Summary: What starts the process of seeing eyes and believing hearts?
Iliff and Saltillo United Methodist Churches
April 23, 2000
“Open Eyes and Believing Hearts”
ILLUSTRATION: If you were asked to describe this Easter without using any words--just using only punctuation marks, what punctuation mark would you choose? Maybe you would describe it with a coma--it makes you stop, pause, think, and listen, but that’s about it. Maybe you would describe it with a period--you thought you’d feel excited about the day, but instead it seems to be more like an empty ritual--period. It was a day like that for Jesus’ disciples. The end of the sentence and an end to their expectations. But wait, news came in of an empty tomb--now there’s a question mark. Now they are perplexed and beginning to doubt. An angel speaks,”He is not here, but He has risen! The punctuation mark turns into an exclamation point!
On resurrection morning there were many reactions to this historic event. Mary Magdalene who approached the garden tomb first could think of no other possible explanation than that someone had come and taken Jesus’ body from the grave. She came with spices to anoint a dead body not to meet a living Christ. In spite of Jesus telling his followers what would occur, they didn’t grasp the meaning. Upon seeing the stone rolled away, Mary was emphatic in saying, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” When two of his disciples heard the news, they QUICKLY came to investigate. John outran Peter and LOOKED into the tomb but didn’t GO in possibly out of fear or respect. When impulsive Peter got there, he charged right on into the tomb. Although quick to enter the tomb, Luke 24:25 tells us that Peter “went away WONDERING to himself what had happened.” When John finally ventured into the tomb, he saw the grave clothes in one place and the napkin that was around Jesus head NEATLY FOLDED UP and LYING IN A SEPARATE PLACE. This Jewish custom was a sign that spoke to him.
STORY: It is told that when a guest went to someone’s house for a meal that if they had had a really good meal and great hospitality, they would leave their napkin crumpled up at their plate. If they were not treated well and had a horrible meal, they would neatly fold up the napkin and place it by their plate indicating their displeasure and it was saying, “I’m not coming back here again.” This spoke to John who knew the Jewish customs. Scripture says, “he SAW and BELIEVED.” What did he believe? He believed that the resurrection really did happen.
Later on when Thomas heard the news, his reaction was one of DOUBT. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand in his side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25).
Today we are so much like these people and react in a variety of ways just as they did.
1. A Process--Seeing and believing is not usually a one time event. It is more often a process. We all need time before we can see and understand spiritual truths. At first we may be like Mary who heard the resurrection announcement. Luke 24:11 says at first the “men did not believe the announcement coming from the women at the tomb.” It’s impossible! It’s a fairy tale! Today many people think the same way. It is not logical. It just doesn’t make sense. You might have thought this at one time in your life and some may still feel this way.
When Mary Magdalene went to the garden tomb it was still dark. When it comes to spiritual things we may live our lives with no light shining in--walking in darkness for a long time--not really caring about church or Jesus or perceptive to any of it. Then as Mary Magdalene began to see the dawning of that first Easter morning, we too, begin to slowly perceive and understand things that up to that point we had no interest in whatsoever.
What starts the process in our lives? You might remember when you first heard about Jesus. Maybe it was through your family, a Sunday School teacher, a crisis event or some other wake up call. You could probably all share numerous experiences.
ILLUSTRATION: It is said that our search for God and His search for us meet at windows in our everyday experience. But we must learn to look with more than just our eyes and listen with more than just our ears.
2. Their Own Style--In our scripture today we find that these men and women began the process in quite a variety of ways and in their own unique style. Mary Magdalene did not look for a risen Savior when she approached the tomb. She went there for the sole purpose of taking spices to anoint his body. Somewhat like we take flowers to a gravesite. To her there was no hope. Jesus had died on the cross. There was defeat and there was nothing she could do about it. She was saddened by his death and all hopes had vanished. Someone had come and taken him away.