You are Running

YOU ARE RUNNING

You are running. You are running for your life. Your heart and mind are racing. A couple of days ago, your best friend was killed. He was more than a best friend. He was brilliant, not only in his intellect, but also in his very being. His eyes seemed to reflect unimaginable wisdom. If he looked at you, he gazed into your soul. And his power! He did unexplainable things. You saw him touch people and do the impossible. And his words! His words could penetrate any situation and reform the most damaged heart. You believed that, if he desired, he could use his words to create the heavens and earth! He was unlike anyone you’ve ever known.

But now, you found yourself running.

 

YOU WERE FRIGHTENED

On Thursday night you had shared your last meal with him.  He said that the bread you shared together represented his body, given for you. That was strange. He said that the cup you shared together was his blood, a new covenant with God, shed for the forgiveness of your sin. That was uncomfortable. And then everything really went wrong. He spoke about his coming death. He spoke about a betrayer among your friends. He spoke about that hour being now. You went out to pray with him because he asked you… but you were exhausted. You kept falling asleep. As you closed your eyes you could see how sad he was that you couldn’t even stay awake with him on such an important night, when his heart was so troubled and alone. But you didn’t sleep long.

You were stirred awake by soldiers and weapons and shouts. There was a commotion- Peter pulled out a sword and cut off the ear of the high servant, there was blood and screaming and yelling. You just stood there frightened and confused as your best friend cupped the side of the servant’s head and healed his ear. “No swords,” he said. “Take me,” he told the soldiers, “so that the others may be free.” And you stood in horror as he allowed himself to be arrested and carried off. Why was this happening? This wasn’t supposed to be the plan? Right? You didn’t know what to think… or where to go as everyone scattered in the shadows.

 

YOU WERE THERE

The next day they took your best friend from one ruler to another, like a mouse in a cat’s paws. He was spit on, cursed, mocked, hit, lashed, beaten, laughed at, and condemned to execution. You were able to see some of the violence… and it wretched your stomach and attacked your heart. The soldiers pushed him through the streets, strapped to that rough wooden beam, the cruelest instrument of death the Romans could think up. He was led up Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. There they crucified him. You couldn’t believe it. You cupped your own ears as your best friend was pierced through his wrists and his feet, nailed to those beams. You cupped your eyes as he was hoisted up and dropped into place, elevated above everyone on display so that the world could see him suffer. A sign was posted over his head on that hideous cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

You were standing near the cross with a woman who once carried your best friend, who had once treasured all these things about him in her heart. You were trying to comfort her in her distress, but sobbing and barely able to cope yourself. From that cursed tree above, your friend looked down at both of you and caught a deep breath. “Woman,” he forced the words out of his mouth.  “He is now your son.” You could hardly contain your sorrow as the sentiment and love of those words flowed over your soul. Then he spoke to you!  “John, she is now your mother.”

“Okay,” you thought, “I’ll take care of her. I’ll watch out for her and she’ll watch out for me.” That was just like your friend. Never ceasing. He was always thinking of others ahead of himself. Up to the last moment of his life, even in those last agonizing moments, held stretched in pain, he was reaching out, caring for you, loving you.

You heard him cry out, “Father, forgive them.” And though it was the middle of the day, the sky went dark as night. A tremendous earthquake shook beneath your feet. Anxious people lost their balance. Panic could be heard coming from the high Mount. Along with everyone else, you looked back at the horrible wonder of Jesus. He yelled out from the cross with a strength greater than 10,000 angels: “Father, it is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

 

YOU WERE LOST

Your heart and mind were racing. You were reeling with emotion as the centurion rammed his spear under the ribs of your friend’s body. You were going to yell at him, but instead threw your arms around your friend’s mother as she collapsed. You glanced up and saw that water and blood flowed mingled down from his lifeless body.

You didn’t know where to go. You didn’t know what your next step was. It was quite a surprise to you when two of the religious leaders took it upon themselves to properly wrap and bury his body. Turns out they considered your friend to be their friend too. They seemed just as distraught as they placed the body into a brand new tomb in a beautiful garden area. Quite a risk they took. And, for a moment, you noted it.

When you saw the others who had been following your friend, you wept. This included Peter, who had spent the night denying his association with all of this, and now he was beside himself with remorse. But he was just like the rest of you. So… lost.

News was just making its way to you that your friend Judas, who had been the betrayer, had hanged himself in a field outside the city.

Passover. What kind of Passover was this? It was the children of Israel who were supposed to be saved. The sons of Pharaoh, the ones who rejected God, they were the ones who died. Not the children of God! But this? Your friend. Jesus. Was he not the Son of God?! There was no Passover for him. There was no rescue. He died as if he was the most cursed son of man.

