Summary: Jesus' followers did not fully embrace, at first, the reality of Jesus' resurrection.
BELIEVING IN THE RESURRECTED JESUS (part one)
1) “Where’s Jesus?” (1-9). vs. 1-2 “The stone”. What’s the deal with the stone? Matt. 27:62-66. Explain the slope and groove. With all these factors it would have been nearly impossible for someone to come and steal Jesus’ body. Matt. 28:2-4. Mary sees the stone has been removed and she panics and takes off running to tell Peter and John. Vs. 3-7: Both Peter and John recognize the linens are there. This should’ve solidified to them that the body wasn’t taken away for who would bother to unwrap it and neatly fold the linen before escaping? Interestingly, the way the grave clothes were found, the Greek wording is that the clothes were still in their folds which meant that they didn’t look like they had been removed, they were lying there as if Jesus simply evaporated out of them. Vs. 8-9 “He saw and believed”. Luke 24:12 says that when Peter saw the linens he went away wondering to himself what had happened. He believed what Mary told him, that the body was missing, but it appears at this point he wasn’t convinced of the resurrection. It’s quite possible that John, however, believed in the resurrection, not because he understood the scriptures that told of it but because of what he saw. John is willing to tell on himself and reveal that although Jesus had told them time and again that he was to be killed and raised on the third day, he didn’t believe until he saw the empty tomb. We’re not sure if John was fully convinced at this point or if he was just becoming more convinced as the evidence continued to present itself. Many people are gradual believers today. Some things about Christ might be easier for them to believe than others. However, as they go along they become more convinced and eventually become complete believers. Some people can be taught the scriptures but until they have a convincing experience they won’t believe. This could be anything from an unexplainable event to a powerful miracle; something personal that convinces them of the love of Christ. Once they are brought to this level of belief then the scriptures have more meaning to them.
2) “Mary, it’s me!” (10-17). Vs. 10-13. Mary stays behind as Peter and John go home. She is deprived of the privilege of performing this last, loving act of anointing her Lord so she weeps. Then she gets the idea to look in and see for herself. John and Peter came and saw the empty tomb and went away. The angels waited to show themselves to Mary. Why not Peter and John too? Perhaps it was a test. Would they, along with the other disciples believe Mary when she went back to them with the news? Vs. 14 Mary didn’t recognize it was Jesus speaking to her. Perhaps her tears clouded her vision. Perhaps Jesus purposely kept himself from being recognized. Whatever the reason, Mary was looking at Jesus bus she didn’t recognize him. There are people today who see the handprint of God all around them but fail to recognize it as such. They pass off the miracles of God as coincidences. They take the blessings of God and see them as ordinary. They experience the mercy and grace of God in their lives but pass it off as something obligated to them. Mary’s tears clouded her vision. When we are angry, bitter, depressed or prideful our “vision” is impaired and we will not be able to see Jesus. Vs. 15 “Why are you crying”? The first words of the risen Christ. He asks Mary the same thing the angels did. Here’s Mary, the one whom Jesus delivered from demonic possession (Mark 16:9). Jesus was her hero. She was at the cross waiting until the end. She comes early to provide a proper burial for him. She is so devoted to her savior. She was already distraught enough from the empty void she felt at the loss of the most special person in her life. What would she do now? Who would teach her? Who would protect her? Who would guide her? Contemplating such hopeless thoughts she arrives at the tomb to discover the cruelty of someone stealing away her Jesus. The burden of despair is too much as she breaks down and weeps. “Who are you looking for?” Mary was looking for a dead Jesus, not a living Jesus. Jesus might ask the same question today, “Who are you looking for? What Jesus are you seeking?” Are we looking for the Jesus of our own making? Are we looking for a Jesus who ignores our sin; are we looking for a Jesus who doesn’t challenge us? Are we looking for the Jesus we can just call on when we need him and stuff him back in the corner when we’re done with him? Are we looking for the real Jesus or one tailored to our liking? Vs. 16-“Mary!” Like the angels before, the first person the resurrected Jesus appears to is Mary. One reason was, as stated earlier, to test his disciples when Mary went to them with the news. Another reason could have to do with Mary as a person. She appeared to be more moved by the situation than Peter and John. Still another reason is to show, once again, that Jesus doesn’t do