Beyond the Veil
(John 20:1-18)

Easter Sunday… A day that transcends the clouds and damp air of our Easter worship, a day we gather to celebrate that the stone, which sealed the life and love of God has been rolled away, a day that we recognize that our hope is alive in the resurrection of Jesus. And because he lives, we shall live also.

For Christian's around the world Easter is a holy day as we come together as the body of Christ to worship and rejoice in the risen Christ.

On that first Easter Day there were no eyewitnesses to the resurrection, so it's by reports of the appearance of the risen Christ, and faith in the risen Christ that we believe in the resurrection. More so then any other event in world history the resurrection is the one event that gives purpose to our life here in this world, as well a giving us hope for the future.

The cross, of which we hold onto so dearly, without the resurrection, is nothing but a symbol of defeat and a piece of jewelry. But because Jesus was resurrected, the cross is our symbol of victory and hope. The big mistake made on Good Friday was to lift Jesus up on that cross. When the soldiers did they lifted Jesus up for the whole world to see, and the world has never been the same.

The whole of Christian faith stands or falls on the resurrection, and faith in the risen Christ. So this morning we come to give thanks to God for his saving grace, and we come to worship our risen Lord.

Today's Gospel is one of the familiar ones read on Easter Sunday and contains one of the most poignant images of grace and joy associated with the resurrection, the moment when Mary hears Jesus call her by name.

Mary, an ordinary person like you and me, comes face-to-face with the extraordinary. But because of Mary's overwhelming grief over the death of Jesus, she was at first unable to see hope when hope was standing right in front of her. She didn't realize or see clearly that Jesus was speaking to her, when she mistakenly thought he was the gardener. Then with joy in her heart, Mary recognizes the resurrected Jesus. In that moment Jesus' words and presence made sacred what once seemed ordinary. The promised transformation had taken place; weeping and pain became joy and glory.

Or better said perhaps, in Jesus' presence, Mary's vision improved, her veil of tears and grief was lifted and she saw the larger, amazing truth behind and beneath the presence of Jesus. And it's in this truth that hope emerges. God's living son is our living hope!

The church's response to the resurrection is to help folks peel away the veils we live behind, to help us discover the priceless material beneath. In the vernacular of a popular commercial, you can buy fun, you can buy short-term gratification, but faith in Jesus Christ is priceless. And at its best the church lives, teaches, and promotes this new understanding of the world, so that as disciples we can go and do likewise.

There are times in our life, because of the circumstances we are experiencing: overwhelming debt, chronic medical issues, loss of purpose, grief, and so forth, that hope can at best seem far off, and sometimes even seem unattainable. These situations become our veil, and it becomes hard to see beyond the veil to the hope that's offered by grace through Jesus Christ.

And as time goes by the veil we live behind can sometimes become hardened to the point that a breakthrough seems nearly impossible. But thankfully, "all things are possible through Christ."

No matter our situation, or the situation of our friends and family, with faith in Christ there's always hope. For a Christian hopeless is not a word found in our dictionary. And it's this message that must be claimed, embraced, and shared with all people.

In the book of Hebrews we read: "We have this hope (meaning hope in the living Christ) as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf." Hebrews 6:19-20 [NIV] On Friday afternoon Mary thought she witnessed all hope die on the cross, but as she came to learn, hope was not lost at all, hope was never lost. Once Jesus spoke to Mary she knew who he was, and the grief she had been experiencing quickly turned to joy, and her hope was restored.

" How many of us have experienced or lived behind our own veils of tears and grief? " How many of us, because of personal agendas, disgust, apprehension, or pride, fail to see Jesus as Savoir and Lord? " How many of us wear veils of privilege, injustice, and greed, and fail to see Jesus in others who don't look like us or live like us?

No matter the trials and challenges we encounter in our lives we need to allow Jesus to speak to our hearts, to call us by name, so we remain un-veiled, and can dwell in the certainty of the resurrected Christ, and can see the resurrected Christ in others.

In the resurrection of Jesus, God embedded in the earth an anchor of hope sturdy enough to withstand any hurricane. This hope is the anchor that declares once and for all that: " God can overcome our past " God is with us in the present… each and every day. " God offers us a better way. " God offers us joy, fulfillment, and peace in this life. " And God has a future for us… to be with Him forever.

The tomb that sealed Jesus was the tomb of a transient. Jesus only went in to prove he could come out. On the way out he took the stone with him and turned it into an anchor of hope. And he dropped it deep into the uncharted waters of death.

For us this anchor of hope is like receiving news ahead of its time…

Murdo Ewen MacDonald, a prisoner of war in Germany and chaplain to American soldiers, told how he learned of the Normandy invasion. Early on D-Day, he was awakened and was told that a Scotsman in the British prisoner-of-war camp wanted to see him.

So MacDonald ran to the barbed wire that separated the two camps. The Scot, who was in touch with the BBC by underground radio, spoke two words in Gaelic, meaning "They have come." MacDonald ran back to the American camp and spread the news: "They have come . . . They have come." And everyone knew the allied troops had landed at Normandy. The reaction was incredible.

