As has been my tradition, every sermon that I preach will be posted here. This sermon, God’s Big Reveal, was given at The Salvation Army Rochester on Easter Sunday 27 March, 2016. The Reading was John 20:1-18.
I love a big reveal
Liesl and I love watching – when we remember that it’s one – we love watching this show on ABC2 called Penn and Teller’s Fool Us. It features two Magicians, Penn – the tall one who does all the talking, and Teller, the one who doesn’t speak. They have a big Las Vegas show, and through this TV show, they feature a whole heap of magicians who come on and perform a trick. If they are able to fool Penn and Teller, that is, if they aren’t able to figure out how the trick is done, then they win an opportunity to be the warm up act for their Las Vegas show.
Now magic is all about the big reveal. The showing of the box being empty. The showing of the girl sawn in half. The showing of the card that you signed being found inside the walnut which was inside the egg, which was inside the lemon. And I love it, because it gets you thinking – how did they do that?
We all love a big reveal and a big mystery
I’m sure that we all love a big reveal. Maybe, like me, you like the big reveal in a magic act. Or maybe, you like a really well strung out joke, and the reveal the punchline gives you. Or maybe you’re a fan of mysteries, stringing you along until the very last scene where finally all is revealed and it all makes sense. Part of our human nature seems to just love the big reveal.
For me, part of what intrigues me about the big reveal is that by the time the reveal happens, the trick has already taken place. So for the disappearing box, by the time the door is opened, the person inside has already disappeared through the hidden compartment. By the time the reveal is done, the person doing the trick already knows that it’s going to happen exactly the way it should – because it’s been set up well beforehand. So if you want to catch the trick, you need to look before they get to the big reveal – because if you’re looking for how they do it at the reveal, you’ve missed it already.
God Unveils what he Started on Good Friday
What has all of this got to do with Easter, and the reading that we’ve heard? Well, today, we remember that God did his big reveal of what he set up on Good Friday. The good news of Easter isn’t that Jesus died. People die all the time. The good news about Easter is that he rose again! So when we get to Easter Sunday, and Mary’s still thinking that Jesus is dead, we get God going “Look!” Bam. Big reveal. His body’s not there. She goes and tells Peter and John, and they come and look. Bam. Big reveal. His body’s still not there. And then, the big reveal to Mary – Bam! Jesus is alive! And it’s here that God unveils what his plan was the whole time. Because he loves us all so much, God sent his only son, not just to come and be a good person, not just to come and heal some people, not just to teach people more about God, not even just to die on that cross. God sent his only son to die, but also to rise for us, so that we could see that death is beaten, that because he lives, and we believe in him, we have certainty that we shall not perish, but have eternal life.
But just as what happens before the big reveal is important, so what happens after it is just as important. And we see three different reactions to the big reveal, the reactions of Mary, Peter, and John – the disciple whom Jesus loved.
After Mary’s first reveal – that Jesus was not in the tomb, she goes and tells the disciples. Peter and John have a footrace to the tomb to look. John arrives first – no one knows why, but the thought is that John wasn’t married, so he was faster. Don’t know how that theory is supposed to work. But anyway, John arrives first, but only looks, but doesn’t go inside. Peter then arrives, and goes inside. He sees the linen and the cloth – which indicates the body hasn’t been stolen, because who would unwrap the body before stealing it – but we have no word as to what Peter thought, apart from the general comment that they didn’t understand that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then John comes in, and sees and believes. He sees the reveal, and believes what Jesus had said – though he hadn’t understood before, now he had seen, he believed. And then they both headed to their homes.
Mary remained. When she went in, she saw two angels – which somehow isn’t surprising to her even though the tomb had no-one in it when the Disciples were there. Assuming they had taken the body away, she asked them. And seeing another person, and thinking he was the gardener, she asked him if he knew anything. And when he says her name she realises who he is, just as Jesus said that his sheep would know their shepherd by his voice, Mary knows who this is through being called. And it is this that she then realises what has happened. And with this, she goes and tells the disciples.
What is your interpretation?
The way Peter, John and Mary react are ways that we all react when we hear the good news. I wonder which one you relate to.
Maybe you’re like Peter. You’ve heard the news, you’ve read the scriptures, but you’re not sure what to make of it all.
Or maybe you’re like John. You’ve heard the news, you’ve read the scriptures, and you understand what God has done for you, and believe – but you take that information home with you, not telling anyone.
OR maybe you’re like Mary – who saw the reveal, but didn’t understand. But, when called by Jesus, knew, and believed, and went to tell the others about the good news.
We can go and tell others, the good news that Jesus is risen.
This Easter, God has revealed his hand. He’s shown us what his kingdom is about – that because of Jesus’ death – and most importantly, his resurrection – we have certainty that if we believe, then we will have eternal life.
But, like the three disciples, we have a choice in how we react to God’s big reveal. Don’t let God’s big reveal stay here. Go and tell people about it. Tell people about what he did. Tell people about how it’s changed your life. Tell people about how God loves them – because he made them, and he wants to be in a relationship with them.