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.
While I was driving a few days ago, I saw something that I didn’t understand. I was driving down a road with three lanes, when I started seeing break lights and lots of cars suddenly merging out of the right lane. It seemed odd because there weren’t any construction signs or any other signs alerting drivers to move over. Then I saw him. There was a man riding one of those new yellow rental bikes that are all over the DFW. The man was riding the bike in the middle of the right lane, forcing cars to either slow down or go around him. As I cautiously drove past the man on the bike, I wondered why he was riding his bike on a road with no bike lane and not on the sidewalk.
A few days before our gospel reading from John 20, Mary Magdalene saw something she didn’t understand. Mary was a devout follower of Jesus, who had been cured by Jesus from demon possession. After Jesus healed her, she followed him and his disciples around providing them with financial support for meals and lodging. Mary loved Jesus dearly as did all of his followers, so you can imagine how Mary’s heart broke when one day she saw Jesus walking around Jerusalem and teaching as usual, then the next day, Good Friday, she saw Jesus put on trial, sentenced to death, hung on a cross, die, taken off the cross and put into a tomb. For all Jesus’ knowledge and powers, Mary may have wondered why Jesus hadn’t seen this coming.
Jesus had been in the grave three days now and Mary had to see him one last time. Jesus had been put to death on the day before the Sabbath day, or day of rest, when the Jews were not allowed to do any work. This meant Jesus’ body was quickly taken off of the cross and put into the tomb without the proper burial preparations being made to his body. Mary had to wait all day Saturday before she got her chance to go with the other women who followed Jesus and prepare Jesus’ body to sit in its tomb, never to be seen again.
It was very early when Mary and the other women went to get some closure with what was left of Jesus. Even in the shadows of the early morning, as the ladies approached the tomb, Mary could see that something was not right…the stone over the entrance of the tomb had been rolled away. Immediately, Mary ran back into the city to tell someone, and she ran into
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!”
If you are paying attention, you may realize that what Mary reported to Peter and John was not quite true. What she had seen was that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance…we aren’t even sure that she had looked inside to see if Jesus was still there, but when she found Peter and John, she told them that someone has taken Jesus’ body and that they didn’t know where it was.
When Peter and John hear the news, they were overwhelmed and took off running to the tomb to find out what happened. John beat Peter to the tomb, as he was younger and more able to keep up a faster pace. When they arrived, John and Peter handled the scene differently. John saw the stone rolled away and looked inside to see only the linen clothes lying in the tomb, but no body. On the other hand, Peter arrived at the tomb and went straight inside, also seeing that the body was gone and only
the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
John finally was able to join Peter inside the empty tomb and what he saw made him believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. John may have believed that Jesus had risen from the dead because he had seen Jesus raise others from the dead. In fact, just a week before Jesus had raised his friend Lazarus from the dead after he had been in his tomb four days. Now it was one thing to believe Jesus could raise someone else from the dead, even raise himself from the dead, but it was something else to believe what it meant for the eternal salvation of all people including you and me sitting here 2000 years later and half way around the world. This is why John includes verse 9, (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)
This verse is critical for us in what happened that first Easter morning.
Notice, the close followers of Jesus, Mary, John and Peter had all seen Jesus’ empty tomb, but none had made the connection from Scripture that Jesus had to do this. Instead, it seems that only John believed Jesus had risen from the dead. On the other hand, we are not sure what Peter believed at that moment. We do know that he was his usual self and had rushed into the empty tomb like a bull in a China shop. Peter may not have been as eager to believe Jesus was back from the dead because the night Jesus was arrested and put on trial, Peter had abandoned him, even denied knowing Jesus three times. Then, there was Mary. Mary had already drawn her conclusion that Jesus was still dead, but his body was now in the hands of grave thieves. The three close followers of Jesus failed to understand what happened Easter morning because they were not looking for their Risen Savior with eyes of faith.
The same thing happens to us on Easter when we only see the events of Easter morning for what we can physically see. If you are like Mary and you come Easter morning full of emotion connecting the day’s events with past Easters and traditions. Easter for you is that unique Sunday of the year when you get up early, put on a nice suit or Easter bonnet, go to church, then come home, hide some eggs for the kids, give them their Easter baskets and finish out the day with a big family dinner around a honey baked ham.
