Today, I want to share with you today what Easter means to me.
First a story:
For many years I had a lot of friends but not someone I would call a “best friend.”
And then came college and Scott and Chris.
I met Chris during my freshman year as we were working on a school committee together.
We hit it off immediately.
We had the same interests, lived in practically the same town.
Scott was Chris’ roommate.
By the start of sophomore year, I hung out with Chris and Scott and their friends a lot.
And then I remember…I am sure it was a Friday night and the guys were about to go out to eat, and Scott said something:
He said, “You are one of my best friends!”
And it made me so happy
But that moment opened my eyes to the fact that with Scott, Chris, Steve, Big Dave, Little Dave, Sam, Dean, Brian, Dan, John, Art, and Todd I had not just close and best friends, but I had a family.
And that leads to our Gospel Lesson.
And the story of Jesus.
And his disciples.
I believe at the heart of Easter is a story of a God and his relationship with his disciples and, God’s relationship with us.
The relationship between Jesus and the disciples starts in the very first chapter of John.
We see the first disciples: Andrew, Peter, Philip and Nathanael all follow this amazing teacher and preacher named Jesus.
Pretty soon, they start to call Jesus “Rabbi” (“Teacher”) which was appropriate since “disciples” is another word for “students.”
From Chapters 2-12, the disciples watch as Jesus heals the sick, challenges the religious authority, and invites those who were considered outcasts to be a part of this thing called “The Kingdom. “
And the relationship between teacher and disciples evolved.
When we get to Chapter 13, we get the story of the Last Supper.
Jesus shares one last Supper with his disciples.
But to Jesus, this meal is not shared between teacher and student..
It was at this Supper that Jesus says you are no longer my students.
“You are my friends.”
Think of a time you met someone for the first time, and over a course of days, months, or maybe years, that person becomes one of your closest friends.
Think of that image or memory when you read that passage and think of what was going through the minds of the disciples.
Jesus has taken the relationship up a level.
And it would be a great way to end the story.
A great way to end the Supper, among friends and pals.
But unfortunately, the story does not end with that image.
For even as Peter, Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, and the disciples are now called friends,
They still end up breaking Jesus’ heart.
One of Jesus’ so-called “friends”, Judas, betrays him to the authorities.
Another “friend”, Peter, betrays Jesus by denying his relationship.
Even after bragging he would do no such thing.
their Teacher, their Friend, is nailed to a cross, the disciples do not stand at the cross to mourn,
Some friends, right?
At that moment, how many of us have felt that same sense of loss and hurt.
How many of us have felt we have been betrayed by someone we called a friend?
Someone we let enter and become a part of our life?
For many of us, that friendship would be over.
But then comes Easter.
Jesus appears before Mary, a friend by the way, who DID NOT abandon him.
A friend who was there when the going got tough.
When Jesus appears, alive and well, scars and all, what does this mean to those who turned their back on him?
What will happen to the disciples?
What is Jesus going to do about those so-called friends of his?
Is he going to track them down and punish them?
Is he going to curse them?
The answer comes in the verse that has been forged in my heart forever.
When Jesus brings up the disciples, the first thing he tells Mary to do is: “Go and tell MY BROTHERS.”
Not my betrayers.
Not my backstabbers.
In a moment when Jesus has every right to sever his ties,
Jesus takes his relationship with the disciples to a HIGHER level!
He has gone from calling them disciples to friends and now FAMILY.
These are the same brothers Jesus tells Mary to go and tell them he is alive.
Not even Maundy Thursday
Not even Good Friday
Not even DEATH can sever the bond, the LOVE that Jesus has for his family.
Jesus shows us this love when he appears before the disciples in verses 19 and 20.
It’s like the scene in our lives when it is the first time we see someone whom we have hurt or betrayed.
And it’s a big “Uh oh” moment.
And you wonder what this person is going to do or say to you.
This is that scene.
This is that moment.
When Jesus can let them have it.
And he does let them have it!
He lets them have “Peace.”
At that moment, Jesus gives them what he gives all of us.
Peace, forgiveness, and love.
The relationship between Father and Son, Father and Daughter, Father and children is stronger than we will ever fully understand.
But it is a bond that God took seriously from the very beginning of creation.
The story of God has always been Grace
When Adam and Eve eat the apple, disobeying God in the process, and God sends them out of the Garden, what does he do?
He provides clothes for them.
When Cain murders his own brother, Abel, and God sends him away, what does God do?
He puts a sign on Cain, a mark, that lets other people know that Cain is still under God’s protection.
When humankind turns to sin, and God is ready to wash them away in a Great Flood,
What does God do? He makes Noah and his family the start of a new beginning.
When the people try to build a tower that reaches the heavens so they can be like God, and God scatters them with different language, what does God do?
He sends out Abraham to bring them back, to start a new family.
Throughout the story of our faith,
God never leaves his Children behind.
Jesus never leaves his brothers and sisters behind.
Even if it means second chance after second chance, punishment, correction.
Jesus did not die for the sake of followers.
He died for the sake of friends.
He died for the sake of his family: he died for us.
And he came back FOR us.
It is so good to see you here today.
People from out of town,
And let me say something to those who come to church once in a while.
Many pastors will call these folks the CEB’ers
They come on Christmas and Easter and Baptisms.
But you will not hear me call you that.
I have a different name for you.
And on behalf of this congregation, I want to welcome you home.
Today, for me, and I hope for you,
Today is all about family.
It is all about friends.
It is all about what Jesus went through to show us how much He loves us:
By offering peace instead of punishment
By offering a place at the table instead of a place outside his reach
By offering his arms to hold us instead of pushing us away.
By calling us HIS children.
By calling us HIS.
And that is what Easter means to me.