Summary: A sermon emphasizing not the end that is Easter Sunday, but the beginning.
1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him." 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciples outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloththat had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed;
(New Revised Standard Version)
For too many people, Easter is an ending. The season of Lent is now over. The time of self-denial and sacrifice is finally passed. Holy Week is finished. Good Friday has come and gone, and for too many Christians it truly "is finished."
There is a scene in the movie "Jesus of Nazareth" where Caiaphas, the High Priest and a group of soldiers come rushing to Jesus’ empty tomb that first Easter Sunday (At the service at Camp Ground I was able to show the clip) In it, there is a discussion of what has happened to the body of Jesus. The solder in charge tells Caiaphas that it would have been impossible for anyone to have come at taken the body because his soldiers, along with some of the Temple guard, were there all night guarding the tomb. Caiaphas then walks in to the empty tomb and, as the camera zooms in on his face whispers, "Now it begins. Now it all begins."
Although the account in the movie is not Scriptural, I use that scene to show that - at least in the movie - Caiaphas is the only one who truly "gets it." You see, little by little the evidence of the empty tomb is being discovered
Mary has come to the tomb and sees the stone has been rolled away. She rushes back and tells Peter and John that someone has stolen his body.
John outruns Peter to the tomb - stops at the entrance - stoops down, looks in - sees the linen clothes lying on the floor of the tomb, but won’t go any farther.
Finally Peter gets to the tomb - probably not slowing down one step - he enters the tomb and sees the same burial clothes that John has seen, but then he sees something different - over there - the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face - folded up in a place by itself.
Verse 8 tells us that John then goes into the tomb with Peter, "...and he saw, and believed." Believed what?
Did he believe that Jesus had risen from the dead?
That was Jesus had said was going to happen! Over and over and over again He tells them, so it that what they believed?
NO! The next two verses (9 & 10) tell us: "For as yet they did not understand the scripture, that He must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes." (NRSV).
They believed the same thing that Mary believed: they believed that someone had come and stolen, or at least moved, Jesus’ dead body.
They believed that early Sunday morning - three days after the crucifixion of Jesus - to be the end!
BUT EASTER IS NOT AN END - NOW IT BEGINS!
I). The beginning of joy rather than weeping.(read John 20:11-18)
A). In John 16:20-22 Jesus tells His disciples that He has come to turn their sorrow into gladness - their weeping into Joy.
- He tells them in verse 22: "So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you." (NRSV)
B). At the tomb, Jesus asks Mary a question - the same question He asked His first disciples back in John chapter 1: "Whom are you looking for?"
- Mary recognizes Jesus because he calls her by name. Jesis is the Good Shepherd who knows his own and calls them by name, and Mary is one of His sheep who knows his voice.
- Immediately her tears of sorrow become tears of joy - a joy that no one can take away from her.