For Easter 2010, Toomsuba Presbyterian Church (PCUSA—Presbytery of Mississippi, an hour and a half east of Jackson) delved into the gospel of John’s account of Christ’s resurrection. The sermon text selected was chapter 20, verses 1 through 30, which details Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ, as well as two additional encounters among Jesus and the disciples.
The key points of Toomsuba’s Easter sermon will be pulled out in the following Question and Answer segment with Toomsuba’s Rev. Lane Townsend.
Q: This year’s Easter sermon was titled, “The Death of Death.” What’s the significance behind this title?
A: “You see a lot of old cemeteries. Every one of them is a tribute to the power of death. If we could fast forward to April 2110, none of us would be here. Death is coming, no matter if we’re poor or rich, educated or uneducated. It unites the homeless guy on the street and the man who passes him by on the way to his mansion.”
Q: In order to better understand the Easter event, what do we need to understand about the context of what had been going on in the lives of the disciples?
A: “Jesus’ disciples were discouraged. They were about as down as they could get. They had so much hope built up in Jesus, that God was going to use him to bring back the kingdom. Their dreams were dead. The setting is despair, discouragement, loneliness, and fear. They’d seen Jesus die. The Jewish leaders and Roman leaders had thrown everything they could at Jesus. On a cross, it’s hard to even breathe good as the weight of your body hangs on the nails.”
Q: And it’s the empty tomb that supplants that fear with hope?
A: “Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John they’d found the tomb empty, and so they run to the tomb. The grave clothes were not torn off, as if they’d been ripped off. They were as that had been, only flat, as though Jesus had passed through them.”
Q: Mary herself is still troubled though, right? She doesn’t immediately understand that Christ had risen.
A: “Mary thinks someone has stolen his body. Jesus, whom she mistakes as the gardener, speaks to her. Why didn’t she recognize him? First, she was weeping. Secondly, Jesus is the last person she’d be expecting to see. That’s the surprise.”
Q: Some have alleged that the disciples fabricated the resurrection story simply because they wanted it to be true. How do you respond to that?
A: The resurrection was totally unexpected by the disciples. Thomas wouldn’t even believe unless he could put his hands in the nail prints. It took a lot to convince them.
· For more information about Toomsuba Presbyterian Church, or the Presbytery of Mississippi (which oversees churches in the central and southern part of the state, beginning in Jackson), visit www.presbyteryofms.org.