Summary: Every time a believer comes to faith in Jesus Christ, it points back to the first Easter almost 2000 years ago. We celebrate that Jesus is risen from the dead. God, the angels, and we rejoice when a former unbeliever rises from the dead to life in Christ.
It Ain't Easter, Preacher
First preached in November, 2004
Last week we learned about how Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures even in death. He gave up His life voluntarily at 3PM, at the exact hour the Passover Lambs started to be slain. The lambs had to be completely drained before they could be roasted and eaten. The lambs were hung up on poles and were lanced at the heart to drain the blood onto the ground even as God had commanded. Likewise, the spear thrust into Jesus heart allowed Jesus’ blood to pour out on the ground as an offering to God. The actual piercing was predicted in Scripture in Psalm 22 as well as Zechariah 12:10. Isaiah 53 predicted He would be numbered among the transgressors (the two thieves), but would be buried with the rich in His death. And this Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus had done.
In six days, God had created the world and everything in it. In particular, he created man on the sixth day. The seventh day, God rested from all His work of creation. Jesus, God the Son, finished the redemption and had re-created man on the sixth day. On the seventh day, He rested from all the work the Father had given Him.
Exposition of the Text
v. 1. And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came very early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.
We know from the Scriptures that several women had actually gone along with Mary Magdalene. These were the woman who stood faithfully next to the cross of Jesus while the disciples had fled. They probably weren’t let in on the fact that the body had already been quite properly prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, due either to confusion of the desire of the men to remain hidden. The women had assumed that the proper burial customs had not been done to Jesus. They went out to buy spices to anoint the body in the couple of hours between Jesus’ death and burial, although it is also possible that they might have purchased them the evening before.
John, in his usual fashions only introduces the people who are necessary to the drama so that it did not get bogged down in side issues. So, only Mary Magdalene is introduced. Mary was a woman of some means, for Luke mentions her with Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, Susannah, and others in Luke 8:1-4 who had financed Jesus’ ministry. In the text in Luke, it had said that seven demons had been cast out of her. The number "seven " is a number of completeness indicating that she was totally possessed. She must have been some mess before Jesus had come to her. She stood loyally along Jesus with several women named Mary, and other women as well. Women would have never been allowed to have been a disciple to a Rabbi in Jesus’ day. Yet, in a way, they too were disciples of Jesus. Mary of Bethany had even sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of His teaching. This would have been scandalous. Many Rabbis would not even discuss Scripture with their own wives and would have preferred for the Torah to be burnt rather than have it taught to a woman.
So there is a story here going on behind the scenes. We know Jesus had admitted at least one woman to hear Him. And I suspect there were others as well. The fact that women are even mentioned at all is extraordinary. They were kept hidden in the background, and were virtually anonymous in many cases. Yet for all this, the contributions of women to society could hardly be calculated, even in this male dominated culture. The very fact that Jesus taught them, and mentioned them by name should remind us that no one is a “nobody” to Jesus.
We should also be reminded that society still to this day gives the least notice and reward to the hardest workers in society. Where would the world be without the backbreaking toil of the farmer who provides the very food we eat? Their plight is dependent upon the weather, those who buy the goods which often squeeze them, and the grace of God. Yet they are faithful to their task. And to think that these fruits are often picked in this country by immigrants of questionable legal status. And we treat them as less than livestock while so many of live in comfortable homes, condemning them for doing the work we are too lazy and proud to do ourselves.
In the Gospel of John, there are two categories of secret disciples. The first were those who because of fear of losing their status in society and fear of persecution for the name of Jesus remain hidden. And part of this Gospel is encouragement for these to make their profession of Jesus an open one regardless of the costs of coming out of the closet. The second category is those disciples who are kept anonymous because society hardly considers them human. These are the people whom Jesus made a point to minister to in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-4. These included women, Gentiles, the poor "People of the Land", the handicapped, and the prisoners. And in solidarity with these "nobodies" whom Jesus loved, John does not even include even his own name in the gospel. To tell the truth, the only One that is of any consequence that we be someone with is Jesus. As long as He knows who and where I am, what else ultimately matters? This is what true discipleship is all about. It’s not about us, it’s about Jesus.