20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.John 20:1-18
“Happy Easter” will be said by billions of people today. Billions will say those familiar words today, but they won’t all mean the same thing. Today a family will get up and say, “Happy Easter,” because they are excited to hunt for eggs in their backyard and eat lots of chocolate. Today neighbors will wave to one another from their driveways and shout, “Happy Easter,” because they are happy to have tomorrow off of work for a national holiday. Today a nurse will say to one of the residents in a nursing home, “Happy Easter,” because they found out they are both believers in Jesus as the Savior from sin who rose from the dead and has won eternal life for them. Today, billions will say, “Happy Easter,” but what they mean can be so different because everyone has a bias.
You need to be aware that anything someone says to you comes with a bias. A bias means you and I have a predetermined way of thinking. This bias affects how you speak and act. When you understand that everyone has a bias, it helps you understand that when people communicate with you, they are often saying more than just the words they use. Right now, you have to be very aware of what a person’s bias is when you talk about the spread of the coronavirus. For example, when you listen to a news broadcast, they may present statistics and interview experts that can cause fear that the virus is spreading out of control and many are losing their lives, or they can present the same statistics while interviewing other experts that reassure that the virus has slowed in its spread and many are recovering from it. After listening to these kinds of reports, you have to decide whether or not a news channel presents information because it is the truth or it wants to keep people listening. Whether on your screen or someone in real life, the tool you have to determining a person’s bias is their past. When you can look back over the past conversations and actions of an organization or individual, it helps you determine their bias and whether or not you can trust them.
There were many different biases the first Easter, but they all agreed on one thing. The first Easter morning, everyone agreed that Jesus was not going to come back to life. Whether it was Pontius Pilot and King Herod, Caiaphas the high priest, the elders, teachers of the law, Sanhedrin and Pharisees, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, and even Peter, James, John, the other disciples and all the other followers of Jesus, from what we can tell all of them thought the tomb would have a body in it on the third day.
Our reading from John 20 follows Mary Magdalene to the tomb twice the first Easter morning. Everyone Mary talked with and heard from believed Jesus was dead, and not coming back to life. Mary believed what everyone was saying about Jesus and even said it herself. She planned to come early to the tomb on Easter Sunday to finish preparing his body for burial, but she found it empty. Worried someone had stolen Jesus’ body, she ran to tell Peter and the disciples hoping they could help her find him. Then, she went back to the tomb standing outside of it weeping until she bent down to look inside where she saw two angels sitting where Jesus’ body had been. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Mary finally heard the truth. No more biased information from someone who did not care, did not believe or did not understand. Jesus spoke to Mary with a bias of love, truth, forgiveness and life. And, Mary called back to him with a word she had used many times before, but this time with faith in the resurrected Jesus.
Jesus’ past gives you every reason to trust what Mary heard the first Easter morning. Every word Jesus spoke before this morning came true, all of his miracles and healings were done out of love, and every time he taught in a way that exposed sin, his desire was for people to turn to him with repentance and trust in him for forgiveness. Jesus had told his followers that he was going to be betrayed, put to death and rise after three days. Jesus continued to speak the truth and kept his promise to bring life. Even words spoken by Isaiah from 700 years before came true that Easter morning, Isaiah 12:2, “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.” Tears streamed down Mary’s face by believing lies that Jesus was going to remain dead. She was afraid, but Jesus appeared to her alive, proof that he is her strength, defense and salvation. Her tears of sadness ended at the voice of her Savior, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, 56 “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The painful sting of death was gone through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and the law was fulfilled through his perfect sacrifice.
Here at Easter, we hear so clearly the truth our hearts yearn to hear. When we are pulled in so many directions by selfishness and lies, Jesus is the clear voice of sacrifice and love. All the pressures of your live have been amplified by the last few weeks of isolation. You feel even more pressure to do well at work to keep the lights on, the fridge stocked, your car and house payments going. Your kids feel the pressure to keep up on their schoolwork so that they do not fall behind and ruin their future. Kids are also feeling the pressure as they miss out on proms, graduations, dating, sports, recitals, etc. Social media is filled with doom and gloom or with helpful hints and strategies to stay productive, happy and healthy. All of these voices and your own threaten to overwhelm your mind, your heart and your life, but there is one voice that cuts through them all. Jesus called Mary by name and he has called you by name. Jesus said, 17 … “‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” The greatest truth is to hear Jesus now calls himself your brother and God your Father. Jesus made peace between you and God, heaven is your forever home filled with the family of believers and the resurrection is real.
“Happy Easter” will be said by billions of people today, but they won’t all mean the same thing. For some its candy, for others a day off of work, but for you it carries a special bias. You say, “Happy Easter,” because Jesus announced he was back from the dead. Jesus told Mary, the disciples and he told you through his word that he is alive. Whatever words, sorrows, fears and loneliness others have shared with you or are in your heart, they cannot compare to the risen Jesus. Jesus’ biased love toward you brought him to the cross and back to life on the third day. Go and share the good news of Easter with a faith fueled bias that Jesus appears to dry your tears. Amen.