John 20 1-18
Michael Belk is an artist, a photographer- storyteller. http://www.thejourneysproject.com/image-detail.aspx?id=290 He has produced a number of images of Jesus in modern settings. One is a photo of Jesus sitting on a step with some children. In another photo, Jesus is holding a modern life preserver. In a third, Jesus is speaking with a bride, and on the floor around them are several very large bottles of wine.
My favorite photo has Jesus standing in the middle of the road, leaning on a wooden barricade. Next to him, a cross also leans against the barricade. Beyond the barricade, it’s clear the road doesn’t end, but the title of the photo is “The End of the Road.” The meaning of the image is that the end of the road isn’t necessarily the end of the road.
When Jesus was taken to
Golgotha and crucified, everyone, including the disciples, assumed that was it; it was the end of the road. Even though Jesus had promised that he would die, and would rise again on the third day, no one believed it would happen. At least, there is no written record of anyone saying they believed it would happen.
On the morning of the third day, Mary Magdalene didn’t go to see if Jesus was still there or if he had risen. She went to the tomb to grieve. When she found the stone rolled away, she assumed someone had taken the body. She told Peter and the other disciple – probably John. They ran to the tomb to see for themselves, and saw the empty wrappings. The text says they believed, but didn’t understand. Certainly, they didn’t know what to do with Jesus’ absence.
Mary didn’t expect to see the risen Jesus; she expected she might see a gardener. It was only when Jesus spoke her name that she recognized him. Then, she wanted to hug him, to touch him, to feel that he was real – but he wouldn’t allow her to. He sent her with the message that he would ascend to God, to the God and Father of them all. And she went to tell the believers that she had seen Jesus. He had indeed risen from the dead!
Clearly, the end of the road was not necessarily the end of the road. Jesus lived, preached, taught, healed, and cast out demons to demonstrate God’s power. Many of the people he touched had thought they were at the end of the road. But Jesus removed the barricade from their lives.
In that ancient culture, Jews with physical deformities were not permitted to worship in the temple, so the healing of misshapen arms gave them more than the use of their arms. It gave them access to the temple, the ability to worship God fully, perhaps for the first time in their lives. The healing of their arms removed the barricade from the temple for them.
In that ancient culture, women were things that belonged first to their fathers, then to their husbands. When they became widows, they belonged to their brothers-in-law, if they would take them in. If not, they could become homeless nobodies. Jesus made it clear that women were persons, equal to men, loved by God, and deserving of respect and fair treatment. Jesus removed the barricade from women giving them permission to have their own ideas and control of their own lives.
In that ancient culture, non-Jews had no value, but Jesus spoke with Samaritans, and told a parable in which a Samaritan was the hero. Jesus removed the barricade that said God didn’t know or love people from other places or other faiths.
In that ancient culture, poor people were like
’s untouchables. They were things, not people. They often had diseases that made them outcasts, living on the fringes of society. Jesus touched them, and told them God loved them. He removed the barricade of separation from them. India
Most of all, Jesus removed the barricade of death. In John, eternal life is a two-fold concept. It refers to life in relationship with God every day. It refers to trusting God to provide all we need, and that includes life itself.
Eternal life also refers to what happens after death. With Jesus’ resurrection, we have proof that God is more powerful than death, and that there is something wonderful waiting for us on the other side of bodily death. Jesus’ resurrection proves to us that the end of the road is not necessarily the end of the road. There is no barricade that can prevent us from moving from this life into the next.
If you feel like there is a barricade in your life, Jesus can remove it. If you know someone who seems to have a barricade in her or his life, you can share with them the reminder that Jesus lived and died and rose again to remove barricades. Whatever barricade they are facing can be removed with Jesus’ help.
Your challenge for this week is to look for open roads beyond the barricades. Give thanks for Jesus, who removes the hurtful barricades that cultures and traditions establish. And who proved for all time that the barricade between life and death and life after death has been removed.
Please pray with me. Almighty God, we give you thanks for your goodness. You know how we struggle with the barricades we face in our lives, and how we struggle to believe in your power to remove them. Grant us the assurance that the most powerful barricade has been cast aside in the death and resurrection of Jesus, your Son and our Lord. Amen