John 20:10-20 Who are you searching for? Easter 2011

It’s Easter morning and many people woke up this morning and began searching.  They were searching for eggs filled with surprises.  Others woke up this morning searching for a cure to the guilt they feel for wrong they have committed.  Some are searching for a cure to the sharp words they uttered to a spouse, coworker, or child.  Some want to find a solution to their pride.  Others want a more compassionate, generous or trusting heart. Some are seeking an end to taxes.  Others want a cure for death. And some want to know that when they die, God will be waiting with open arms to welcome them, not with a scale to judge them.

We are all seekers looking for something or someone. Sometimes we are looking for lost keys, wallets or cell phones, though I hope that is not the greatest thing in your life you have lost.  Frequently we are looking for someone in our life.  Sometimes it is a person in a crowd we are trying to find, like living in a giant Where’s Waldo story, except it’s real.  We spend so much time looking for potential spouses, old classmates, friends we have lost contact with or even potential business contacts we hope to make which will land us the next big score.  The lure of searching for and finding someone is big business in our world.  Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace are mega-multi national corporations boasting multi-billion dollar balance sheets.  Searching for people is becoming easier every day in our iWorld.

But let me ask again, “Are you really finding who you are seeking?”  “Is your life, your core desires, your core concerns, are your hopes and dreams for the future being met in these seek and find websites?  Or are you hoping for more?” “Has your search for the one who really matters led you down a dead end road and have you returned home without understanding, and subsequently given up the search, or are you still seeking, hoping to find the one who can answer your deepest longings and give you hope?”

On this Easter morning, let me ask you, “What are you seeking?  Who are you searching for?”

Today I want to tell you about the person I found a number of years ago when I needed a solution to my guilt, my critical heart, my unkind words.  His name is Jesus Christ.  And nearly two thousand years ago Jesus walked the earth and spoke to those who wore their guilt throughout every day of their life.  To an adulteress caught in the act, awaiting execution by stoning, he spoke words of comfort saying, John 8:10-11 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

To a tax collector, whom no respectable person would eat with, a man seeking community and acceptance, Jesus invited himself to dinner.  The meal and discussion with Jesus must have been phenomenal for after the meal Zaccheus stood up and said, Luke 19:8-10 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord,Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.

To a dead man in the grave for four days and a family who had lost hope that a cure for his sickness could be found, he cried out, John 11:43-44 “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”  So when this man who affected the lives of many people – feeding the masses, teaching of the Kingdom of God, healing the blind, lame and sick – when he was crucified on the cross, his followers were understandably lost and confused.  Even on Easter morning when they heard the news of the empty tomb, even after running to inspect it, they left for they didn’t understand what was happening.  They were in the midst of the greatest event of history, living through the transitional point of all time and they were confused.

And instead of seeking answers, instead of trying to understand, they gave up and returned to a room to hide out from their fear of those around them.  Isn’t that like people, when we get lost, or disheartened, instead of seeking understanding, often we retreat to our safe havens and return to the things we are comfortable with.  We give up the belief that anything is truly different.  We forget that God has broken into history and changed the world.  But there was one woman who stayed on around the tomb looking for understanding.

She had her assumptions and they were anything but orthodox. She earnestly believed her Lord had been killed and his body taken and hidden, yet she refused to leave until she saw the proof.  She begged the gardener for the information she wanted.  And in her search for understanding and confirmation she encountered an unexpected truth, a truth that would change her life and was changing the world.

She met the resurrected Christ, she spoke to him and he spoke to her.  And when the interaction was finished, she testified, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

On this Easter morning, let me ask you again, “Who/what are you seeking?”

Looking for a Savior

Are you looking for someone who can save you from fear and guilt and change your into a more loving and compassionate person?  Are you looking for one who can redeem your life from the pit? Of have you given up that search and deemed it pointless?  Have you gone and proverbially hidden yourself away in room safe and secure from the attacks of the world and even the attacks of your own conscience?

If you have quit seeking answers from Christ because sometime in your past you had an experience in the church that left you confused and bewildered; if you believed at one time but now aren’t so sure who this Jesus is, then I hope that the story of Mary and the disciples will encourage you.

If you used to go to church and have long since quit making that a part of your life; if you used to believe, but no longer believe that Jesus really lived, died and rose again; if you are here not because you are a still searching for answers but because it is your obligation to a parent or sibling, which has brought you, then please listen and here these next words.

Jesus entered into a room full of people who had given up searching.  They had looked into the empty tomb and couldn’t make sense of what happened, they didn’t understand its importance or its value and so they wandered back off to do life their own way.  Their life was a life of fear and incomprehension at the world.  But even though they weren’t looking for the savior anymore, he was still looking for them.

He walked into their private gathering and declared “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19).  In fact he says it twice, the words were so important for those who weren’t seeking to hear.  Peace!  Peace!  Peace is a word pregnant with meaning in the Hebrew.  It is a word declaring that strife and conflict is missing between God and his people, it is a word declaring the abundant storehouse of God is open to his children and their needs.  It is a word declaring perfect health and cooperation between the body and the soul/spirit.  Peace is a word that essentially means everything is well.

When Jesus appeared in the midst of those who weren’t seeking him, he didn’t cry out Cursed are you, or judged are you or Naughty, naughty are you.  He didn’t say, oh you just wait until God gets his hands on you.  No he said, Peace.  Everything is okay between you and God because of me.  Let that sink into your souls.  Let that affect your emotions.  Just because you have given up seeking Jesus, the savior of the world, doesn’t mean that he has given up seeking you.  The Lord declares, Rev. 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

It is no coincidence you are here today.  Jesus is seeking his sheep.  He is calling out to you, Peace be with you!  Are you hearing him?  There isn’t a sin you have committed which is too heinous for the Lord to forgive.  There isn’t a thought you have had which the Lord can’t purify.  There isn’t a word spoken, or unspoken which the Lord is unable to cleanse you from.  There isn’t an emotion you have that the Lord can’t change and make as vibrant and full of love as his love for you.

If you are feeling guilty about the things you have done, Jesus is calling out to you, repent of your sin and believe the good news, I bring you peace!  If you are feeling bad about the sharp words you said to your spouse, coworker, or children, Jesus is calling out to you who seek him and you whom he is seeking, leave your life of sin and enjoy the Peace I bring to you!  If you sense that your selfishness isn’t right and if you had to stand before God he would be angry about it, then know that if you accept Jesus’ offer to die in you place and come to life by receiving his Spirit breathed into you, then you have peace right now with God! Come and follow me!

If you wish you had a heart that was more compassionate, more generous, more trusting then come to the one who can change hearts of stone into hearts of flesh as the new covenant proclaims, Ezek. 36:25-27 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.   

If you hope that there is more to life than taxes followed by death, then come to one who cries out your name and conquered death by rising from the grave.  If you want to know that when you die, God will be waiting with open arms to welcome you in, not with a scale to judge you, then come to the only one who ever proclaimed Peace be with you!  And then displayed the wounds he incurred in order to bring about your redemption and mine.

Regardless of whether you are actively or passively seeking, the answer to all your longings is a person.  His name is Jesus. He invites you to Come and find rest for your souls.   So, Who are you searching for? Or better yet, do you know who is searching for you?

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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