Summary: Why did John focus on Mary Magdalene’s viist to the tomb in his gospel? What was there about what she saw and what she believed that made her story so important to his story?
OPEN: I’m going to name 4 characters in a famous TV show and then I’m going to ask you to name that show. Ready?
Bert and Ernie
The Cookie Monster
Name that show! (Sesame Street).
Now, how many of you remember a character from that show named “Mr. Hooper”? (a few hands were raised) Years ago the producers of Sesame Street were faced with a dilemma. The actor who played the popular “Mr. Hooper” had passed away, and the producers were faced with how to communicate the concept of death to the 10 million children (most of whom are under 6) who watch the show. So they consulted with some child psychologists on how they should handle it.
The Child psychologists suggested they NOT say, “Mr. Hooper got sick and died,” because children get sick and they are not going to die.
And the psychologists suggested they NOT say, “Mr. Hooper got old and died,” because little children think of their parents as being old.
And the staff of Sesame Street decided to AVOID religious issues and not say, “Mr. Hooper died and went to Heaven.”
The show’s producers decided to say just a few basics: He’s gone, he won’t be back, and he’ll be missed.
The day of the show, Big Bird came out on the stage and said he had a picture for Mr. Hooper and he couldn’t wait to see him. But someone said, “Big Bird, remember, we told you that Mr. Hooper died.”
And Big Bird said, “Oh yeah, I forgot.” Then he said, “Well, I’ll give it to him when he comes back.”
And one of the staff members put an arm around Big Bird and said, “Big Bird, Mr. Hooper isn’t coming back.”
“Why not,” Big Bird asked innocently.
“Big Bird, when people die, they don’t come back.”
(Brian Jones – Standard Publishing Illustrations)
“When people die, they don’t come back.” What a sad and tragic thing to teach children.
APPLY: Now Sesame Street was a secular show.
It’s Public Television and they’re generally not into God or Jesus or people going to heaven.
And they’re definitely not into people rising from the dead.
And they haven’t been the only ones to believe that way.
ILLUS: A survey a few years ago by the Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University found that most Americans do not believe they will experience a resurrection of their bodies when they die. When asked,
"Do you believe that, after you die, your physical body will be resurrected someday?"
· Only 36 % of adults surveyed said "yes"
· 54 % said they did not believe,
· and 10 percent were undecided.
Down thru the ages many people have expressed the opinion that death is final.
Back in the days of ancient Greece the poet Aeschylus wrote:
“Once a man dies, there is no resurrection.”
The Greek Philosopher Theocritus wrote:
“There is hope for those who are alive, but those who have died are without hope.”
There’s something about death that seems (pause) permanent… and tragic.
Sigmund Freud wrote: “And finally there is the painful riddle of death, for which no remedy at all has yet been found, nor probably will ever be!”
ILLUS: Abraham Lincoln was haunted by this same doubt
In her book about Lincoln "Team Of Rivals" Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote that when Anne (Lincoln’s first true love died) a friend asked him whether he believed in a future realm, he answered:
“I’m afraid there isn’t... It isn’t a pleasant thing to think that when we die that is the last of us.”
There’s something about death that seems permanent.
So, when Luke 24 (a mirror text to the one from John 20 we read today) tells us the women came to Jesus’ grave to finish preparing his body for burial, they didn’t expect to see Jesus alive. But when they found the tomb empty and an angel told them He’d risen they went to the Apostles and told them the good news.
But the Apostles didn’t expect to see Jesus alive either.
Luke 24 tells us
“When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” Luke 24:9-11
Yes, Jesus had said He would arise from the grave on the 3rd day, but they didn’t really believe it. Death was somehow permanent.
But, having heard the words of the Mary Magdalene and the other women John and Peter ran to the grave to check it out for themselves.
John was a little faster,
He arrived at the tomb just before Peter did and when he looked inside he saw that it was empty. Empty except for the strips of linen laying there, and the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.