Rev. Stephen Baldwin
NT: John 20.1-18
A lot can happen in three days. Amen?
Three days ago it was 81 degrees. This morning it is barely above freezing. So why in the world are a bunch of people bundled up in a cemetery before the sun rises? Because God in Genesis said let there be light. Because Paul in Romans said the night is almost gone, the day is near. Because the prophet Isaiah says the people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Because Jesus said I am the light of the world.
We are here standing on the shoulders of generations upon generations of Christians, our parents and their parents and their parents, looking for the light that is the life of the world. We are keeping vigil, to see the sun rise and be reminded that though we may live in a world of darkness, we are children of light. Amen?
I know it is cold, but focus on the light. The light will grow brighter, and we will grow warmer. Or better yet, I’m gonna put yall to work at this service. Every time I say, “Jesus said,” yall say, “I am the light of the world.”
Back a couple of months ago, we read about the beginning of Jesus’ life and ministry in John. Jesus said…
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
The darkness did its best to overcome the light of Jesus. He was hunted as a newborn, becoming a refugee with Mary and Joseph. He was hunted as an adult, angering people in power both in the church and the government with his miracles. He was hunted by the devil in the wilderness. He was hunted his whole life long.
He was thrown out of town, thrown out of the temple, thrown down the road more times than we can count. He was arrested, tried, and executed…and for what? For feeding the hungry, for clothing the naked, for healing the sick, and for raising the dead.
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. He was not bitter about what happened to him. He was not angry with anyone. He didn’t come back and take revenge. He came back to love. He came back to show that the darkness did not and could not overcome his light. Jesus said…
Our scripture today tells the story of Mary heading to Jesus’ tomb early in the morning. It was still dark outside, and there was a darkness inside Mary too. She was filled with grief and fear. Unsure of her future. As if she was stumbling around in the darkness, she could not see what was in front of her. Lest we be too quick to judge, think about the last time you started trying to navigate your way through the house in the middle of the night. Darkness has a way of disorienting us.
Why was Mary there in the early morning before the sun rose poking around the tomb? For the same reason we are here. She was looking for light in the darkness.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
The sun began to rise that morning, just as it has today, and Mary saw what she could have known previously in the dark. That the stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty. He was risen!
Why in the world are a bunch of people bundled up in a cemetery before the sun rises? Because we wanted a hot biscuit, yes. But also because Jesus said…
We are here because he is risen, just like the sun. Because the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Because Easter teaches us that death has no power over us. We find joy in knowing that true light shines so brightly no darkness can ever overcome it.
Dietrich Bonhoffer wrote about how Jesus said…
…when he was imprisoned for preaching the good news and speaking out against Nazi Germany. Shortly before he was executed, he wrote:
In me there is darkness,
But with You there is light;
I am lonely, but You do not leave me;
I am feeble in heart, but with You there is help;
I am restless, but with You there is peace.
In me there is bitterness, but with You there is patience;
I do not understand Your ways,
But You know the way for me.
Jesus said…I am the light of the world. Repeat this after me. Whoever follows me…will not walk in darkness..but will have the light of life…
May the light of Easter morning show you the way, this day and forever more. Amen.