“Why Go Home”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
John 20: 1-18
April 1, 2018
Then the disciples returned to their homes. – John 20:10i
What a strange thing to do. Jesus has risen from the dead. Peter and the other disciple come to believe that Jesus lives. Instead of running back to tell the other disciples, they “returned to their homes.” They have come to an existential awakening. The world has been turned upside down and the defeat of Jesus and their cause has become the greatest victory in history. They go home?
That strike you as odd? It did me. The text makes it sound like they went to Hanaford’s to pick up some milk and went home. They don’t shout. They don’t appear to be in shock. They don’t fall to their knees. They each go their own way. Strange, right? Wouldn’t you want to tell the other disciples that the joke is on the authorities, that everything they had staked their lives on was true, that they didn’t have to hide in a locked room, they weren’t scared victims but victors. Wouldn’t you want to tell them? Not Peter and the other disciple. They go home.
We are about to do the same. We, too, will go home and even though we are meant to proclaim the defeat of Satan and all things evil, even though we know that in following Christ we, too, can possess the good, we go home. Might have a nice dinner. Watch TV. Play with the children, but we wont be shouting out the good news of this day anymore than Peter and the other disciple.
But wait. I am in my fortieth year of ministry and I think I finally get it. I think I know why they went home. Simply stated, it’s because they could. Let me explain for in the explanation we will unlock the power of this day.
When was the last time the Bible speaks of the disciples being home? It was on the very day each of them accepted the invitation of Jesus to follow in His way. This mission they had undertaken demanded everything. I would imagine they did not have an opportunity to return home. And now this. The very one who they pledged to follow is treated like a criminal, crucified outside the city’s wall, mocked and silenced. If they were caught, they would face the same. In fear they met. In fear they locked the door. In fear they prayed for their lives. Fear of being captured meant home was not an option.
I have known a life driven in part by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of being disliked. I have toned down sermons that I believed needed to be preached for fear of someone taking offense. I have been less confrontational with people in the church who are hurting others in the church. Yes, I have known how fear can corrupt my freedom.
And you? Has fear ever made you less than God intended you to be? Bishop Stephen Neill wrote:
“I once mentioned to a German friend that the combination of the words ‘fear not’ is very common in the Scriptures. He looked it up and found it came 99 times in the Bible — probably more common than most any other pair of words. If you take the words of Jesus, ‘have no anxious thought for the morrow,’ that simply means don’t worry. If there’s any worrying to be done, he’ll do it. He doesn’t mean for you to. If I could get this across to people, half of the psychiatrists in the country would be out of a job tomorrow.”
Isn’t it just possible that they went home because they could? The real shock is not that they didn’t run to tell the others, but that they felt safe enough to return home. Before they entered the tomb and came to believe, they must have been crippled by fear, worried that every whisper came from an informant. Not now. Something happened in that empty tomb. Something happened when they came to believe that Satan and his minions had been laid low. Now, with fear cast aside, they could do the impossible. They could go home.
We, too, must go home. There is no price on our heads. Home has a warm and caring tone to it – at least I hope it does for you. But there are other places, other dreams that are laden with fear. It is at the intersection of life and fear that the power of this day is made real. A stone is ripped away – not by some wimpy Jesus but by a chiseled muscular savior who has taken on the worst Rome and His culture could throw His way. He stands, not the vanquished victim but the victorious victor. It is evil and all things that make us small that should be afraid. Trust in the promise that God has sealed this day. Do not cower in fear. Rise in triumph. Go home and fear not. He has risen. Let us pray….
i John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed 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 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who 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 returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 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. 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 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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 Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 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.’” 18 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.