Summary: A sermon for Easter.
There are times in our lives so terrible, so painful and so difficult that weeping has a sort of "guttural sound" to it.
Have you ever cried so hard and with such despair that it felt as if your heart were breaking?
Have you ever been in so much emotional pain, that it seemed there was no hope?
I can't imagine what the parents of the young boy who was struck and killed by a school bus on Monday morning must be feeling.
Pastor Daniel Gilchrist of Chattanooga Valley Presbyterian Church was quoted as saying,
"It is times like this that we become keenly aware of our weakness, keenly aware of our lack of understanding."
"Keenly aware of our lack of control."
At about 3 p.m. on a Friday Jesus died on a cross.
The Cross is a symbol of injustice, jealousy, hatred, bigotry, the abuse of power, hopelessness, brokenness and despair.
On the day that Jesus died it looked like the forces of evil and sin had defeated God and goodness, righteousness, life and hope.
Death, the great enemy that has reigned since Adam and Eve first turned away from God in the Garden, had once more won the day.
What was left for Jesus' disciples?
Grief, disillusionment, and hopelessness?
We are told that "while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to [Jesus' tomb] and saw that the stone had been taken away."
So, she ran to Simon Peter and to John, and told them that Jesus' body has gone missing.
And we are told that they all came "running together" toward the tomb.
Peter and John went into the tomb.
"The linen cloths" that had been wrapped around Jesus' body were "lying there."
"The face cloth that had been on Jesus' head...wasn't with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place."
And we are told that John "believed."
But they "didn't yet understand that Jesus must rise from the dead," so what John believed must have been what Mary reported: "Someone stole Jesus' body."
And we are told that Peter and John went back to the place they were staying.
But not Mary.
Mary stood at that place where so many of us have stood as well.
It's the place of terrible, unutterable pain.
"Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying."
At some point in our lives, I think we all stand outside the "tomb of death," crying--weeping.
It's a time when the forces of darkness seem to have gotten the upper hand.
All Mary's hopes that she had gained as she had followed Jesus had been dashed.
Perhaps her very faith in a God of goodness and love was shaken, if not completely shattered.
But, maybe, just maybe...there was still just a spark of hope left.
And God can do a lot with just a spark!!!
For those who come to know Christ, a spark is like dropping a match in a forest where there has been no rain for years.
And you know what would happen in that instance.
In any event, Mary's "spark of hope" which can only come from God Himself causes her to bend down and take a look in the tomb herself, but the tomb is no longer empty!!!
"She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been..."
...and, "The angels asked her, 'Woman, why are you crying?'"
And after Mary tells the angels what has happened, "she turned around and saw Jesus standing there," but she thought He was the gardener.
Jesus was buried in a garden.
Jesus rose from the dead in a garden.
And Jesus appeared to Mary in a garden.
And to Mary, Jesus looked like a gardener.
What else, in the Bible, happened in a garden?
Who else, in the Bible, was a gardener?
Adam and Eve were gardeners in the Garden of Eden, were they not?
The Bible begins in a garden.
And it was there that the devil tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God, bringing evil into the world--giving Satan an open door into our lives.
And we have been enslaved by evil, darkness, self-interest, disobedience, sin, guilt, shame and death ever since.
But in the garden where Jesus' tomb was, we see that God is reversing what happened in Eden, giving those who choose to follow the crucified and risen Christ new life, resurrection.
As Jesus has promised, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die.
Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die."
No wonder Jesus is called "the New Adam."
As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: "since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive."