Summary: The women encountered a living Jesus and seeing Jesus changed their lives from giref and despair to hope.
John 20:1-18 “He Lives”
During the first three days of July in 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg raged. An argument could be made that that battle had a significant effect on the outcome of the war and ultimately on our lives. Still, having occurred over 140 years ago the battle is ancient history and doesn’t appear to be very significant in our lives today.
The events of that first Easter morning occurred over 2,000 years ago. For some the empty tomb is ancient history, also. Some others may rank it as myth or legend because of its distance in time. For billions of people, though, the resurrection and the empty tomb are more than history, or even living history. They are a powerful force in our lives today, because Jesus, who was crucified, rose from the dead and now lives.
As the sun peeked over the horizon on that first Easter morning, Mary was surprised and confused. She had come to finish the burial preparations for Jesus, because she and the other women were unable to complete their task before the beginning of the Sabbath. She expected to only encounter death. Instead, she discovered that the entrance to the tomb was open.
Mary ran to where the disciples were staying. She told them that the tomb was empty and perhaps someone had stolen Jesus’ body. Peter and another disciple ran to the tomb. They entered the tomb and saw the burial clothes lying on the shelf where Jesus’ body had been laid. The disciples were confused. They didn’t know what to make of the empty tomb, because they hadn’t connected the dots and understood the Scripture that Jesus must raise from the dead.
Two thousand years may separate us from Mary and the disciples, but we are very different from them. There are so many times that we are confused. The time that we are in, at the present time, is such a time. We do not know what we should do, or what needs to be done to survive the economic upheaval that we are in. We don’t know what the future holds, so we don’t really know what goals to set, or what plans to make. Confusion brings fear and stress with it.
In the midst of our confusion, fear and stress, we discover the empty tomb. We know what happened 2,000 years ago. We know that Jesus conquered death, and that he now lives. We might not understand these times, but we do know some things—Jesus lives and God is up to something surprising.
TIMES OF GRIEF
The disciples left and Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. She was overcome with grief. Her master and friend had died. Not only that, but his body had been taken. Relationships had been cut and hopes dashed.
I don’t think that there is a person here today who doesn’t know what grief is like. We have lost friends and family members, and a hole has been left in our lives. During these difficult times there are plenty of things to grieve—the lost of a job or lowered income, the loss of a house, strained or severed relationships, and the loss of self-esteem, independence, and security.
In the middle of her grief, Mary discovers that Jesus is alive. Her grieving is quickly turned into celebration and dancing.
We meet a living Jesus in the middle of our grieving, also, and when we do, the situation changes. There is still loss and difficult times, but along with it are hope and the promise of new life. Death in its many forms has been conquered. A living Jesus walks with us through all of life.
SHARE THE GOOD NEWS
Jesus asked Mary to go and tell the disciples that he had risen from the grave and would soon be ascending to the Father. Her experience with Jesus was not to be kept to herself. Other people longed to hear the news that she had to share.
When she came to the disciples, Mary’s message was simple, “I have seen the Lord.” She didn’t need to come up with great theological arguments concerning what had happened, or even have all of the answers to the inevitable questions that the disciples would raise. All she was asked to do was to share what she had seen and heard.
We, like Mary, are called to share what we have seen, heard, and experienced. The tomb is empty! Jesus lives and he is alive today! Our confused and grieving world needs to hear this good news.
The tomb is empty, and Jesus lives! These facts changed the world, and they continue to change our world.