Summary: The resurrection of Jesus transforms individuals, families, and whole societies and it can change your life as well.
Even though today is Easter Sunday, I realize that you may have lots of things on your mind, including the deadline for filing your taxes with the IRS. I hope that none of you has the problem one guy has, though.
A tax accountant told our son about a guy who wanted to declare the loss of his Lincoln Navigator SUV on his tax return. The accountant told the man that insurance usually takes care of things like that and wondered what happened.
Here is the story. In the winter some guys decided to go fishing on the lake. It was frozen, so they parked the SUV at the edge of the lake and instead of going out on the ice to make a hole, they lit a stick of dynamite with a long-burning fuse and threw it out to break the ice open.
• Unfortunately, the dog thought it was a stick and went out after it.
• Fortunately, the dog retrieved it in record time and started back.
• Unfortunately, when they yelled at the dog to drop it, the dog ran under the SUV with the stick of dynamite in its mouth.
• Fortunately, the dog got burned on the muffler, came out from under the vehicle, leaving the dynamite behind.
• Unfortunately, the dynamite went off, transforming the SUV from a useful vehicle into a pile of junk.
That is supposed to be a true story. If you can believe all of that, you won’t have any trouble believing the resurrection of Jesus!
The Bible makes clear that the resurrection of Jesus is not only fact, but that it has also changed the landscape of human history. The resurrection has transformed individuals, families, and whole societies and it can change your life as well.
Mary Magdalene’s Origins
If you worship with us regularly, you know that we have been preaching through the book of John. Today we come to the second last chapter which is about the resurrection of Jesus following his death on the cross for the sins of the world. Chapter 20 is full of fascinating details, but I want to focus on Mary’s response to the resurrection of Jesus.
We don’t know exactly who Mary Magdalene was.
• Luke 8 tells us that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her. If so, she had Jesus to thank for being in her right mind.
• Tradition says that she was the woman in Luke 7 who washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, dried them with her hair, and anointed them with expensive perfume, the kind that prostitutes would have used in their trade. If so, she had Jesus to thank because he forgave her past, changing her from being a woman of the night to a woman of the light.
• Her name, Magdala, says she was from a rural town in Galilee, a place without much reputation. That would mean she was just a country hick who had begun to follow Jesus around in his ministry. If so, she was not well known and had no special qualifications.
Regardless of which description you choose, the fact that Jesus appeared to her first after his resurrection makes her testimony all the more remarkable. Add to that the fact that women in first-century Jewish culture were not given credibility in a court of law and we can only conclude that the power unleashed in the resurrection is not just for the rich and famous, but for all people, regardless of where they live, what they have done, or what calamities have visited them. That means that God’s amazing grace is for us, too.
Looking for a dead Christ
As the suspense begins in chapter 20, we see that the resurrection is shrouded in darkness, bathed in tears, and clouded with mystery.
• Darkness. Verse 1 says that Mary got to the tomb while it was still dark. The Greek word “dark” is the technical word used for the time period between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m. It was very early. (Barclay) Some of you know what it is to get up early when anxiety keeps you awake. You might as well be doing something as to lie there. I think that is what happened to Mary.
• Sadness. Mary’s eyes were filled with tears. Verse 11 says she stood weeping outside the tomb. Not only had she lost Jesus, now it appeared that someone had broken in and stolen his body. Her tears just wouldn’t stop. Some of you have experienced that kind of grief when you lost a loved one. A woman told us last week that even though her husband two months ago, she still cries and cries because he is gone.
• Mystery. Mary discovered that the tomb was open and the body gone. What she couldn’t figure out was how it happened and what it meant. In v 13, she says, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Even when she saw Jesus, she thought he was the gardener. Everything seemed mysterious. The possibility of his resurrection had not occurred to her. She was looking for a dead Christ, not one who was alive.