The Resurrection of Dead Ends

The Resurrection of Dead Ends

Mary Magdalene’s story reminds us that with Jesus, there are no dead ends.  With Jesus’ resurrection, there is always hope for a path to new life.  The same power and love that reconciles us to God through Jesus gives us hope for reconciliation in all of our relationships and invites us to be ministers of reconciliation with others. 

Speaker: Pastor Stephen “Tig” Intagliata
Main Bible Passage: Matthew 28:1-10


After the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This weekend Karen and I watched the movie “Thirteen lives”.  It’s about that boys’ soccer team in Thailand that got trapped in a cave due to the monsoon rains, and the miraculous rescue operation that got them all out alive after almost all hope had been lost to save them.

Most people had believed the boys had come to a dead end with no way out.  As the families of the boys worried and grieved, the community and the scuba divers showed incredible courage and sacrifice to bring them all out alive.

Just like people had given up hope on the boys on the soccer team being alive,   Jesus’ followers feared that Jesus’ life had come to and end when he was nailed to that cross on Calvary on Good Friday.

And just like the families of those soccer boys, Jesus’ disciples had begun to grieve the loss of their rabbi, their leader, their Lord.  Like a gambler who takes the risk of going “all in” on a good hand, they had gone “all in” with Jesus.

Jesus had become the source of their hope, and now everything seemed hopeless.

No one felt the despair and grief more deeply than Mary Magdalene.

Her life before Jesus had reached a dead end, with no hope for any kind of future worth living, but when Jesus caused a bunch of demons to leave her, all of a sudden she had a new lease on life.  Her chains were gone, and she was set free.

Mary was as devoted to Jesus as any of his 12 male disciples.  Maybe even more devoted.  But now that Jesus was in the tomb, Mary’s world was shattered, and her dreams came to a screeching halt, like she had reached the end of the road.

But being the faithful follower of Jesus that she was, Mary Magdalene, along with another Mary, were the first to go to the tomb, early in the morning on the third day after Jesus’ crucifixion.

While they were there, an angel comes and rolls away the stone, and sits on it. I love that Matthew included that detail!  I mean it was a heavy stone, and I guess even angels get tired.  So it was a well-deserved rest.

And that angel was so bright and blinding like lightning, that the guards watching over the tomb because they were so afraid of what they saw.

And then the two Marys show up and the angel doesn’t want to have to deal with 2 more people hitting the ground, so he says,

 “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, just as he said. Come, see the place where his body was laid. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,

So the Marys see the empty tomb, and as they’re running out to give the news to the disciples, look who greets them.  The man himself.  Jesus.

And they grab Jesus by the feet and they worship their now risen Lord.  What an emotional moment that must have been!

And just like the angel had done, Jesus sends the Marys out to tell the disciples the good news, and to meet him in Galilee.

Why was Mary Magdalene the first person to receive the news that Jesus had risen?  Why was she the first one to see the risen Jesus, and the first messenger sent to the other disciples?

While the 12 male disciples were front and center in the telling of Jesus’ story in the gospels, it was a woman with a checkered past to whom God revealed the greatest news the world has ever known.

Could it be that Mary was first because it is to broken people like her that the power of the resurrection is most meaningful and most evident.

I mean, Mary fit the description pretty well of the blessed ones that Jesus talks about in his Sermon on the Mount:

People who are poor in spirit, who are meek, who mourn, people who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  These are the kinds of people who are familiar with the dead ends in life

Maybe trapped in a situation they can’t get out of on their own, maybe burnt by a relationship that has left them broken and wounded, maybe having plans that get disrupted and shatter, to the point that they can’t see a way forward.

To these kinds of folks, to people like Mary Magdalene who know they need a Savior, the resurrection of Jesus is their lifeline.  Jesus is their path that shows them a way out of their dead end.

Less than a mile from where Karen and I live, there is a dead end street.  At first glance, it’s a bleak place, with some guardrails, and some overgrown brush around it.