Or perhaps you are like John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. If you are like John, then you may believe that today is the day that Jesus rose from the dead. John saw everything that happened on Easter and he concluded that Jesus must have risen from the dead because the empty tomb did not look like it had been vandalized. John saw that the stone had been rolled away, but inside, the grave clothes were laid neatly and with apparent purpose, as the cloth around Jesus’ head was laid separate from the other linens. You also might see all the events that happen around the world on Easter and conclude that Jesus must have risen from the dead, but what does that actually mean for you?
Or perhaps you are like Peter who came rushing to the scene to defend Jesus. You may be someone who fiercely protects your church and faith. You might have a fish on the back of your car, cross necklace around your neck and list of arguments ready to use against anyone who speaks against Christianity. Mary, John and Peter were all strong followers of Jesus, yet none of them understood what the empty tomb meant for them and us.
Whether you look at Easter through the eyes of Mary, John or Peter, I have good news for you. I am going to tell you what Easter means for you from what the Scriptures have to say. The simplest summary of Easter can be found in
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This verse tells us that when a person sins, they earn something for all of those sins, dead. It is as if those sins were money, but all they are good for buying is death. The bad news is that you and I are sinful because sin is as bad as murdering someone or cheating on your spouse, all the way down to the little toddler getting mad and hitting brother for stealing his toy or any of us taking a few extra seconds to stare at a handsome man or pretty lady that we aren’t married to. This means that you and I have a big bank account full of sin and in the end our payout is death, but the verse goes on…
God has a gift for all sinners, you and I included. We have eternal life in Jesus. How do we get that eternal life though with our bank accounts full of sin and only good for death? Is God not really serious about sin, as if it were monopoly money that doesn’t really count for anything. No, God is serious about sin and its consequence of death, which is why he sent Jesus. Jesus was born without sin, as the perfect Son of God and Son of Man. When Jesus died on the cross, he didn’t die for his sins, but for yours. Now, when God sees you, he doesn’t see your sins because they were all transferred from your account to Jesus’ account, which has been paid off because he died for you. Jesus didn’t stay dead though, he rose from the dead and you will too. He rose to show that once sins are paid for, God can give you the gift of life.
This is what Mary, John and Peter had missed all the times Jesus told them he forgave them for their sins. Jesus had to live, die and rise in order to earn the right to tell them and all people that their sins are forgiven and that they have eternal life in heaven waiting for them through Jesus. This is why the angels in the tomb asked Mary,
“Woman, why are you crying?”
The angels wanted Mary to see with the eyes of faith why the tomb was empty.
And when Mary said,
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
This is why Jesus appeared to her and also asked,
“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
And Mary like so many of us when we stop looking at our lives with the eyes of faith, especially when we face problems in our lives, didn’t see Jesus and asked him,
thinking he was the gardener…“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Here we see God’s true nature, that he is loving, patient and kind to us when we are in our most hopeless moments.
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
When I saw the man on the bike, I thought I understood him. I thought he didn’t care about himself. He was slowing down traffic, causing drivers to maneuver around him and increasing the chances of someone getting into an accident. As drove past him though I thought maybe I don’t understand him. I couldn’t see if he was riding this rental bike because he was trying to save money for his family. I couldn’t see if his car was in the shop and his wife needed their other vehicle to take the kids to school. I couldn’t see anything else about this man except that he was riding a bike in the middle of the right lane.
We see the true joy of Easter when we see our Risen Savior with the eyes of faith. And we hear in
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Mary, John, Peter, you and I will only know the true joy of Easter when we hear what Bible says. When Mary heard Jesus call her name, then she believed. And
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.’” And 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.
Now, you have heard what Jesus did for you on Easter. He rose from the dead to assure you that you too will rise and that he is waiting for you in heaven. Now you can enjoy all the time with family, food and Easter egg hunts because you know what really happened that first Easter day and that no one can change what Jesus did for you. See Your Risen Savior With Eyes of Faith and go in peace. Amen.