Good Morning!!  JESUS IS RISEN!!!  I firmly believe that God is calling His people to follow Him faithfully and impact this world Fearlessly for His mighty name.  In a world so consumed with fear, there is ONE event that enables us to stand fearlessly in the face of all that comes against us, and that is the Resurrection!  The impact of encountering the Resurrected Christ is truly life-changing.  Jesus is the One who is able to turn our weaknesses into His strength, and our messes into messages.  He transforms our misery into mission, our doubt into declaration, and our fear into faith!   He is able to perform in us the “Extreme Makeover, God Edition.”  This would not be possible, however, if Jesus had stayed dead!  I am thrilled, today, to remind you of the entire reason for our faith!  Jesus is Alive!  1st Corinthians 15 says, “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins…“If our Hope in Christ is ONLY for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world!”  If Jesus had stayed dead then we are without hope, without forgiveness, and we are lost for eternity.  That, however, is NOT the truth of what happened!  1 Corinthians 15:20 wraps up the former statements by proclaiming this, “BUT, Christ HAS been Raised from the dead!”  He is Alive, and because He lives we have hope, we have forgiveness, we have relationship with God, and we have eternal life in Him!  One of the sweetest stories I’ve heard, regarding the teaching of the Resurrection, came from a Sunday school teacher who was taking her kids through the incredible story of Jesus’ death, burial, and Resurrection.  When she was finished, she asked them what they thought the first words out of Jesus’ mouth might have been as He came out of the Grave.  Without hesitation a little girl jumped to her feet, threw her arms up in the air, and yelled, “TA DA!”  When I heard this, I laughed and applauded at the same time.  What a perfect moment, if ever there was one, to yell out, “TA DA!”  Now, you know Jesus thinks that little girl is so very precious, but the truth is, the resurrection was far more than a “TA DA,” moment!  It was the moment the Word of God, Salvation, and Eternity was made certain!  It was the moment that would transform us forever, and in truth, the first words from our Resurrected Savior were far more personal and powerful!  I want us to think about this first encounter Jesus chose to have after He defeated the power of Satan and the grave!  His first encounter was with a woman from whom He had cast out 7 demons.  It was a woman who had chosen to follow Jesus no matter what, and to support Him out of her own financial means.  Now, there were many people like this who followed Jesus, so what makes her so special?  The amazing aspect of Mary Magdalene’s love for Jesus was that it was a Devoted Love!  One of the definitions of “Devoted” is to “be focused on that thing almost exclusively.”  This description fits Mary perfectly.  Not only did she follow Christ all throughout the rest of His ministry, but she would not Stop following Him, no matter what.  She was living proof of His saving power and she was fully devoted to Him!  I want us to see this utter devotion.  In John 19:25 we find that Mary is one of the very few who are standing near the cross at Christ’s death.  When Everyone else, including all but John, had abandoned Jesus, Mary remained!  Even though it must have been torture for her to see Jesus in such agony and pain, she would Not leave Him!  Can you imagine what it would have been like to watch what took place on that cross as Jesus took the punishment and wrath for every one of our sins?  As painful as that must have been for her, she loved Jesus too much to turn away.  Her devotion could not be stopped, even by death.  Matthew 27:55-61 describes to us what took place after Jesus died.  We find that as Joseph of Arimathea took Christ’s body and had Him buried in his own tomb, Mary was there sitting opposite the tomb.  She would not leave!  Even though He was dead, she remained.  Jesus had saved her life, He had changed her life, and for Mary, He WAS her Life!  Our story of Mary continues because Jesus did not stay in that tomb!  Death couldn’t contain Him, the grave couldn’t hold Him, and Satan couldn’t defeat Him!  He had Risen!  Where was Mary at this crucial moment?  She was right there, at His tomb!  John 20:1 & 11-18 tell the story of this first encounter with the Risen Lord.  As we recall, Mary was sobbing in grief when she discovered that Jesus’ body was missing.  In her deep sadness, she turns around and sees Jesus standing there, but she doesn’t recognize Him.  I believe that could have been because of the tears flooding her eyes.  Jesus speaks to her and the first words He says, after the Resurrection, were this, “Woman, WHY are you crying?”  I Love that so much because in those few words you see the care and compassion of Jesus, but you also find this important question, “WHY are you crying?”  You see, Jesus knew what Mary was about to find out.  There was NO more reason to cry!  JESUS WAS ALIVE!!  Thinking He is the gardener, however, she asks Him where he had taken the body, because she will go get it herself.  Her devotion continues, but can you see her gaze dropping in grief until she hears the next word Jesus speaks!  He says, “Mary!”  Can you picture it?  I can almost feel her heart pounding when she heard Him say her name.  She knew that Voice!  She had heard Him call her name many times before, and I can imagine her heart beginning to race as she realized, It’s Not Over!  Jesus Is Alive!  In the moments that follow you see the power of the Resurrection at work.  He will turn her Misery into Mission for His Kingdom.  She is the first person commissioned to share the Incredible News that Jesus is Alive!  She was the apostle to the apostles!  She was the first “sent one” who had witnessed the resurrection and was commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the good news!  Now, she could have given into fear, but she was standing in the presence of Resurrection power!  There is no greater power than that power!  Ephesians 1:19-20 says, “I pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s Power that is FOR us who believe Him.  This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead.”  It is this power that Mary encountered as she was transformed from a woman of Misery into a Woman of Mission!  It is this same power that transformed the disciples from men of Fear into men of Faith!  Jesus defeated EVERY work of the enemy!  All things are placed under His feet.  At HIS name Every knee WILL bow and Every tongue confess that Jesus IS Lord of ALL!!  And since He IS Lord of All, then nothing else gets to be lord over anything.  That is why Jesus can ask us, “WHY are you crying?”  “WHY do you doubt?”  And most importantly, “WHY do you Fear?”  “I AM ALIVE, and I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS!” The same Power that conquered the grave Lives In YOU!   

Ashley Possin