Pastor's Blog

First Overall Pick

First Overall Pick

Pastor Matt - April 5, 2021

John 20:1-18

20  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.

I remember it like it was yesterday…  

Out on the hot, humid Grassland Elementary asphalt.  Waiting there with everyone else, to be picked for kickball.  It was HOT.  The only breeze that blew by was filled with dust from the field we were about to play on.  But it was worth it.  SO worth it.  Because there always a chance that you could get picked FIRST OVERALL.  Yes, the ultimate pick position.  It was like being co-captain.  It came with great honors and responsibilities.  If the kickball team were to get out of line, it was up to the first overall pick to support the captain’s kicking order and field position placements.  

Ah… yes… The possibilities were endless.  For a not-super-athletic kid, there was an understanding that I wouldn’t be chosen to be captain, and yet, there was ALWAYS an opportunity to get the first overall pick selection.  That would be EPIC.  

So… I waited.  The captains were chosen quickly, as they always were.  Wade and Sean.  ALWAYS.  They were the most athletic and their prowess on the kickball diamond was legendary.  Then Wade’s turn came to pick is first overall pick.  Steve.  Dangit.  I knew it.  Steve was tall and was a great pitcher.  How did I not see that coming?  Ugh..  Ok.., No harm, no foul, Sean was up next.  I knew Sean liked me because he let me sit at his table from time to time.  SURELY I’d be his first overall pick!  Last game I got 3 outs!  3!  So here we go… The silent waiting… Then it happened.  Peter.  Shoot.  Peter???  Cmon… Ok.  No problem.  I can still be picked second overall.  I mean, it’s not the greatest thing in the world, but it’s not the worst.  But, no.  Dangit.  Second picks…. Third picks… Fourth… until I was the last one standing there.  Trouble is, they had even teams already.  I was the odd number.  Standing there, waiting, the LAST pick?  Geez.  Then Wade said it.  “well, ok, we’ll take Matthew if we have to”….  UGH.  An afterthought.  An unwanted add-on.  A dangling participle.  I felt like such an outsider.

I can hear those of you who stood there waiting, groaning along with me.  It feels terrible, doesn’t it.

But here’s the thing.  Mary Magdalene felt that same outsider, leftover feeling ALL the TIME.  Why?  Because she was a woman.  Not counted, not needed, not important.  Baby makers.  Keepers of the home.  Lesser than.  It’s a feeling that I as a man will never experience.  It’s a similar feeling that those with brown skin feel in a white privileged world.  Lesser than.  It’s a real thing, and it’s devastating.  The thing is, Mary experienced that, most likely, everywhere and with everyone in her life.  Except…. Not with Jesus.  

In the Easter morning scripture, Mary sees the empty tomb and runs to tell the disciples.  They have a mighty footrace to get there, and look inside.  But then, in bewilderment, they just return home. Why?  Who knows.  Maybe they were confused.  Maybe they lost hope.

BUT.  MARY.  DIDN’T.  Mary stayed.  Mary wept.  Mary likely pleaded to the Lord for a different outcome.  

And then it happened.  Her encounter with Jesus the Messiah!  Jesus met her in her pain and loss, but not just with comfort, but a calling.  Mary was to go and tell the good news.  Let this sink in:  FOR THE REST OF CREATION.  Mary, for the gospel message, was the FIRST OVERALL PICK.  The Gospel is FOR the OUTSIDER.

This lesser than, unimportant, outsider was the FIRST to go and share the gospel.  Without this woman, the gospel could’ve been lost.  We wouldn’t be celebrating Easter at all, rather we’d just be moaning about pollen, politics and the pandemic.  Yet, this week we celebrate the risen Lord because this first gospel apostle, first preacher of the resurrection, an important follower of Jesus brought forth - for ALL the rest of us - the GOSPEL.

Why?  Because that’s what the kingdom of God looks like.  Those who we deem lesser than are those to whom the gospel belongs.  Jesus came for those who feel like they don’t belong, those who feel unimportant.  It means that Jesus reframes how we are to look at each other.  

So… maybe this feels a little heavy for an Easter blog.  I get it.  Maybe it feels a little convicting for some of us who find ourselves in a place of privilege.  But hear this, the gospel is for ALL of us.  No matter what.   The beauty of God’s Easter promise is that it’s for all of us.   The cross couldn’t kill hope and the stone couldn’t keep it hidden away.  He is RISEN and all of creation rejoices!  The earth can breathe again.  

Lord Jesus, we give you thanks!  Thank you Jesus, for making Mary the FIRST OVERALL PICK.  That gives all the rest of us who feel unimportant, unneeded, and like an outsider HOPE!  She brought the gospel out of the garden and into our lives and  homes.  She carried the message of resurrection for all of us.  What an an incredible and brave woman you called!  You O Lord, make the last picked into the first overall pick.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen!