The Easter service had just begun at old First Church, a church built near the end of the 1800’s. The choir started its processional, singing “Up from the Grave He Arose” as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the sanctuary.
The last woman in the choir processional was wearing shoes with very slender heels. Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered that hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one of her shoes sank into a hole in that register grate!
Just as soon as she had done it, she realized her predicament. Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle.
Everything continued as planned. The processional moved with clock-like precision. The first man in the processional who was following behind the now shoeless woman, spotted the situation and without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe, but the entire grate came up with it! Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached.
Everything still moved like clockwork. Still in tune and still in step, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight. You could say that First Church’s Easter service took on a special meaning that Sunday. Just as the choir ended with “Hallelujah! Christ arose!” a voice was heard under the sanctuary shouting, “I hope all of you are out of the way, ’cause I’m coming up!”
Just then, the little girl closest to the aisle shouted, “Rise Jesus, rise! We’re out of your way!”
I don’t know if that really happened or not, but I found it on the internet and it was too good to pass up. May the church say on this Easter Sunday, “Rise Jesus, rise! We’re out of your way!”
Although nothing quite that dramatic has happened here this morning, (yet), this is still a day like no other. It’s Easter Sunday. Jesus is risen! Up from the grave he arose!
You already heard it told to you from John’s gospel a few minutes ago. But let’s take a moment and really think about what Jesus’ resurrection from the dead means for each one of us.
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
Jesus has been dead for two days. Mary Magdalene had been near the cross just a few days ago. She had seen Jesus hanging on the cross dying. She had seen his tortured body. She had watched him breathe his last breath. She had seen his body taken down from the cross. And she had seen the tomb where his lifeless body had been placed.
It had been late on that Friday afternoon, and the Jewish Sabbath was about to begin as sundown was approaching. No work could be done on the Sabbath, not even preparing a body for proper burial. That would have to wait until the next day.
So Mary waited during the long Sabbath day, mourning the death of her master and friend, and wondering how life would ever be the same now. What would she do next?
Well, she couldn’t think beyond the immediate situation. Jesus’ body still had to be prepared for a proper burial. So, after the Sabbath day was over and early on the first day of the week, Sunday, Mary took some spices and oils to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for burial.
What she discovered at the tomb that early Sunday morning troubled her greatly. You see, the stone which has been placed at the front of the cave where Jesus was buried had been removed. Something wasn’t right, so she ran to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple that Jesus’ body was missing, and she didn’t know where it had been taken.
“Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. [Remember that little detail because we will come back to it a little later.] Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed.”
When Peter and the other disciple got to the tomb they each looked inside the tomb in turn and noticed that Jesus clearly wasn’t there inside. The only thing they did see was the burial wrappings that had been put on Jesus.
It was customary to wrap a dead body with strips of linen cloths for burial. I imagine they wound the linen strip around and around the body. Another strip of cloth was used to cover the face and head of the deceased.
This is exactly how Lazarus had been buried in the story which is told in the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel.
You remember how Lazarus had been ill and at the point of death. Jesus had been called to come to him, but by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been dead four days.
Jesus came to the tomb where Lazarus’s body had been laid, and he told them to roll the stone away. Jesus commanded in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
You’ll notice some similarities between the two stories of being raised from the dead that John tells, but note the differences.
In Jesus resurrection account, the stone has already been rolled away from the front of the tomb. Also, there is no dead body in the tomb! The only thing left in the tomb is the grave clothes, the rolled up robe. The burial shrouds have been left behind by Jesus after his resurrection, because only a dead body needs to be covered in burial shrouds! A former dead man who has been resurrected from the dead to eternal life has no need of these old clothes.
When Jesus was raised to new life, he left the remnants of death behind him. Jesus defeated the power of death, and defeated it once and for all. “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
You see, when we place our faith and trust in what Christ has done for us, we too can share in the good news of Easter. We can celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death.
We can leave our burial shrouds, our funeral clothes, our death outfits behind us.
The Apostle Paul writes this about the resurrection in II Corinthians. He writes, “For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling—if indeed, when we have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.”
We are called to take off our grave clothes, the ones that we wore before we knew Christ, and put on our empty tomb clothes, our Easter clothes, that will remind us that we have been raised with Christ.
