Summary: Mary Magdalene’s grief turns to joy when she meets the resurrected Jesus. Jesus calls our name into our grief as well.
Dare to Believe Again – “Up From The Grave: Lent Series”
John 20:10-18 March 8/9, 2003
All of us have had “decisive moments” in our lives – moments which change the direction of our life in a decisive way. They are moments etched in our memories, ones we’ll never forget.
Some are surprising:
o “uh, dad, about the car…”
o “Honey, I’m pregnant.”
o Calvin comic
Some are painful:
o “There’s been an accident.”
o “The test was positive.”
o “I don’t want to see you anymore.”
And some are expected and anticipated and celebrated:
o “I now pronounce you husband and wife.”
o “You’re hired.”
o “We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted…”
o “It’s a girl!”
At these decisive moments, we recognize that our lives are now changed – in many cases changed forever. The rest of the things that seemed important moments before pale in comparison, life suddenly takes on a whole new perspective, priorities are instantly different. The road of life makes a sharp turn in a different direction.
Near the end of the Gospel of John, we find two such decisive events – events that changed not only the course of a few people’s lives, but that changed the course of all history. The first was the death of Jesus on the cross, and the second was Jesus’ resurrection. We’re going to look today at how that cosmic change effected one person in Scripture and how it effects us still today.
Up From The Grave
Today is the first Sunday in Lent – the season of preparation for Easter. This 40 day period began last Wednesday, with Ash Wednesday, and is observed in many Christian churches as a time set aside to prepare for the greatest Christian season – the Easter season where we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus.
As I thought about what we should focus on during this season I came to the conclusion that our theological emphasis is perhaps a little unbalanced. It seems that we spend a great amount of effort on the work of Christ on the cross – on His death – and not so much effort on the resurrection of Christ from the dead and on what this means for us and for how we should live. It is not that any of our emphasis on the death of Jesus is wrong or misplaced or in any way twisted, or even that we emphasize it too much. But I do think that we emphasize the resurrection of Jesus too little. Paul states, in rather strong terms, “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Cor 15:14).
And so for our Lenten journey, I want to concentrate on the resurrection – on what it means for us that Jesus rose from the dead and conquered death, and on what that means for how we should live. I’ve titled the series, “Up From The Grave,” and each week I’m going to challenge us to “Dare” to live as children of the resurrected Lord. Today I want to talk about Daring to Believe Again.
Earlier in our service, we heard the first part of the story of John 20. Now I’d like to read the second part: read
A Story of Grief:
We don’t know a lot about who Mary Magdalene was. We know that Jesus had driven seven demons out of her (Lk. 8:2), and that she had become a close follower of Jesus. She was present at the crucifixion (Jn 19:25), and was one of the women who returned to the tomb early Sunday morning to anoint Jesus’ body for burial (Mk 16:1). And from this story in John 20, we see a woman in deep grief – we see the depth of her love for Jesus, and that she is distraught at the fact of Jesus’ death which she witnessed.
The death of Mary’s saviour, Lord, and friend, was one of those “decisive moments” in Mary’s life. She had followed Him, believed Him to be the Messiah, experienced personally the power of God in setting her free from seven demons and restoring her to her right mind. She invested her faith in Jesus, and then watched Him die on the cross. Like the other followers of Jesus, she was devastated.
So the first part of this story is a story of grief. She had seen Jesus die, had come prepared to find His body and anoint it with the burial spices, and instead she found an empty tomb. She (and the other women with her) assumed the Romans had moved Jesus’ body, and ran to get Peter and John, who race back to the tomb and see that Jesus is gone, and then they return home. And then Mary is left by herself. And in the midst of the grief and confusion and disorientation, she weeps. And she searches.