Sermon on John 20:18-20 – “The Joy of the Resurrection”

Sermon on John 20:18-20 – “The Joy of the Resurrection”

Sermon for Sunday, March 31st, 2024 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Psa 16:1-11 ESV] 1 A Miktam of David. Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. 5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

New Testament reading:

[Rom 4:23 – 5:11 ESV] 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. 1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Gospel reading:

[Jhn 20:1-20 ESV] 1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 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.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her. 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

Introduction

Ah, the joys of Easter.
The easter egg hunts, the spring dresses, the pastel colors, the improved church attendance, the dinner ham!
Ah, the joys of Easter.

But yet without knowing these things. the disciples of Jesus had great joy on this day.

Theirs’ was a joy, not of chocolate bunnies or of eggs with toys hidden inside, but a joy much more profound, a joy more lasting, and a joy that effectually changes those who come to understand and believw in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This is the simple creed of St. Paul to the Romans:

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
The resurrection is so profound that it is one of the top two points. Jesus is Lord. God Raised him from he dead.

The disciples believed in the resurrection because they saw the resurrected Jesus and this matched with what the Scriptures had told them would indeed happen.

You see in this in the 1 Corinthians 15 mini-creed, where they say “according to the Scriptures.”

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.

The resurrection of Christ was in accord with the Scriptures and brought the disciples joy.

It is the Scriptures that are the “many infallible proofs” of the resurrection that Luke speaks of in Acts 1:3.

[Act 1:3 ESV] 3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

Thus the Scriptures are fulfilled. He is Risen. Joy is the result.

There was “Joy on that First Easter.”
It is a joy in Christ’s Resurrection that we too experience.
And it promises OUR own resurrection to eternal joy.

These are our 3 points:
I. Joy on that First Easter
II. Our Joy in Christ’s Resurrection
III. Our Joy in Our Resurrection

I. Joy on that First Easter

First, let us look at the joy on that first Easter.

The text for our sermon is John 20:18. It reads,

18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”–and that he had said these things to her.

And while Mary Magdalene uttered these words as factual, I simply cannot imagine them without joy.

She didn’t say “Meh, I’ve seen the Lord” and go about her business.

She said “I have seen the Lord.” I really think there should be an exclamation point there!

The disciples had just been “low.” They must have been devastated when Jesus died. They must have been concerned that they’d be next. Unsure of what the future brings.

But joy comes in the morning.
Their joy comes this morning; in the resurrection.

That’s what we find, right after Mary Magdalene’s joy. We find the disciples’s joy in the resurrection of Christ.

[Jhn 20:19-20 ESV] 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

They were glad. No doubt that is an accurate translation. I just think in today’s language that “glad” is an understatement. Other translation say “the disciples rejoiced.” (That is a bit better) And one translation says “they were filled with joy.” The NIV even says “the disciples were OVERJOYED when they saw the Lord.” I think that is much better; no understatement there. The disciples were OVERJOYED. That fits the context. They see the Lord and they are overjoyed.

There is joy too when “Doubting” Thomas came to believe in the resurrected Christ. He said to Jesus “My Lord and my God!”

The ESV actually uses an exclamation point there!

The point is, the Apostle Thomas had great joy in seeing and knowing the truth of the resurrected Christ.

No doubt, ALL the disciples (and the women at the tomb) had great joy in the resurrection.

It is said of the women at the tomb, “they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Matthew 28:8)

Another exclamation point is used when the disciples say “The Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon!” (Luke 24:34)

Great joy.

There were other responses as well.
Fear. (Matthew 28:8)
Initial doubt. (Mark 16:11 – they would not believe it.) (John 20:24-25 Doubting Thomas)
Unbelief. At first. Jesus rebuked the unbelief of the disciples. (Mark 16:14)
Worship. (Matthew 28:17)

But joy is the overriding and lasting response to the resurrection.

And this is what Jesus promised to his disciples earlier in John’s Gospel:

[Jhn 16:19-20 ESV] 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

Indeed, their sorrow turned to joy.

And Joy then is the motivating factor then for evangelism. The Gospel is preached not out of obligation, but out of joy, because it is Good News. Don’t you like telling people good news! I do. And the gospel is the best news of all.

Joy is a response that the disciples had, and a response that all followers of Christ do have, throughout the centuries and even today.

