Kingdom, Power, & Glory
Somebody asked me about the Prayer. We call it The Prayer of Jesus. Some call it The Lord’s Prayer, and others call it the Our Father. But there is nothing in the prayer about Jesus: nothing about his birth, his life, his death, or even his resurrection. Yes, it is still the Jesus Prayer. It is still the prayer we pray all the time. Let me tell you how that happened.
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week, Mary, James’ mother, Mary from Magdala, and Joanna set out for the tomb. There may have been other women with them. They had gathered oils and spices to anoint the body of Jesus, who had been laid to rest there just before sabbath. These women had been at the crucifixion on Friday. For months before that, they had traveled with Jesus and his people, his entourage we would call it today. They had seen his miracles, heard his teaching, watched his hospitality to all comers. Like all of us, they had gotten mesmerized by Jesus, inspired by Jesus. Like me, like so many of us, they had prayed with Jesus privately and listened as he spoke with the religious leaders.
It was early in the morning, not yet dawn when they arrived at the tomb.
The tomb itself was a small cave, half natural, half carved. It served as the burial place for an entire family going back generations. They said it belonged to Joseph. The opening into the cave tomb was protected by a large round stone. The stone could be rolled to the side to place a new deceased body there, then rolled back to protect it from animals and thieves.
The women had been to the tomb on Friday. They had helped Joseph take the body of Jesus off the cross, clean his wounds, and wrap his body. It was our custom, the way we bury people. The women knew Jesus, and they knew the way to the tomb. It was not the first time they had gathered the ointments and headed to a tomb.
“What about the stone?” one said to the others. “How will we get that moved?”
They did not know about the Roman guards or perhaps they would have assumed they would help. Jewish authorities had requested a guard. Roman officials had most of the power in those days, especially over matters of public safety. The Jews were fearful, one account says, that the followers of Jesus would steal the body. But as it turned out, the women did not need the guards.
Sometime during the second night or early morning, the angels of God had come and moved the stone from the entrance. Nobody saw that. The guards must have been asleep. It is not always easy to identify an angel. Later, one Christian writer urged the believers to practice hospitality. “Some people have entertained angels without knowing it,” he wrote.
That first morning, what the women saw was this: the tomb was open, one or two men were there. Or were they angels? Some people, you know, have spoken with angels without knowing it, perhaps some of you. The tomb was open, the men were there, and the women was alarmed, puzzled, even scared.
“Don’t worry,” the men said. “We know why you are here. You are looking for Jesus. Yes, this is where he was buried, as you know. But he is not here. Jesus is not here. Go in and see for yourselves.”
The women stopped, their hands filled with the bottles and their hearts full of uncertainty. They didn’t know whether to go in and check for themselves or go tell Peter and the others what the men told them.
The first Mary turned to the second Mary, “Well?” The second Mary looked at Joanna. Joanna said, “I’m not going in there.” As they were talking about what to do, the men, the angels said, “Why don’t you go tell Peter, and James, and the others?”
“What shall we tell them?” Mary the first asked, confused.
The man replied, “Tell them Jesus will meet you in Galilee, where he always met you.”
That seemed plausible and wise. The women were all from Galilee themselves. They sat their spices and ointments on the bench near the tomb and headed back to the room where Jesus’ people often met.
We call it now the Upper Room.
It was on the south side of Jerusalem. The city was full of people. Family and friends, pilgrims and tourists, soldiers and such. It was Passover week and even this early in the morning, people were already out and about. The Sabbath was over, and the shops were opening. It was the first day of the week. People were already buying and selling, and some were packing up to start the journey home.
The gathering place was on the second floor of a nondescript building near the Zion gate. This was where Jesus and his people gathered to eat, sing, plan, tell stories, and stay safe.
Not everybody was happy with Jesus and the way things had happened. Many were afraid that the arrest and execution of Jesus was trigger some response, that his followers would organize a march of protest or that the soldiers would arrest the leaders of the Jesus movement. Nobody knew what to expect.
The women found Peter and the other men in that second-story stone room. They burst in the room, surprising the men.
“This is a surprise,” John said. “We have been to the tomb,” the first Mary said, “and he is gone.”
“Who is gone,” Peter asked. “Jesus is gone,” Joanna replied quickly.
“What do you mean, he is gone?”
“We went early today. The tomb was open, and Jesus is not there. We think they took his body and hid it somewhere.”
The men sat there momentarily, thinking.
“A man was there,” Mary the first said, “actually, two men. But I think they were angels.” She paused, “They told us an angel moved the stone. They told us Jesus is alive and has gone back to Galilee. They want you to meet Jesus in Galilee.”
