CFOT All. The. Time…
Truth: People at CFOT call me a “BC Hippie…” well, lovingly…mostly! Recently in a sermon this strange breed of folks who are all about the granola and “probably think plants have feelings” were referred to. You should have heard the comments! Yup. I put up my hand, and said yes! I confess, I talk to my plants all the time and you’d never believe how they feel about life…!” Okay, maybe I just confessed, yup, that’s me!
See what I’m doing for BC’S reputation?! And yes, to our old small group from Westsong, I always explain that NOT all BC people put quinoa in everything including dessert… Right, Donna?!
Before leaving for training, I had a chance to share with all of you at Victoria Citadel and here at Westsong that God worked out his calling in me to be a Salvation Army Officer partially through the people in my life. You are those people. I probably can’t stand here and say thank you without crying. But I’ll say it still: thank you. God used you immensely in my life. He still is using you.
I shared too, about one person in particular outside of church. Jason and I no longer share our stylish and roomy work cubicle but so many of the talks we had there are forever on my heart.
Can you hear the banter, between us? He loved to call me a hippie. So much so that one day, in near exasperation and mostly jokingly, I finally asked him why. “Because you’re all about the peace, joy and love!” Whoa. Wasn’t expecting that. I smirked back… “Oh, actually I’m just a Christian!”
Because Jesus lives. Because Jesus lives we have the immense privilege of sharing the good news. Sharing it with all others – sharing it in a moments notice. Sharing it without fear.
Except that…my saying that to Jason that one day was only one of the few times I listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting and…
Go and tell. The disciples, the twelve, went and told. The church was built, our Foundation and Cornerstone – Jesus.
The threat, the risk, the fear we might experience with “go and tell” in our world today – everything from perhaps mild embarrassment to death – I suspect is no less real today then it was in those first years following Jesus’ return to the Father.
No less real then how the Gaither’s felt, when they encountered a dry spell in their ministry of writing music in the late 1960’s – some will remember the drug culture, Vietnam, that recently resurrected theory “God is Dead” theory emerging… And a baby on the way for their family. Who could bring a child into such a world?
God works immensely, revealing himself to the Gaither’s and a new song is penned: ‘Because He lives.’
I believe God is calling us to something more today. I believe God is calling us together to stand in His strength. To covenant, committing we are his people – that Victoria Citadel and Westsong Community Church belong to him. That not one would miss the opportunity to come to see the truth of the gospel: new life! Because Jesus’ followers went and told, we know the truth. If even one here today doesn’t know that truth… God is here, meeting with us in this very moment! God is revealing His love through His living word. Breathing out new life! God through Jesus intends that full life for the whole world! Nothing about us makes us worthy but… Because Jesus lives the immensity of God’s love is forever revealed! Lets say together we commit Victoria to you, God! We commit the Westshore to you, God! We commit our lives to you, God, afresh today… Because Jesus lives!
Will you stand, with me? Will you sing with me, those beautiful words God gave to the Gaither’s – “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the future.” And what? Because “Life is worth the living, just because He lives!” If I could ask Brian, for you to lead us in singing this simple chorus? And John? Could you and the worship team come now, and as we meet with God through the words of this song, would you be ready to bring us into the verses in a few moments?”
Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John, Vol 2. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.
Buttrick, George Arthur et al, eds. The Interpreter’s Bible: Luke & John, Vol 8. Nashville, TN, Abingdon Press, 1980.
Leston, Stephen & Deffinbaugh, eds. Layman’s Bible Commentary: Luke & John, Vol 9. Uhrichsville, OH, Barbour Publishing, Inc., 2008.
Matthews, Alice. A Woman Jesus Can Teach. Grand Rapids, MI, Discovery House Publishers, 2012.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. 101 More Hymn Stories. Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel Publications, 2013.
Tenney, Merrill C. John: The Gospel of Belief. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976.
Vanier, Jean. Drawn into the Mysteries of Jesus through the Gospel of John. New York/Mahwah NJ, 2004.