Men jumped and shouted, hugged each other, even rolled on the ground. Outwardly they were still captives, but inwardly they were free. That's the hope that changes life!! What good news for humankind.

But our responsibilities don't stop with knowing Jesus as Lord and Savior. When Mary realized who Jesus was, what did Jesus tell her to do? " Did Jesus say, "stay Mary and let's talk about it?" " Did Jesus say, "Mary keep this encounter to yourself?" " No, Jesus said, "Go…to my brothers and tell them…"

As Mary's veil was lifted, at the sight and sound of the resurrected Christ, she was instructed to go and tell the other disciples the good news. So too, as our veil is lifted and we come to know the risen Christ as our savior, we're not to keep it to ourselves, Christianity is not a private matter. Our faith is to be lived out in community, not in isolation. We're to go and tell others, tell the world, the good news, that Jesus Christ is risen, he is risen indeed!

Christians recognize the spirit of hope the resurrection offers, and we have a God given responsibility to share this hope with others.

Today we live in a culture where far too many people have decided to place their hope in the world rather than in Christ, choosing instead to ignore the good news of Jesus, or at best keep the good news at arms length just in case they need it.

But know that true hope for the present and future is only found in the resurrected Christ, the hope bought for you and me through the birth, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. A hope that is freely available to all people. If we don't believe and share with others this fundamental truth, then God sure wasted a whole lot of blood on the cross. Our world is starving for the good news of Jesus. People are looking for appropriate role models. And folks are looking for something concrete and eternal to hold onto, to help them through the rough times.

There's no doubt many people are thirsting for spiritual meaning and purpose, and are looking for a sure and certain hope. As the body of Christ we need to help these people come to know what real hope is.

Now, in our day, hope is a rather weak word. One dictionary defines it pretty well when it says: hope is "desire with expectation of obtaining what is desired," listing "trust" and "reliance" as synonyms. But in common speech we usually use the word hope to mean something much less.

We speak of "hoping against hope" or "hoping for the best," which implies that we're really not hopeful at all. But this is not what hope means in the Bible. In the Bible, "hope" means certainty, and the only reason it's called hope rather than certainty is that we don't possess in complete fullness what is hoped for yet, although we will.

It's important to understand and believe with all your heart that a Christian's hope is not a false hope. " A Christian's hope is not based on looks, material wealth, or success, as defined by the world. " A Christian's hope is not found in a bottle, a pillbox, syringe, or on the Internet. " A Christian's hope is not found in crystals, tea leaves, and other new age feel good fortune telling. _________________________________________________________________ " A Christian's hope is found in Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God! " A Christian's hope is in the One who came to transform death into victory and life eternal. " A Christian's hope is life in Christ and is lived now, a life of overflowing forgiveness, love, and grace.

A famous preacher of days past explained what God did for us in this way. As Jesus blood - the blood of God - flowed down the Old Rugged Cross into the earth below, it was as if the ground whispered to a blade of grass, "It is finished." The blade of grass leaned toward a tree and said, "It is finished!" The tree lifted its leafy limbs heavenward and shouted to an eagle, "It is finished!" The soaring eagle rose higher and higher and screamed to the whole earth, "IT IS FINISHED!"

And so it was - finished! My sin and yours was paid for with the precious blood of Jesus.

Even though there were thousands of men who were crucified, only the crucifixion of the sinless Son of God was worthy to be part of God's eternal plan for humanity's salvation.

The cross, that we display so prominently, serves as a constant reminder of the goodness, mercy, and love of God in allowing his only Son to die in our place. And there is only one reason God did this, and that reason is you! Jesus gave his life for you and for me, was placed in a sealed tomb and after three days rose from the dead, to be our savior and Lord. In this divine act God's plan for our salvation was made complete.

The eternal significance of the resurrection is that we will live forever-that we will live forever with Christ. We will have glorious bodies that are like his, with power and glory and life that's far better than what we know now. There's a great reward waiting for us, a reward that compensates for the difficulties we sometimes experience as Christians in this world.

And know that our new life in the resurrection also has important consequences for our day-to-day lives in this world. Knowing and claiming the resurrection helps us deal with the difficulties and persecutions of trusting in Christ when many people around us may not.

When our life and ministry runs into problems, we don't just quit. We don't say, "Let's eat, drink and be merry, because nothing really matters any more." No, we see that there is a future, and life does matter, and we want to live with our future in mind.

Knowledge and faith in the resurrection helps us to live and die faithfully in hope and confidence for the future, because we know that the best is yet to come. Because Jesus lives, we can confidently face today and tomorrow without fear; we know that life is worth living just because we know Jesus lives.

The second verse of the hymn "My Hope is Built" says: When darkness veils his lovely face, I rest on his unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

My hope and prayer for you on this Easter Sunday is that you cast off all veils so that you are able to see beyond the ordinary to the one who heals, the one who forgives, the one who serves, and the one who saves.

And I pray that through this revelation you will be moved to leave the past in the tomb, to experience a new birth, and to walk with the resurrected Christ for all eternity.

Jesus Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!


Read other messages by Pastor Wade