The men found this incredulous on many levels. Stone moved. Jesus gone. Tomb empty. Angels talking. Most of the men simply did not believe this story. Surely, the women had heard wrong or misunderstood or were confused.
“Did you actually go into the tomb?” somebody asked. Mary the first, answered, “No, I did not, but she did, and so did Joanna.”
The women were still shaking, nervous about the whole encounter.
This is what the men did.
The men, led by Peter and John, decided they better check things out. They gathered their things and headed toward the tomb. By now, the sun was fully up, and even more people were out and about. The streets were busy, especially full of vendors delivering food to the markets. It took the men longer to make their way through the crowds than the women. But, sure enough, when they found the burial site, the stone had been moved, the tomb was open, and people were standing about. John got there first but hesitated, so Peter was the first to go into the tomb.
It was empty.
Peter came out of the tomb with a piece of burial cloth in his hand. It was linen and stained. He held it up and said, “This is all that is left, just some fabric.” By this time a small crowd had gathered, some familiar faces and some strangers. Word was spreading, and people were coming.
“Tell me again what the angel said,” John asked nobody in particular. Somebody answered, “That Jesus had gone back to Galilee, Capernaum probably, and wanted to meet us there.”
“Well, that’s a three day journey, at best,” Peter replied, thinking about what to do. It was the first day of the week, a busy day anytime but especially busy today, because the roads would be crowded with people heading home from the Passover holiday.
“We better gather our things and head north,” Simon Peter said, “Tell everybody we will meet tonight and decide what to do.” And he and some of the others started leaving.
Some people, mostly strangers, were still arriving at the empty as word spread. People, a lot of them, were ducking into and out of the tomb, some brought out more of the cloth; others picked up the ointments left earlier by the women; many were standing around and talking.
Then this happened, to Mary; but nobody really believed it or knew what to think.
Mary of Magdala headed home. She was crying. She bumped into somebody, a stranger she thought. There were lots of people around by then.
“Why are you crying?” the man asked. “Aren’t you happy?”
“No, I’m not happy.” Mary replied. “Somebody has stolen Jesus. They have taken him somewhere. Do you know where he is? Did you move Jesus?” She was crying, clearly distraught by what she had seen and heard.
Then the man—she later confessed she thought it was the gardener—the man said this, “Mary.”
Yes, he simply said her name, “Mary.”
Mary turned and look at the man. The voice was one she had heard before; and how did he know her name? There was something familiar about the man. He said again her name, “Mary.”
She was startled. It sounded like Jesus. “Rabbi?” she said meekly, with a question mark. “Rabbi? Jesus?” She stepped toward him and touched him.
“Don’t touch me,” the man said, pulling away. “I am going home to God, to my home. Go tell the men. Tell them you have seen me and touched me. Tell them we have spoken.”
Mary remembered no other details. It all happened so quickly. She went back to the tomb, but the men she was looking for were gone. There were plenty of people milling around and some soldiers, but Peter and John and Simon and the others were gone. She ran again back to their room, the meeting room, that upper room we call it now. She told her story to those there. It was midmorning by then. She told it many times over the next few days. And for the rest of her life, people asked her to tell that story. And she did.
She was the first one to see Jesus, we think. But others, later that day began to gather at the room, the meeting room. Some had stories of their own, some repeated stories they had heard. Some came with a resolve to start for Galilee the next day. In fact, there were a few that left for Galilee that day, before noon.
Most of the people gathered that night. The upper room was full. That’s what we called our meeting place. In fact, many people could not get in and had to wait in the courtyard below. This is what they missed: while those in the room were exchanging stories and talking about what to do, Jesus appeared. I don’t have many details about that, and those who were there had different versions of what happened. It is hard to get a clear picture of what happened. But over the next few days and weeks, other people came forward with their own stories, of hearing Jesus, and seeing Jesus, even eating with Jesus. And of course, the leaders and a big group of our people headed to Galilee. And you all know what happened there.
But that is what happened on that first day, as best I can tell.
That is when things really began to happen, not just in Jerusalem, but all over Israel, and really, all over the everywhere. It was a mighty movement. It was, as they say, awesome.
Which is why we added that line to our prayer, “Kingdom, power, and glory.” That’s when the Jesus stuff—his teaching and healing and baptizing—began to expand. That’s when our little group turned into movement, when we began to experience the real glory of Jesus, the real power of his spirit, and the kingdom Jesus talked about.
Everything special about Jesus is crammed into those last three words: Kingdom. Power. Glory.
It all started there, that day, that first day of the week, early in the morning.
That is how we got here, and that is why we pray the way we do. It was that day that helped us understand the Prayer Jesus gave us to pray. And that is why we pray it the way we do today.
Just in case you were wondering.