The King Has One More Move

Christ is risen! Happy Easter! April Fools!

It’s not often we see these two events happening on the same day.  So what, if anything, do they have in common?

We have seen Jesus enter Jerusalem in triumph, celebrate the Passover with his disciples, be arrested, beaten, mocked, crucified and laid in a rock tomb.

We have gone from cheering crowds, to the disciples worrying about who will betray Jesus, ‘surely not I Lord?’; we see Judas betray him with a kiss; and the others running away and hiding after he is arrested.  Peter even denies knowing him, to save himself. (That’s a long stretch in a week’s time.  If we didn’t know how the story ends it might seem like a really poor joke).

Jesus, a man who came to heal the sick, preach good news to the poor, and set the captives free.

Jesus, a man who spent his life reaching out to those on the margins, the poor, the sick, the foreigner, the sinner.  Those who desperately needed to hear a word of blessing, of good news, of hope. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, who shared the good news of God’s love with anyone who came to listen.

This is also the Jesus who challenged the Temple hierarchy, healed on the Sabbath, shared meals with sinners, allowed unclean people to touch him, spoke with and shared the Good News with Gentiles.

It was these acts which angered the chief priests, and set them against him.  They couldn’t have the people stirred up.  Rome would then step in even more firmly and remove their authority. They couldn’t allow Jesus to continue his work for fear of his creating more trouble for Israel.

So in order to keep control of the situation, they go to Pilate and demand Jesus’ death, and Pilate – against his better judgment- complies.

And now we find ourselves on the third day.  Mary Magdalene has gone to the tomb and found the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body gone!  So she runs to the disciples – still hidden away – and tells them.  Peter and John, leaving their hiding place, run to the tomb and find it empty as well.  They head back to their hiding place, wondering what has happened.

But Mary stays crying, and looking into the tomb, she sees two angels who ask her why she’s crying.  She tells them that Jesus’ body is gone and she doesn’t know where it is.  Then a man approaches her, and thinking he’s a caretaker, she asks where Jesus body is.  Then the man calls her by name, and she realizes who he is. He tells her to go and tell the disciples that he has risen.

Think about it.  Mary had no idea who Jesus was until he called her by name.  She was convinced that someone had stolen his body, and was distraught.  But after Jesus calls her name, somehow, deep down inside her she recognizes Jesus and is filled with joy.  The anguish she felt at Jesus death vanishes instantly. Jesus knows her and she knows him!

And Jesus gives her a task to do.  This woman of no status and with no power or particular voice is given the job of going to tell the disciples who are in hiding that Jesus has risen!  She becomes the first disciple telling the story of Jesus’ resurrection.  Not Peter or John, who ran back to their wherever they were hiding, but a simple woman, of no account.  She is given the good news to share.

At the height of her despair, she is given joy. When it seems like everything is coming to an end, Jesus shows her a beginning.

There was a painting that hung in a museum for many years.  It depicted two old men sitting at a chess board, deeply involved in a game.  The title of the painting was Checkmate.  There was a young man in the town who would come and sit in front of the painting for hours, staring. He never said a word, but just stared at the canvas.  Other museum goers assumed he was an art student studying the composition of the painting, the technique, the colors, the brush strokes.  One day, out of nowhere he jumps up and shouts “It’s NOT checkmate! It’s not! The king has one more move!” He hadn’t been studying the artist’s technique, had been looking at the chess board in the painting and saw that the game was not over.

It’s NOT checkmate. The King has one more move. 

A family is rocked by the death of a child at the hands of a drunk driver.  As they struggle to put their lives back together they are surrounded by friends and community who wrap them in love and compassion and help to carry them through unimaginable grief until they can find their strength to live once again.  The King has one more move.

A young couple are devastated by a terminal diagnosis of cancer in the husband.  As the disease progresses, his wife finds the load more than she can bear and leaves him to face his end alone. He finds himself drowning in despair until his team of  family, doctors, nurses, therapists and others all band together to help him on his final journey, so that he is never alone and dies surrounded by love and compassion.  The King has one more move.

The King has one more move.  On an early morning, a woman goes to the tomb of a beloved teacher and finds it empty.  She had seen him crucified, watched him breath his last, seen his side stabbed by an iron spear, watched his body laid in a tomb. Now his body is gone.  All she wants is to make sure nothing happens to it so she asks someone she thinks is a gardener to take her to it. It’s only when he speaks to her that she sees that it is in fact her teacher, Jesus, risen from the dead.

This morning, we are here celebrating that morning.  Mary Magdalene has run to us as well, telling us that the Lord has risen!

And because our Lord Jesus Christ has risen, we are free!  Free from our bondage to sin and death.  We will still fall short, we will still sin every day, we are still human.  But because of what happened on that early morning so long ago, we are no longer bound to our sin.  The risen Christ has broken those bonds and we are a free and forgiven people.  No longer do we need to live in darkness, fear, or pain or despair. We are children of the light, living in hope and peace and love.

Because the King has one more move.