Summary: God provides plenty of opportunities to recognize the risen Lord.

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Wipe Away the Tears

John 20

(Everyone got a small packet of Kleenex on their way in)

We have all seen it happen. A child gets separated from her parents. Soon the child panics and wails and weeps. Tears stream down her face. No one can console her. Nothing can stop her tears. Then her parents appear and the tears stop. She reaches out her arms and clasps mother or father tightly around the neck, still sobbing. Her mother says, “There, there now. It’s ok.” She gets out a tissue and says, “Let’s wipe away the tears.”

It didn’t happen quite like that on the first Easter morning, but the day started with sadness, grief, and tears. During this past week, Christians all over the world have observed Holy Week as Jesus completed his journey to the cross.

• Last Sunday children came down this aisle with Palm branches to remember the way Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time.

• On Thursday evening we commemorated the Last Supper by eating together, washing each others’ feet as Jesus commanded, and sharing in a communion service.

• Friday was a holiday for many of you, a holiday established to remember that Jesus died on the cross. His death was a shocking loss for his disciples, his mother, and friends, but the Bible says that he gave his life so that our sins might be forgiven. We can lift that cross high, because God has used it to bring salvation. The cross is not a symbol of defeat but a symbol of victory over sin.

• Today, on Easter Sunday, the high point of the Christian calendar, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is alive. (Repeat it with me.) The grave no longer has a hold on Him. We know that everything is OK now and we can wipe away the tears.

I’m sure that everyone of us has been touched by sadness in recent months. I’m not just talking about the war. That in itself is enough to make our world sad. But, in addition, some of you have lost loved ones. Some of you have lost relationships. Some have lost jobs. Some of you have lost your health. Some of you grieve over failures in school or in your personal lives. An elderly man facing difficult trials said this past week, “I don’t know how much longer I can take this.” Yesterday I spoke with my mother who was at my dad’s bedside in the hospital. I told her that I was going to talk today about wiping away the tears. She said, “Sometimes it’s hard to wipe all of them away.” We have all experienced it and we feel that all the tissues in town won’t wipe away the tears.

For a few moments, I want to take you back to that first Easter morning to see how God took Mary from sadness to joy, from brokenness to wholeness.

Mary knew what it was to weep. All her life she had looked for meaningful relationships and ended up as a prostitute, trying to please men who weren’t interested in her friendship. They only wanted to use her. Then, according to Luke 7, she came to Jesus, kneeling at his feet, weeping, and bathing his feet with her tears. Finally, she had found one in whom was real love. Jesus not only loved her; he forgave her sins. Jesus said she was one who loved much because she had been forgiven much. What a transformation of her life! Her tears of remorse were gone; joy flooded her soul.

It was this Mary who traveled with Jesus and his disciples during his time on earth. And when Jesus died on that cross she was heart broken. Mary, along with others, wanted to show her love to Jesus in whatever way she could, so she came to the tomb early that morning to complete the burial ritual of adding spices and perfumes. There she discovered that the tomb had been opened and the body was no longer there. She was certain that someone had come and added insult to injury by taking away the body of Jesus. And she stood weeping outside the tomb, not realizing that God was trying to help her.

Most of you have heard the story of the woman whose house was flooded after a huge rain. She kept looking for higher ground and eventually ended up on the roof. In her prayers, God had told her that he would save her. Someone offered to throw a rope to her, but she refused. “God will save me,” she said. A man came by in a boat and offered to take her along, but she said, “No. God will save me.” Finally, a helicopter came to pick her up and she refused. The water eventually covered her house and she lost her life. In heaven, she asked God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God said, “I tried three times, but you refused.”

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