Summary: The Third Part of a Three Part Sermon Series leading up to Easter • Believing is… Seeing • Believing is… Finding • Believing is… Devastating
[John 20:1-18] - (1685)
“Believing is… Devastating”
It has been… such a terrible three days. On Thursday… Jesus met with the twelve in the upper room. There he broke bread with them, and told them yet again… that he was going to die. Nobody really believed it… how could he? After all he had done? Who could possibly harm him? But then later that night, as the disciples slept in the garden and Jesus prayed… it happened just as he had predicted. He was led away like a convict… tried by the Roman government… and sentenced to die by crucifixion.
On Friday, they led him to the place of the skull… nailed him to the cross… and there… Mary Magdalene watched him die upon the cross. It… was not… pleasant… to watch. To make matters worse, he died late in the afternoon… Mary and the others had to rush his body into the tomb so that it could be laid to rest before the Sabbath began that evening. Mary wept as they sealed the tomb. She sobbed to think of what had happened the past few days. It all happened so quickly. Even his burial… happened so quickly. They didn’t have enough time to really properly prepare the body… there was still so much for her to do. She had to leave him be for the Sabbath, but she would be back… at the crack of dawn on Sunday to properly care for his body.
As dawn approached on Sunday, Mary and a few others made their way to the tomb carrying all the herbs they needed to properly anoint the body. As they walked, they pondered amongst themselves how on earth they would move the heavy boulder… but as it turns out… this suddenly becomes the very least of their worries. As they approach the tomb… they see the stone has already been rolled away… the soldiers guarding the entrance… gone! What on earth was going on here?
Mary peaks in… and her heart sinks. She didn’t think it could get any worse… but now… the body was gone! It was too much! The arrest… the trial… the conviction… the sentence… and the punishment… she had seen it all. She had been by his side through it all. She had never left the master. He had done… SO MUCH for her. Now, she was robbed of the one kindness she could repay him… she couldn’t even properly care for his body. Worse yet… they body was gone! Her mind screamed with all the thoughts of what they could have possibly done with it.
We find her at verse 11, crushed by these thoughts… unable to tear herself away from the tomb of her master. She wept. “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” She mistakes him for a gardener. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Such… stark contrast between the darkness of the past three days… with the bright light of today. Yesterday, the tomb contained a broken body… but today... well brothers and sisters… today the tomb is empty!
“So what!” What difference does it make? How does that affect… you and I? You know… lots of people believe in Jesus… they think he’s a fine man… a great example… a moral leader! They think… isn’t that enough! They ask us… why make everything so much cloudier… so much muddier by trying to pump in the magic of someone returning from the dead? Jesus is still a great example to be followed without the empty tomb! Right? What does it matter?
It matters… A LOT! First, by his resurrection he has overcome death, and since we are joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit we too are raised by his power to a new life. Second, the resurrection of Christ is a sure pledge to us of our blessed resurrection. As we look to that empty tomb… it might as well be our own empty grave that we are staring at… because Christ has paid the price for our sin, he has appeased the wrath of God, he has satisfied the justice of our Father… and set us free… to rise just as he did… into a new life with God in heaven.