During Sabbath, even if you had wanted, you wouldn’t have been able to visit the tomb without being harassed by Roman soldiers. Pilate had ordered that the tomb be guarded and that a huge stone be rolled over the doorway. Your friend’s mom, and some of the other women who had followed your friend closely, had purchased burial ointments that they intended to put on the body at sunrise on Sunday morning. But you weren’t going to accompany them back to the tomb. Your life was in danger. Your heart was a mess. It was just too much to handle.

 

YOU ARE RUNNING

And so Sunday morning came. Another earthquake forced you out of your bed. So this is what life is going to be like now. The foundations of the whole world shaken.

As you stumble around in your stupor, you hear some people running towards the house. They’re yelling something. “Oh no, what now?” you thought.  Wait, it’s Mary Magdalene. “Mary, What’s happened?” Peter comes over too. “Mary, what is it?” She’s trying to explain something to you. She is crying and frightened and bewildered, she’s not making much sense; something about the stone being rolled away and no body and an empty tomb. Peter puts his hands on Mary’s shoulders, and in a calm voice says, “Mary, slow down. Where is the body?”  “I don’t know!” Mary says.

Peter takes off. He’s running fast and you follow right behind him. You don’t want to go look at the tomb, but you have to.  What is happening? You are running. You are running fast. So fast in fact that you run right past Peter, who is huffing a bit.  You run to the garden and to the tomb that’s been cut out of the rock. You’re expecting trouble. But there are no guards. The stone has been rolled back. You run right up to where your friend was buried. You stoop down and look into the grave, too afraid to go in.

As a deer pants for the stream… or maybe more like a beast pounds out of breath after a prey, Peter bumps past you. He’s always been kind of clumsy and bullheaded, but you can’t blame him today. He’s a tumbling rock. He’s too passionate to be afraid. He goes right in to the tomb. You watch him stare at the linens that had once covered the body. Now, they’re lying, folded up, off on the side. You make yourself go in, slowly. You take in the scene of the empty tomb.

You see. And you believe. This is what Jesus said he would do.  This is what Jesus said he would do. The Temple would be destroyed but in three days would rise again. He is the Temple.  He is God Tabernacling with us. He is God making his home with us. He is Immanuel. He is God with us in the flesh. Your heart is stirred. Your mind is running. Your soul is awakened. This is what the Scriptures said would happen: The Son of Man must be lifted up, but he will see the light of life again. He would be led away like a criminal to suffer and die. He would carry on his shoulders all of our infirmities. From prison and trial they would lead him away to his death. But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and fill him with grief… so that he could in a short time restore us and heal us! Isaiah! You were right! Jesus is alive!

And you believe! And you will never be the same! And you know in your soul that you must go and tell others. You must tell everyone about what has happened. You can’t help it, you have to declare what you have seen and heard. You know your friend is more than a friend. You now know that God so loved the world that he gave his One and only Son… so that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life. The Word of God, the Light shining in the darkness, giving us new birth, the Good shepherd, our friend who lays down his life for us. The Passover Lamb of God. And your life will never be the same because Jesus was lifted up on the cross and then lifted up from the grave.

 

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Over the next few weeks, Jesus is going to show himself to you, teaching you, restoring you, preparing you for his mission.  So you commit yourself to this calling: May you live every day in the resurrection wonder of your greatest friend, Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life. May you run to him, may you run for him, and may you run with him. May you join with countless believers throughout the ages in declaring what your friend has done. May you share the good news of forgiveness of sins and life everlasting through Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Amen.

 

 

JOHN 20:1-9 NLT

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.

 

NOTE: I gave this message in the Easter Chapel at Crown College this week (2017). I gave an original version of this message on a beach in Parksville, British Columbia on Easter morning of 2006. I tried to enter into John’s experience as he ran on Sunday morning to the Empty Tomb. What must that have been like? What had he experienced? What had he seen and heard? 
Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

4 thoughts on “You are Running

  1. Ken, thank you for this very thoughtful and true to life Easter message. I was not at the beach in Parksville when you shared the original message. I knew your briefly at PFBC, and with sincere appreciation for your thoughtfulness and perception.

    I remember as part of a group, planning a drama to launch a sermon series, meeting with you. Knowing I was leaving for the mainland due to my brother-in-law being near death, you asked if you could pray for me, which you did. I have often thought of you in that setting.

    May God continue to bless you in your various roles.

    Rodney Anderson

    Like

    1. Hi Rodney – Thanks so much for the note. I remember that prayer time well. Thankful to have had that moment during a difficult time. Truly appreciate your comment!

      Like

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