Summary: Sermon focused on Easter Sunday - What people looking for in the church?
What Are You Looking For?
He asked her (Mary Magdalene), “Who is it you are looking for?” John 20:15
I was ready to leave. I had my arms full of books and papers and I was running all over the house looking for my keys. I looked in the locks of all the doors, I looked over the desk and table in my office, I checked out the kitchen and even the basement. I was running, back and forth, all over the building when Miladka, my wife, noticed me running all over the place and asked me, “What ARE you looking for?” I said, “My keys!” – She asked where I had been and gave me some suggestions – all of which I had already covered, but I went back over them all again.
With their “lanterns and weapons,” the soldiers and Judas came looking for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. When Jesus saw them approaching, he said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said, “I am he.” Then Judas “stepped back and fell to the ground” out of shame. Then Jesus asked again, “Whom are you looking for?”
In another garden, thousands of years earlier, a man and woman had chosen to follow their own understanding and logic. They followed the advice of a serpent, in direct contradiction of God's command. When they ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they saw that they were naked and were ashamed. – Why would they do this? They had everything – how could they possible want more? Then they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves and then they ran away and tried to hide from God. But they couldn't! Then comes the surprise in the story. Instead of what we expected – God abandoning mankind – He goes out looking for them! Adam/Mankind – Eve/Life – where ARE you? I am looking for you. – And not only does God tell them what the result of their sin would be – toil, sweat, pain, and death. But amazingly, as the Bible says, “The Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:21)
But there is another garden where the same question is asked: “Whom are you looking for?”
On Sunday after the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mary Magdalene came to another garden: the garden where Jesus had been buried. She came in the night – not only the time before the sun rose, but she came in the dark night of the soul as well. The one who had welcomed her as no one had ever welcomed her had been crucified. The one, who loved her, as she had never been loved, was dead and buried.
When she had arrived in the garden, Mary Magdalene saw in the moonlight that the stone had been removed from Jesus' tomb. Her sorrow now turned to horror. – In that despair she started running back to the disciples to announce to them what she had discovered. Peter and His beloved disciple John didn´t delay and went back to the tomb. John arrived at the tomb first, but waited for Peter and let him go into the tomb first. Peter saw that the linen burial cloths were there, but there was no body.
I suppose John included this detail to tell us that Mary feared that someone had come and taken Jesus´ body away. After all, what grave robber would bother taking the burial cloths off the body and fold them up and then roll up the face cloth and place them so carefully? – Peter came to the tomb in confusion and guilt for having denied knowing Jesus, and now it was too late for him to say he was sorry. In the darkness of the tomb Peter was still confused and guilty.
Then John followed Peter into the tomb. He also saw the linen burial cloths – but John responded differently. He believed! Why is it that Peter and John saw the same thing, but Peter left in confusion and John left the tomb believing that Jesus was raised from the dead? – Well, it depends what you bring with you that makes all the difference. John stayed by Jesus´ side to the end. He was brining his sorrow, but he was not consumed by his own guilt and sin. John tells us that John believed even though he did not yet understand.
The second half of this Easter story brings us back to Mary Magdalene. She returned to the tomb after Peter and John had gone back to their homes. Mary returned with her sorrow. She was crying. She looked into the tomb and she heard someone asking, “Why are you weeping?” She explained that she still believed that someone must have stolen the body of Jesus. In her sorrow she turned away from the empty tomb and saw someone who again asked her why she was crying. Then, that Easter gardener asked Mary the same question that we heard thousands of years ago in the Garden of Eden and then in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Whom are you looking for?” – Mary answered by repeating her question, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” As if she was able to do this.