A Word of Grace – April 17, 2017

Dear Friends,

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 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.” When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” 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. Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. Jn 20:11-18

Jesus is on the loose!

He’d been Mary’s teacher and what a teacher he was! Devotion to him had cost her dearly in the misunderstandings of family and friends (Mk 14:3-9; Lk 10:39-42).

Now, though her devotion remains strong, she doesn’t know the risen Jesus. He isn’t who she expects him to be. He isn’t where she expects him to be.

Even her tears of sincere grief and loss are questioned.

It isn’t until Jesus calls out her name, with an authority that could only come from intimate knowledge, that she recognizes him as her teacher. But everything she knows about him is about to change.

Jesus is so much more than a teacher. “Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”

If I had come through some really traumatic experience that upset and grieved the persons who loved me and counted on me, I’d want to embrace them and tell them, “Look, I’m fine. Go home and rest. Everything is going to be OK.”

But I’m not Jesus. With the defeat of death and the new life poured into him by the Father, Jesus will not be confined in a tomb whether constructed of stone or of human expectations.

He appears as a fellow traveler to two disheartened disciples on the road home and re-ignites the fire of devotion in their hearts (Lk 24:32).

He enters a house locked in fear and breathes the peace of the Holy Spirit into wounded, anxious souls (Jn 20:19-23).

He stands on a beach cooking breakfast for friends wearied by grief and a long night of empty effort and then restores them to loving purpose (Jn 21:1-23).

He brings comfort to longing hearts and new hope to broken, contrite spirits everywhere.

If we are going to move with Jesus, to grow in him and with him, we have to let go of the Jesus that we are holding “so that [our] faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1 Cor 2:5).

Here is the paradox: if we unleash Jesus from our fixed and demanding expectations for what he will be to us and we to him, he will set us free from the fears, habits and sin that bind and stunt us in mind and spirit.

Like many of us, Mary expects that she can maintain a safe and manageable relationship with Jesus by making him her teacher. We form our expectations of Jesus out of what we think we know and feel that we need. We embrace our conceptual Jesus for comfort and certainty. This is no more than tomb-building, and Jesus is done with tombs.

The Apostle Paul tells us that the leaders who crucified Jesus would never have done so if they had understood that there is always more to God than we think we know. “‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ — these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”  (1 Cor 2:8-10).

Jesus famously taught, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mt 6:21). This is more than a commentary on material wealth. Our estimation of Jesus tends to reflect what we think he can do for us. If he is only a teacher, we can take or leave his lessons as may suit us or modify his instruction at will. Our highest ambition for our relationship with him as teacher is the achievement of moral virtue.

If we know Jesus Christ as the Son of God and our Savior, the bridge to eternal life that makes his Father our Father, as he tells Mary, then he commands everything from us as the sole source and power of our life.

The great divide between our understanding of Jesus as teacher and Jesus Christ as Savior is found on a hill called “Calvary.” Those who cross that divide confess, “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:19-20).

Those who sincerely make that confession have surrendered their lives and expectations at the foot of the cross–even their expectations of Jesus. The new life on the other side of the resurrection is not a return to normal. Death, the overwhelming shadow over our lives, has been defeated. Nothing is predictable after that except the love of the Father and the Son who paid the price of our passage to the other side.

After the resurrection, a Savior is on the loose, alive and enlivening. There is no normal. There is no ordinary. There are no expectations. There is only hope of sharing the ever-enlarging glory of God. “And hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).

“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).

Under the mercy of Christ,

Kent

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Please note that the content and viewpoints of Mr. Hansen are his own and are not necessarily those of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. We have not edited his writing in any substantial way and have permission from him to post his content.

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Kent HansenKent Hansen is a Christian attorney, author and speaker. He practices corporate law and is the managing attorney of the firm of Clayson, Mann, Yaeger & Hansen in Corona, California. Kent also serves as the general counsel of Loma Linda University and Medical Center in Loma Linda, California.

Finding God’s grace revealed in the ordinary experiences of life, spiritual renewal in Christ and prayer are Kent’s passions. He has written two books, Grace at 30,000 Feet and Other Unexpected Places published by Review & Herald in 2002 and Cleansing Fire, Healing Streams: Experiencing God’s Love Through Prayer, published by Pacific Press in spring 2007. Many of his stories and essays about God’s encompassing love have been published in magazines and journals. Kent is often found on the hiking trails of the southern California mountains, following major league baseball, playing the piano or writing his weekly email devotional, “A Word of Grace for Your Monday” that is read by men and women from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

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