Easter Sunday, April 12th
The Stone Is Rolled Away, John 20:11-18
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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 Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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 she told them that he had said these things to her.
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 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 retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
Reclaimed by Name
The 1st person to see Jesus is Mary Magdalene. Now, Celsus, a greek Philosopher in the 2nd century, one of the 1st intellectual enemies of the Christian faith, wrote a treatise on why Christianity is false and you should not believe in it. One of his main arguments is Mary Magdalene, now here is what he had to say, “How can anyone expect rational men to listen to the testimony of an hysterical female.”
That is an incredibly sexist and misogynist thing to say. In that time when women were held in very low esteem, every single one of the 1st eye witnesses in the gospels are women. And therefore it is understandable why some in that day might say well their testimony is just not credible. Today, however, the fact that all the first witnesses were women is one of the strengths for the resurrection. If you are going to make up a story surely you would use the most credible witnesses not witnesses who people are unlikely to believe.
Wolfhart Pannenberg, a german theologian, says this, “The evidence for Jesus’s resurrection is so strong that nobody would question it except for two things: first it is a very unusual event. And second if you believe it happened, you have to change the way you live.”
So Mary being the first person to see the resurrected Lord is a great comfort to us and their interaction is fascinating. She sees Jesus, but she thinks he’s the gardener. Jesus says, “Who do you seek?” That is such a thought provoking question. Jesus could have said, hey, it’s me. Instead he asks, “who are you seeking?” He’s provoking her and us to thought. What kind of Jesus are you seeking?
Mary is sitting their weeping. She is filled with passionate love for Jesus. Yet she has too small a view of Jesus. She is looking for a dead Jesus. She never would have found him unless he found her. Humanly speaking faith is impossible. Unless he opens our minds, our hearts, our eyes to see him. He’s standing in front of her and she doesn’t see until he calls her by name.
What a tremendous encouragement. Jesus told his followers, the shepherd knows his sheep and calls them by name. Jesus knows you and calls you by name. There’s nothing more fulfilling than a personal relationship with the real God. That changes us and how we see the world.
C.S. Lewis put it this way, “I believe in God as I believe in the sun, not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
We see in Jesus an unparalleled beauty so spectacular that we recognize it to be the glory of God. He is the light and in his light we see everything else. I can lay out for you all the compelling evidence for Jesus’s resurrection, but what I can also tell you is that in Jesus I finally found what peace was. In Jesus, I found peace with myself. In Jesus, I found an end to the endless thirst of my soul. In Jesus, I learned what self emptying generosity was like and I learned how to give and forgive. In Jesus, I tasted the glory of God and I know that he is true as surely as the sun is shining outside.