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Summary: The Easter message of resurrection hope from John 20

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INCREDIBLE HOPE John 20:1-18

INTRO.- Easter Sunday. What’s it all about? What does it mean to people? Well, that depends on who you are talking to.

Mary Louise Duggard, age 8, of Seat Pleasant, MD, said of Easter, "You get eggs, and you remember God." Not bad!

Jamila Young-Hogan, age 4, of Washington D.C. said, "It’s the day that God woke up." Again, not bad.

Amanda Ward, age 7, of Nashville, TN, said, "It’s when Jesus got alive."

A group of four-year-old children were in Sunday School in a church in Chattanooga, TN. The teacher asked the class, "Does anyone know what today is?"

One child said, "Today is Palm Sunday." The teacher exclaimed,

"That’s fantastic. Now does anyone know what next Sunday is?"

The same little girl held up her hand and said, "Yes, next Sunday is Easter." "Great," the teacher said and "what does that mean?" The little girl said, "Easter is when Jesus came forth from the grave BUT IF HE SEES HIS SHADOW, HE WILL HAVE TO GO BACK IN FOR 7 WEEKS."

Hear the real good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in the words of the Apostle Paul:

“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,” (1 Cor. 15:3-4)

Remarkably, however, the very first news of Easter was not good news at all.

It was terrible news that Mary Magdalene brought to the Apostles Peter and John when she came running with the announcement that the body of Jesus had disappeared. What a shock that must have been.

When the body of Abraham Lincoln was stolen some years after his death and held for ransom, our entire nation was shocked and dismayed. After the ransom was paid, the body was recovered, and buried again under tons of cement in Springfield, Illinois.

We can only imagine the shock of these disciples of Jesus, smitten and numbed as they already were at the unexpected death of their Lord, when they heard Mary’s hysterical announcement.

It still can be a shocking claim.

One lady wrote in to a question and answer forum. "Dear Sirs, Our preacher said on Easter, that Jesus just swooned on the cross and that the disciples nursed Him back to health. What do you think?” Sincerely, Bewildered.

“Dear Bewildered, Beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear thru his side...put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens." Sincerely, Charles.

The Apostle John did not write his account of the events of the resurrection until some fifty years after they had taken place. Yet the narrative, taken from the 20th chapter of his gospel, is as vivid and as fresh as if it had just occurred.

{READ John 20:1-10}

Outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem today, in a beautiful secluded garden at the foot of the hill that is shaped like a skull, there is a tomb called the "Garden Tomb." No one is exactly sure that this is the tomb where the body of Jesus lay, but it fits the picture much better than the tomb that is under the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

According to the other gospel accounts, other women besides Mary went to the tomb early that morning. When they arrived there, probably around five or five-thirty a.m., just as the sun was beginning to rise, they saw that the great stone, weighing perhaps over a thousand pounds, that rolled along a track in front of the tomb, it had been pushed back. Shocked by this discovery, Mary left the other women there and ran to tell Peter and John that the tomb had been rifled, the guard had left, and the body of Jesus had disappeared.

According to the gospel accounts the other women stayed, and there they met two angels who told them that Jesus had risen. But Mary had not yet received that news when she ran to tell Peter and John about the disappearance of the body of Jesus.

On hearing this, both Peter and John immediately left for the tomb, running through the streets of Jerusalem and through the Damascus Gate to the tomb. John, the younger of the two, outran Peter and, stooping down, he looked into the tomb.

If this was, or was like, the Garden Tomb, you do have to stoop to look into it. It is a fairly large chamber, hewed out of the rock, with three rock shelves for bodies.

As he peered in, John observed the burial cloths still lying on the rock shelf where the body of Jesus had lain. He does not tell us what he thought at that moment, but it seems likely there came flashing into his mind the realization that Mary was wrong. It looked as though the body were still there. The cloths were still lying there and from his vantage point, peering into the tomb as he stooped down, it would have looked as though the body were still there. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that he did not enter the tomb immediately.

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