things according to how man thinks they should be done. It would’ve made sense to show himself first to his Apostles but instead he shows himself to Mary. It would have made sense to show himself to all those who shouted ‘crucify him’ to, in essence, get the last word. “I am alive!” Much like his birth wasn’t announced to the masses and religious elite, it was announced to poor shepherds in a field, here, at his resurrection, he didn’t parade himself through the city in front of the masses and the officials he instead appeared to a single, common woman. Vs. 16 “Rabboni!” Mary realizes that the gardener wouldn’t know her name so in her surprise she turns to see who is addressing her. We see she wasn’t even facing Jesus at first when he was speaking to her. Mary didn’t recognize Jesus until she fixed her eyes on him. We need to understand that in order to truly see Jesus we need to fix our eyes upon him. When we look elsewhere we will miss him. Mary recognized it was Jesus when he used her name. Sometimes we don’t recognize the significance of Jesus’ presence until he makes it personal. We can read scripture but until it becomes personal to us we won’t truly see Jesus speaking directly to us. John 10 talks about the fact that Jesus’ sheep know his voice. One who is a follower of Jesus knows when Jesus is speaking to him. We will recognize the Spirit of truth vs. the spirit of falsehood. I’m not saying it’s always crystal clear to discern between the two because the spirit of falsehood is crafty and deceitful but if we are one of Jesus’ sheep we will listen to and know his voice. Jesus turned Mary’s weeping into joy. Jesus seeks to turn our weeping into joy. When we get depressed and discouraged over life Jesus might ask us, “Why are you weeping?” “Why are you downcast? Why so depressed? I am risen! I am here; I am close to you; I will help you.” Psalm 42:5, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Vs. 17: “Don’t hold onto me; for I have not yet returned to my Father”. Why did Jesus say this to her? In the Greek the phrase, do not hold onto is essentially, stop holding onto. Therefore, Jesus wasn’t saying, “don’t touch me” he was saying, “let go”. (Matt. 28:10-“Don’t be afraid”). Perhaps Mary was afraid she’d never see Jesus again. “I have not yet returned”. Perhaps Mary thought that Jesus was raised and here to stay. Jesus, not wanting her to get too attached, reminds her that he will be ascending at some point and will be with her no more in bodily form. But see here the reality of Jesus putting off personal preference for the sake of ministry. How badly he must have wanted to go to be with the Father after having been resurrected. He was now to be restored, no longer forsaken. Yet the reunion was to be put off for the sake of ministering to the weeping and the downtrodden. We have yearnings to go and be with the Lord but until such a time we have work to do. “But go to my brothers”. Perhaps Mary would’ve lingered too long and Jesus had other business and he wanted her to go quickly to the disciples and tell them. He may have assured her it was okay to go because she would see him again before he ascended into heaven. We might want to “linger” with Jesus too long and stay in our own little protected comfort zone but Jesus is telling us we need to “go out into the field” and tell others about him. Matthew Henry, “Public service ought to be preferred before private satisfaction.” “And say unto them, I am going to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” Even though this message is for the disciples I believe Jesus is including Mary also. Jesus is declaring that they are a family; they are of a kindred Spirit. God isn’t just the Father, he’s your Father. 1st John 3:1a, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” He is both our Father (intimacy) as well as our God (authority). Jesus further intimates this as he tells Mary to go to his brothers. He now refers to the disciples in an intimate, family way. Matthew Henry, “He had called them friends, but never brethren till now. Though Christ be high, yet he is not haughty. Notwithstanding his elevation, he disdains not to own his poor relations. His disciples had lately carried themselves very insincerely towards him; he had never seen them together since they all forsook him and fled, when he was apprehended; justly might he now have sent them an angry message: "Go to yonder treacherous deserters, and tell them, I will never trust them any more, or have any thing more to do with them." No, he forgives, he forgets, and does not condemn.” The news of the resurrected Christ would have produced mixed feelings with the disciples. They would be joyous to know that Jesus was alive but if they thought for a minute they may have been afraid knowing they had deserted him at his arrest and Peter having denied him. Jesus was sending a message of love, forgiveness and encouragement. He wants to send the same message to us. When we sin against the Lord he wants us to return to him in repentance.