In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he instructs them, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
He goes on to say, “But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices, and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.”
So what do we wear instead of the burial shrouds of our dead selves? What do we wear instead of our grave clothes?
Paul tells us, “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also much forgive.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Turning your lives over to God, means leaving behind the selfish, dead selves we once were, and coming alive in the eternal love of God.
Over these past several weeks during the Season of Lent, we have been focusing on the different robes of Jesus as he journeyed to the cross. These different kinds of robes can help us to be the Easter people that God has called us to be.
The shining robe is what points people to God’s glory and radiance. The healing robe is what reminds us that God’s healing presence is always reaching out to us so that we can be made whole. The servant’s robe is what prompts us to humbly serve the needs of others.
The uniting robe is what reminds us to not gamble away our faith. The honoring robe is how we honor Christ as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The redeeming robe is what will never let us forget the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf when he died on the cross.
And finally, there’s the living robe. The Easter robe. The robe that will never let us forget that Jesus is risen and that we are an Easter people!
You know sometimes, I feel so sorry for you as my congregation. Some churches have really cool and hip pastors who preach wearing tapered ripped jeans and tight fitting t-shirts. They have tattoos and goatees.
And then there are pastors like me, traditional, worship robe wearing pastors. Sometimes I feel like a dinosaur still roaming this earth.
This past August, I said to Penny that I wanted to buy another worship robe. You would think two robes would be enough for one pastor, but no, I wanted another one, one with a different color and a new design.
My new robe was even custom made so it took several weeks before it finally arrived. The day it was delivered to the house was a day I will cherish forever. Like a young child waking up early on Christmas morning, I couldn’t wait to open that package when it came to our house.
I ripped open that box, took out the robe, unfolded it, and proudly put it on. I immediately took a selfie and sent the picture to Penny who was at work. I then drove to the church and modeled it in front of the staff. “Look at my new robe!” I proudly told everyone.
If you don’t mind, I’d be happy to give you a closer look at my new robe.
The reason I like to wear a robe in worship is because it reminds me that I am set apart for the work of Christ. This rope that ties around the robe is called a cincture and is to remind me of how Christ was bound and arrested and then led to the cross to die for our sins.
The stole is to remind me that I am bound by the yoke of Christ and that I need to yield to him in all things.
I love my worship robes. They remind me, as we have been looking at these past several Sundays of the many robes of Jesus. His shining robe, his healing robe, his healing robe, his serving robe, his honoring robe, and his redeeming robe.
(Pastor Robert takes off robe, rolls it up and places it on the floor.)
But on this Easter Sunday, the robe of Jesus that we celebrate today is the most important robe of all, the living robe, the rolled up robe.
Because just like the angel said, “He is not here. He is risen!”
Come, Touch the Living Robe of Jesus
Small Group Questions
April 1, 2018
The word, “resurrection” means that after we die, our physical bodies will be made new again by a special act of God’s grace and will be immune from disease and death. There was a belief in Jesus’ day that this would happen at the end of time when God would raise up from the dead all of God’s people. The surprise of Easter Sunday is that God made this happen in the middle of history by raising Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Jesus is an advance sign of what will happen in the future when all of God’s people will be given new bodies.
Is this biblical/Jewish understanding of the word, “resurrection” different or similar to your understanding? Why is it important to understand the correct meaning of this word?
After his crucifixion, Jesus’ body would have been anointed with spices and wrapped in linen cloths and then placed in the tomb. We are told that on Easter morning, only the rolled up linen cloths were found in the tomb because God had raised Jesus from the dead.
What helps you to not lose the awe, wonder, and surprise of the Easter story even if you have heard it many times?
At the end of his sermon, Pastor Robert shared why he loves wearing a worship robe. It reminds him that he is set apart for the work of Christ and to always remember “to put on Christ” in our day to day living.
Share what helps you to remember to “put on Christ” each day.
Easter Sunday marks the conclusion of our seven week long series on the different robes of Jesus. Each robe offers particular ways for us to become more like Jesus in our everyday lives. These include the shining robe, the healing robe, the serving robe, the uniting robe, the honoring robe, the redeeming robe, and Easter Sunday’s focus on the living robe.
Which of these robes during our series has been most interesting to you and why?