Summary: What makes you hopeful and optimistic? Only one thing really works, and here it is.
John 20:10-18: THE RESURRECTION: THE REAL REASON FOR HOPE AND OPTIMISM
This past week there was a major earthquake in Afghanistan – the death toll is pretty high, and it continues to rise. Earthquakes always mean trouble.
But not always. On Easter morning, the Bible tells us that there was an earthquake. But what happened after that earthquake is the opposite of what happened in Afghanistan. After that earthquake on Easter morning, the death toll was not rising. Actually – the opposite took place – on Easter, the number of dead grew smaller - one dead body was missing – a grave was empty - and that’s because someone was no longer dead but alive.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ doesn’t just change the way we look at earthquakes – it changes the way we look at everything. This morning, we’re going to see how Jesus’ resurrection changed one woman, Mary Magdalene. Today I want you to put yourself in her shoes – I want you to be her for the next 15 minutes. I want you to feel her sadness, but I also want you to feel her joy and comfort when she realizes that Jesus has indeed risen from the dead. How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ change you? This morning we find the answer…
We find Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and she was crying. She was shedding tears of hopelessness, tears of despair and frustration. For some time now, she had been following the Teacher, Jesus Christ. She had thought that perhaps he was the Messiah. He had healed her of demon possession, and more importantly, he had shown her how to have peace with God. He had made so many promises. He had said so many good things. He had even performed miracles. But now he was dead. And all the things he had said and done were dead with him. How can you hope in someone who is dead? For Mary Magdalene, the world had become a very cruel place – a place of broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, and big disappointments. And to top it off, it seemed that someone had stolen the body of Christ – could things get any worse? It’s no wonder that she’s crying.
Have you ever had moments like Mary Magdalene? Moments when the world seemed like a very cruel place – a place of broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, big disappointments? The world can be a very difficult place to live, and the Devil uses those difficult moments to make you feel hopeless and despairing. The Devil wants you to say to yourself, “God is dead. There is no hope.”
A lot has happened since last Easter. Perhaps the most momentous event was the bombing of the World Trade Center. Just recently we remembered the 6 month anniversary of that event. When you see the footage – you are tempted to think, “God is dead. There is no hope.” When an earthquake kills thousands, when a tornado kills hundreds, you are tempted to think, “God is dead. There is no hope.” When the job that seemed so secure a year ago suddenly disappears today, when your health suddenly takes a turn for the worse, you are tempted to think, “God is dead. There is no hope.”
When you look into your past and consider all the mistakes you have made in life, all the words and actions you wish you could take back, but you can’t, you cannot help but feel a sense of hopelessness. “Is there any way I can change the past? Is there any way I can make right the wrong things I have done?” The answer is no. And then we feel what Mary felt – an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and despair.
Mary was dealing with the death of a loved one. What happens when you have to deal with that? Perhaps you’ve dealt with it, or maybe you’re dealing with it right now. When a loved one dies, or when you face your own mortality, it feels as though you’re facing the end of the road. To think that there is anything positive beyond death is far-fetched, we say to ourselves.
What hope does the world have to offer? Not much. “This is all there is,” many people say, “So you better grab what you can while you can.” That turns people into very self-centered creatures, glorified animals really. A life that is truly here-focused, me-focused, is truly a wasted life, and with it comes loneliness, greed, and ultimately, hell. Maybe that person puts on a happy face, but it’s a face that’s covering up feelings of hopelessness.
What hope does the world have to offer? Be a positive thinker, people say. Can you imagine going up to Mary Magdalene as she’s crying, and saying to her, “Everything will be alright, Mary, just think positive thoughts!” That’s ridiculous. And yet, that’s the best comfort our world is able to offer. To tell someone to be optimistic without any real reason for being optimistic is really quite silly. That causes even greater feelings of hopelessness and despair. There has to be a reason to be optimistic.