But if you look more closely, you’ll find that on the upper right part of the dead end is an opening.  And that opening leads to a paved path that meanders through the woods alongside a creek.

It’s a beautiful, peaceful path, and it’s one of our family’s favorite places in the area to take a hike.

This path actually meets up with the Gerry Connelly trail, a 40 mile long trail that runs north-south all the way through Fairfax County.

Friends, with Jesus, there are no dead ends.  There is always hope for a path to new life, and new beginnings, even when it might be hard to see at first, like it was to see that path at the end of that dead end street.

The apostle Paul in his 2nd letter to the Corinthians talks about the new life that we can have because of Jesus’ resurrection.  You may have heard that often-quoted line from chapter 5, verse 17:

17 So if anyone is in Christ, there[d] is a new creation: everything old has passed away; look, new things have come into being!

That’s an awesome verse, but very rarely do people read what comes after it, and in my opinion, that makes it even better.

It’s kind of like an oreo cookie.  You know that jingle, that a kid will eat the middle of the oreo first, the frosting, and save the chocolate on the outside for last.

Verse 17 is like the frosting in the middle, but the verses that follow it are like the chocolate cookie part on the outside.  Some kids might just ignore that cookie, but I actually like that part better,

and I might even like vs. 18-20 even better than vs. 17.  Show vs. 18-20:

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[f] not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God.

What’s the word that keeps repeating in these verses? It’s “reconciliation”.

Friends, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can be reconciled with God, the relationship that was broken way back in the garden of Eden can be restored, reconciled, so we can live in communion with the God who created us and who loves us more than we can imagine.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Paul says that God has given us a job, a calling, a ministry of reconciliation to others, to help other people find reconciliation both with God and with those around them, and with all of God’s beautiful creation.

A bit part of the new creation Paul is talking about in verse 17 is a world where people are reconciled in relationships with others that have been broken and experienced separation and alienation.

To me, reconciliation with God and reconciliation with other people are intertwined.  Where there is one, the other is so often right there with it. They go hand in hand.

In our Lent devotional this past Tuesday, the key verse was 2 Corinthians 5:18, this verse about God giving us the ministry of reconciliation.  You know, the chocolate cookie verse.

And the author gives as an example the story in the Old Testament where Joseph is reconciled to his brothers who had long ago sold him into slavery because they resented him so much.

And that story touched a nerve in our group, and there were beautiful stories shared of reconciliation in families where people held grudges, and hurt, and pain, and as a result, hadn’t spoken to each other for a long time.

It was like the relationships had reached a dead end with no way out.  But by the grace of God, relationships found healing and restoration, and new beginnings, new paths that surprise us with beauty and peace that we previously couldn’t imagine.

It was acknowledged that seeking reconciliation in those types of relationships is hard work, it takes sacrifice, and courage, and humility, and forgiveness, and communication that is bathed in compassion and grace.

But when it happens, it’s a beautiful thing.  And I think it’s a God thing.  I believe that when broken relationships are reconciled and restored, that it’s a real, tangible sign of the power of love that God demonstrated in the resurrection of Jesus.

Whether people recognize it or not, I believe that reconciled relationships are a reminder that the risen Jesus is alive and at work in the world, reconciling the world to himself, as the apostle Paul puts it.

In a minute we’re going to sing “In Christ Alone my hope is found, he is my light my strength, my song”.   Later on it says, “no power of hell, no human plan, or scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand.”

These words remind us of the promise that because of Jesus’ resurrection, we can be reconciled to him in such a way that nothing can separate us from him, or his love for us,

And because we are secure in our relationship with Jesus, in a world where there is so much alienation and broken relationships, we can embrace the high calling he has entrusted us with to be ministers and catalysts of reconciliation in the world around us.

With the resurrection, death and dead ends don’t have the last word; with the resurrection, there is always the possibility of new life and new beginnings.

As the Apostle Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthian church:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?” 
(in other words, it’s nowhere to be found)

 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved sisters and brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.   (1 Cor. 15:55, 57-58)