Summary: Mary discovers the empty tomb and runs to tell the disciples. Later, in her grief and confusion, she sees Jesus and hears him call her by name.

John 20:1-18 “Seeing Jesus”


Jesus has risen! Jesus is alive! These are the proclamations of Easter. They are the truth on which our Christian faith is based. These words are easy for us to say as we worship today. Yet, there are times in our lives when we find it difficult to assert their validity in our lives. Jesus seems distant and uncaring.

The gospel lesson today has a powerful message about seeing Jesus. It is a lesson that we can experience every day of our lives. Today’s lesson underscores the fact that we see what we are looking for.

Look around and count the number of people you see wearing red. Once you have determined the number of red clad people, let me ask you this, “How many children are worshiping with us today? You haven’t a clue, because you weren’t looking for children. Rather, you were looking for the color red.


Seeing is an important theme in the gospel of John.

• John the Baptist point Jesus out to his disciples and identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God (1:35-43). Some of John’s disciples approach Jesus and ask him where he is staying. Jesus responds, “Come and see.”

• The next day one of the disciples, Philip goes to his friend Nathanael and tells him that the Messiah has been found. Nathanael is skeptical. In response, Andrew invites Nathanael to “Come and see.”

• In chapter 12 some Greeks come up to Philip and say, “We want to see Jesus.”

• In the story of the resurrection, the writer records that the disciple looked in the tomb. He saw that the tomb was empty and that the linen grave clothes were neatly folded on the shelf. When he saw he believed.

A life lived in response to Jesus’ resurrection; lived as a disciple of Jesus Christ is not a life based on theological principles. The Christian life is experiential. Followers of Jesus Christ have come, encountered Jesus, seen him and responded believing that he is alive and present.


Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the day and saw that the stone had been rolled away. See didn’t see an empty tomb she only saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. Mary then ran to tell the disciples.

After Peter and another disciple confirm that the tomb is indeed empty, they return to the other disciples to tell them. Mary stays behind.

The writer of John, as he tells the story, has fun with Mary.

• Mary looks inside the tomb (vs. 11). She really didn’t see that the tomb was empty, only that someone had probably stolen Jesus’ body. Mary is consumed with grief.

• Mary sees two angels in white. Everywhere else in the Bible when someone encounters an angel their reaction is one of fear. Not Mary. She sees but doesn’t see.

• Mary even has a conversation with the angels as if there was nothing miraculous happening. Still Mary sees but doesn’t see.

• Mary looks at a man in the garden and supposes him to be a gardener. She sees, but she doesn’t see that it is Jesus.

So often in our lives as followers of Jesus, we act like Mary; we see but don’t see. We say that Jesus has risen and that he is alive, but we don’t see him. When we are going through challenging or difficult times we only see the problem or what we fear. We don’t see Jesus because we aren’t looking for Jesus.


Mary doesn’t really see until Jesus calls her by name, and then she sees him. Mary sees and believes.

Seeing is some ways is a gift. Jesus calls us by name—he’s up close and personal—and he reveals himself to us.

Do you see Jesus? You might be able to see him in the people around you? Another place that you might see Jesus is in the quietness of your place of prayer and in the stillness of your heart. Jesus may be seen in the mountaintop experiences of life, but you are more likely to see Jesus is the challenges, failures, and painful times of life. Jesus doesn’t necessarily wave a magic wand and take the pain away. Instead Jesus walks with us, cries with us, and gives us the strength to take the next step forward.


Jesus has been raised from the dead! Jesus is alive! We open our lives and see Jesus because he is the one for whom we are looking. Jesus is present in our lives and in our world.


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