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Summary: Mary Magdalene, John, and Peter teach us a great deal about the Lord when they become witnesses to the resurrected Christ.

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Witness to the Living Lord John 20:1-23

Easter Sermon by Don Emmitte, Grace Restoration Ministries

Take Your Bibles, Please…

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:1-23 ESV).

Some Background

There is evidence that Christians originally celebrated the resurrection of Christ every Sunday, with observances such as Scripture readings, psalms, and communion. At some point in the first two centuries, however, it became customary to celebrate the resurrection specifically on one day each year. Many of the religious observances of this celebration were taken from the Jewish Passover. This well-known Old Testament event centers on God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt through ten miraculous plagues. These included how the death angel would “pass over” all the houses where the Israelites lived. They were instructed to put blood over their doorposts to ensure that only the firstborn of Egypt would die. In this first Passover, it was only the blood of the slain lamb that protected each Israelite home. While Egypt suffered the plague of death, the Israelite firstborn were delivered by blood. By obeying God’s command and by faith in His promise to protect them, they were spared from death. Considering the substitutionary atonement of the death of Jesus it is not surprising the church would begin an annual celebration, or Holy Day, becoming Easter Sunday. Just as Israel was delivered from death, so did they believe they were delivered in Jesus.

We ought to remember the backdrop of the first Easter however. It was not a time of celebration, but darkness as a result of the passion and death of Jesus. Even though he had taught them at least three times specifically about the events of his death always promising the resurrection, they could only feel the grief and terror of death. Only later when they saw and experienced Christ in resurrection would they be set free from this fear to an unshakable hope of eternal life.

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