Summary: Expository sermon concerning Mary Magdalene’s experience at the tomb: (1)Her DISCOVERY of the empty tomb (2)Her DEVOTION to the crucified Christ (3)Her DELIGHT in the Risen Lord.

Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb

Fortifying the Foundation # 44

John 20:1-18[1]


In 1588 the Spanish Armada was defeated by a change in weather and a much weaker English navy.[2] That one event profoundly affected the future of America. On June 6, 1944 the Allied forces under the command of Dwight D. Eisenhower invaded Normandy. The weather was good and the invasion was a success.[3] That success on D-Day led to the defeat of Hitler. Can you imagine how different our lives would be had Hitler won World War II? On August 6, 1945 the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and shortly after that they surrendered to the Allied forces. Some of you may not know that Japan was working on an atomic bomb as well.[4] What if they had developed it first? I am intrigued by the way history can turn on a single event—an unexpected weather development—an upset on the battlefield. All of the incidents that I have mentioned were highly consequential in their impact upon world history.

But this morning we come to the greatest event in human history. Two thousand years ago a battle was won that affected heaven and earth forever. Something happened just outside the city of Jerusalem that determined the future of the world and the destiny of mankind. When Jesus rose from the dead the way of salvation was opened for all mankind who would receive it[5], a new order of creation was launched[6], and the archenemy of the eternal Godhead was utterly defeated.[7] The resurrection of Jesus is the greatest event in human history.[8]

With that in mind I ask you who (besides Jesus) is the central figure in our text this morning? It is not Caesar or Pontius Pilate. It is not Caiaphas, the high priest. It is not Mary the mother of Jesus or even the apostle Peter. The central figure in our resurrection story this morning is a woman named Mary Magdalene. John’s account of the greatest event in human history here in our text revolves around Mary Magdalene.

We know very little about her. She was from the village of Magdala in Galilee.[9] She had serious problems before she met Jesus. In fact Luke tells us Jesus had cast 7 demons out of her.[10] Could you conceive of any more unlikely heroin than this Mary Magdalene?

As we examine her experience here in our text consider with me

1st Her Discovery of the Empty Tomb.

It was still dark that Sunday morning when Mary headed for the tomb of Jesus. There were other women with her[11] but Mary Magdalene was leading the way. I doubt any of them had slept much the night before. They had obeyed the commandment and had rested on the Sabbath.[12] That had to have been the worst Sabbath those poor women had ever experienced.

Just prior to the Sabbath, which began Friday at sunset, they had watched Joseph of Armathaea and Nicodemus lay Jesus’ body in the tomb and roll the great stone over its entrance.[13] In their overwhelming grief they wanted to do something to express their love for Jesus. So they prepared spices and had brought them to the tomb to anoint his body. But when Mary got there she was shocked to discover that the stone had been removed[14]. Perhaps without even looking into the tomb she concluded that Jesus’ body had been stolen. and reacted immediately. Mary reacted immediately and ran to tell Peter and John what had happened.

When she got to John’s house[15] she was probably out of breath and in one quick sentence exclaimed, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” Everybody was operating on pure emotion. Peter and John did not say, “Now, Mary, calm down. Tell us exactly what you saw.” They reacted just as she had reacted. They immediately began running to the tomb. John, the younger one, outran Peter and got there first. As he stood at the entrance gazing into the tomb, Peter ran right past him to the place where Jesus’ body had been laid.[16]

They had both taken Mary’s report at face value. She had assumed that the body of Jesus had been stolen. They ran with that assumption. But when Peter and John got inside the tomb they saw something they were not expecting to see. They way the grave clothes were arranged clearly dispelled any idea this was the work of grave robbers. The clothes were lying there in an orderly fashion. A grave robber would not have even removed the grave clothes let alone taken time to lay them out like this. It is likely that the strips were not unwrapped but had simply collapsed when Christ’s resurrected body passed through them. That certainly would have been convincing proof that Jesus had been resurrected. The exact condition of the grave clothes is not completely clear. But Peter and John knew this was not the messy work of grave robbers. When they saw those grave clothes lying there in that manner they knew Jesus had risen from the dead.[17]

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Grant Bennington

commented on Apr 7, 2009

excellent sermon

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