II. Our Joy in Christ’s Resurrection

In John Chapter 20 (and in the Synoptic Gospels as well) we have an account of what happened. Jesus was raised from the dead and seen by the women first and then the disciples a number of times in post-resurrection appearances.

And when we look to many other Scriptures we understand the meaning of what happened.

There is the fact of the resurrection of Christ.
Then there is the meaning of the resurrection of Christ.

First we rejoice because, looking back 2000 years, we find joy in the fact that Christ rose from the dead. We find joy in knowing that He liveth, that He Is Risen!

“He is Risen” brings us joy. That fact that Jesus is ALIVE brings us joy.

And we find joy in the disciples’ joy. Contagious joy.

And like the disciples, we have joy because we know the MEANING of the resurrection.

It is the stamp of approval of Christ’s work.

Death is conquered.
Sins are forgiven.
Heaven is promised.
Life with God in heaven will be our forever state.

And it is that meaning that produces joy in us, as it did in the disciples.

It is because of the meaning of the resurrection that we too are to have joy in the resurrection.

And, a most amazing thing about our joy as Christians — our joy in the resurrection — is that it follows us wherever we go.
Whatever our circumstances. No matter how bad it gets. We can look to Christ and have joy. The living, risen Christ.
On the most difficult morning.
In our deepest depression.
Through our hardest days.
When those of the world who know not Christ have nothing to hang on to, we have joy.
Our joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Whether rich or poor, healthy or ill, popular or despised, we have joy in Jesus Christ.
Another way to say this is, “We have a joy that cannot be extinguished.” REPEAT: “We have a joy that cannot be extinguished” because He is Risen.

I preached on a related subject a few years ago at a summer camp, and I made them sing “I’ve got that joy joy joy joy down in my heart.” I won’t make you sing that today, but I hope it in your heart, to stay.

The joy of the Lord is to be our strength. Nothing else, nothing less. We certainly may have joy in the little things (eggs, chocolates, and ham) but we must recognize that those are temporary, and we must recognize that those are blessings to us from our God who himself is our greatest joy.

So we have joy in His resurrection.

And we have joy in OUR resurrection to be.

III. Our Joy in Our Resurrection

We rejoice because Christ’s resurrection brings to us a promised resurrection. United with him, we go where he goes. As Christ Is Risen, we too – though we shall die – shall have life again when we are raised to new life on that great and fearful day of the Lord.

We rejoice – because, according to his great mercy he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

We rejoice because “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

And this joy is NOT just a joy that we will experience on that ONE day of our resurrection, or even just in heaven TO BE. It is a joy we have EACH and EVERY Day, in this world.

Christ’s death for us and His resurrection before us
brings us joy
and, like the women at the tomb and the disciples
changes our countenance from fear and panic to joy and faith.
Every day.

We have joy on Easter, of course. This is the greatest day of the traditional Christian year.
And it is such a great event that it has caused us to worship Christ EVERY Sunday. From the earliest times in the New Testament until this day, we come to church on Sunday to celebrate His resurrection and its promises.

Sunday should be your most joyful day of the week.
Don’t say “I have to go to church.”
But say, “I get to go to church.” “I get to rest.” Physically and spiritually and mentally.

Every day we are to be joyful. Even Monday when we have to go to work. Or Wednesday, when we’re tired of work but the end of the week is not in sight. Even on those day, we wake up, and through all our struggles and through all the turmoil we can say HE IS RISEN. And so shall I be.

The Lord’s love, in the saving and finished work of Jesus Christ, brings ME joy. Every day.

Against the disappointments of life and fear of death, we have joy in the resurrection.
The unbeliever does not have this joy.

Joy is indeed a fruit of the spirit.

But joy never works without a cause. If you tell someone “be more joyful,” it might even have the opposite effect. They need something to be joyful about. And there is nothing greater to point to than to the resurrection.

We can find joy in the little things of life too. But to understand God’s purpose and where we stand in his plan, we must look to the resurrection. Only then can we worship him and enjoy him forever.

It is our duty to be joyful.
It is our joy to have joy.
And we have reason for it. The resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Let us have joy, for He Is Risen. He is Risen Indeed.

Let us pray.

Benediction

[Jde 1:24-25 ESV] 24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.