Pew Sermon – John 20:1-18

People are all different, we think differently, and we react differently.

Perhaps some of the people who followed Jesus never really expected Him to succeed. They loved Him and believed in Him, but they knew the world too well. They knew people’s cynicism and selfishness, and so they knew that Jesus would be rejected and killed.

And on that first Easter morning, they set off to take care of His corpse.

And are thrown into disorder and terror when they find the empty tomb and an angel. Hope and new life were not part of their plan.

Other disciples were sure, right up to the last minute, that Jesus would pull some spectacular trick out of the bag and save Himself.

They had seen Him perform so many miracles before; but when it became clear that nothing was going to save Jesus, that He really was going to die, their world was turned upside down, and they scattered in disarray.

People’s reactions to the resurrection are just as varied. In John’s Gospel today, the empty tomb means very different things to the two sets of people who see it.

For Peter and the beloved disciple. The dark moth of the cave is a doorway for the rebirth of hope. They had been right about Jesus: He did have one more spectacular miracle to perform after all. They see the tomb and run to spread the good news.

But for Mary, the black hole of the empty tomb is still about loss. Where is the body?

She is so far gone in the grief that she had been expecting for so long that she cannot feel hope until she sees Jesus with her own eyes.

Mary is sometimes called “the apostle to the apostles” because she was the first to see the risen Jesus and tell others what she had seen.

But other disciples, like Thomas, or the two who were walking to Emmaus, or Peter, who betrayed Jesus, all needed to meet the risen Lord, too.

Each of them needed something slightly different in order to believe.

Mary needed to see, Thomas needed to touch, the pair on the road to Emmaus needed to see how it made sense in terms of the scriptures, Peter needed to be forgiven and given responsibility.

Each one was different, and to each one, Jesus appeared.

People are all different. Jesus knew that and treated them accordingly.

God knows that, because He made us. But we who proclaim the news of the risen Lord do not always remember how different people are.

What makes each one of us come to faith in Christ and go on believing and trusting in His new life will vary from person to person.

Jesus can be encountered in so many different ways.

Our task, on this Easter day and always, is to discern what it is that people need in order to meet the risen Christ, and to try to help them in that need.

Some need to meet Jesus in their grief, some in hope, some in human touch, some in rational argument, some in anger at the cruelty of the world.

Jesus wants to meet everyone where they can find Him, so that all may share His risen life.