GraceNotes
EARLY MORNING THROUGH ETERNITY

Good Friday had passed – the darkest day for those Jesus loved. Can you imagine the heartbreak of the disciples as they struggled to understand how Jesus, the Messiah they had come to believe in, had died on the cross? They could not comprehend that the Rabbi they watched perform miracle after miracle had been wrapped in linen death cloths and laid in an unused tomb. As Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, so also did his followers weep for him. A massive stone sealed the tomb of the gentle Son of Man they had come to love. As the Sabbath came to an end, they huddled and hid and cried in the Upper Room, where only hours before Jesus had shared laughter, love and a Passover meal.

And then… Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. She saw the tomb was empty and ran to tell Peter and the other disciples. Peter and John ran to the tomb, looked in and saw the strips of linen and the cloth that had wrapped Jesus’ head lying there. Confused, they returned to the Upper Room. Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her why she was crying. “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Then she turned and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Filled with joy, Mary turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (Paraphrased from John 20)

Mary’s grief turned to joy at the sound of Jesus’ voice. Hope was renewed and faith restored. Through the 8th miraculous sign in the Gospel of John, the resurrection of Christ, Jesus provides the fullness of the Good News. In his life, Jesus brought good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed. In his death, he bore the suffering, sins and burdens of all humanity. In his resurrection he showed us the truth of life eternal with our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus showed us the fullness of God’s love: complete, unmerited grace – the way to eternal life, beginning now in God’s Kingdom come.

The gift of grace is free; there is nothing we can do to earn it. But to outlive this life we must respond to God’s gift of grace in two ways.

First, we must accept God’s gift of abundant grace. When we accept this abundant gift we are washed in the blood of Christ and made new in the Spirit who then dwells within us, testifying with our spirit that we are surely children of God, coheirs with Christ - sharing in his death and also his resurrection. On that day, at the very moment that we accept God’s gift of abundant grace, the nails and cross endurered by Christ free us from the chains of sin and death, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, adopted as one with Christ and celebrate the empty tomb of Easter - eternally.

Second, we must share God’s gift of abundant grace. God’s grace is abundant so that we may share it and through this sharing grace grows and we honor and give thanks to God. A farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. God will generously provide all you need so you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. You will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. (Paraphrased from 2 Cor 9) When we share our gifts with those who need them, they too may be grafted into the Kingdom, and grace abounds even more.

Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, God’s free and abundant grace is offered to you without a price. But you must respond. The gift is freely given and we are not coerced to accept it. By grace, we are able to accept and respond – response-able. John Wesley taught that we are all called to live a life of holiness in response to God’s grace. Dr. Randy Maddox calls this “responsible grace.” Christ calls it loving God and loving neighbor. Grace abounds – you need only respond. Amazing!

Come and celebrate the grace found in the empty tomb! Come and celebrate the joy of eternal life found through God’s Amazing, Abundant, Respons-able Grace!

May you be filled with God’s abundant grace!