When your life goes from sadness to elation
April 4, 2021 Easter Sunday
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed 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.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who 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 returned to their homes.
But 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.
HE IS RISEN!
If this past week has shown us anything it is that living a Christian life can be a roller-coaster ride in a very short time. In one week, the life of Jesus and His disciples went from joy and adulation before a welcoming crowd as they entered into the city of Jerusalem, to fear and confusion as the disciples watched their Lord be carried off in shackles, questioned by the Sanhedrin and Roman leaders, and beaten by the Roman guards, to the bitter, heart-wrenching sadness of watching Jesus be nailed to a cross and crucified. Then came Saturday. A day of reflection. Time to look back upon the events that had taken place and to wonder what they were to do next. They had lost their teacher, their mentor, their Lord and friend. They were obviously lost without him and, at that moment, had no sense of direction. Where were to go? What were they to do without the guidance of Jesus?
But then came Sunday morning. A new day in a life without Jesus. Or was it? Just remember what Jesus told the disciple in Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible.” Jesus’s death on the cross? Piece of cake. Jesus rising from the dead? Nothing to it. In fact, since Jesus is God, that was the easy part. Back in town the men in the group of disciples were moping around in the Upper Room, fearing for their lives as they were waiting and watching for the Roman soldiers to come find them and take them all to be crucified like Jesus. You see, they had completely forgotten about the whole resurrection thing that Jesus had told them just a few days earlier. However, while the men were worrying, one or of the women (depending on which Gospel reading you choose) woke up early to go to the tomb and take care of the buried body of their Savior. But when they arrived there, the stone blocking the door had been moved and the Roman guards were nowhere to be seen. Feeling the body had been stolen Mary Magdalene ran back to the room where the men were hiding. Notice the reading doesn’t say Mary actually went into the tomb. Mary explained to the disciples what she had found and quickly Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Imagine that, a man not believing what a woman was telling him. Had to see it for themselves. But when they got there, they saw things just as Mary had said.
Meanwhile, let’s think about what must have been going on in the palace of the governor. They had all witness Christ’s death on the cross. They had all seen the Roman guard pierce the side of the Jew and watched the blood and water flow from His body. They had all heard the official announcement that he was dead. You know there had to be some uneasiness within the ranks of the Sanhedrin, within Caiaphas and the others, and especially in the house of Pontius Pilate. So much so that he had a century of guards placed outside the tomb to guard the body. Now, I know what the bible says was the reason for all this, but do you think the thought was running around in their heads that there may have been some truth to this talk of Jesus coming back to life on the third day? Or, were the sentries placed there truly for the sake of guarding the body from grave robbers or the other Jews stealing the body to make it look like Jesus had risen? Honestly, I think it was more of there being some truth the rising from the dead thing. And it was scaring the Romans and the Pharisees to death. What if the King of the Jews was right? What if the prophesies written in the Old Testament, that the religious leaders knew all about, had really come to fruition? Either way, Pilate could not be careful in this matter. The last thing he needed was the people thinking the Christ had actually risen from the dead.
Meanwhile, Peter and John made their way into the tomb only to find the cloths that Jesus had been wrapped in neatly folded and placed where Jesus had been laying. Not to mention the shroud was perfectly white and bloodless as if they had never been worn. Curious as to what had happened, they returned home. In the meantime, Mary and the other women had made their way back to the tomb and remained outside while the disciples were inside.
It always amazes me that even though there had been so much proof that Jesus had died on the cross and was placed in a sealed tomb, that His presence still existed around the area and it still haunted those who had a hand in Christ’s crucifixion. Even today, some historians are looking for proof that the remains of the body of Christ are still hidden in a tomb somewhere. Well, I am afraid they will be looking for a long, long time because the tomb will forever be empty because CHRIST IS RISEN! AMEN?
Normally when we think of things being empty it means something negative.
One day a little girl came to her mother complaining that her stomach hurt. Mom said: "Oh, honey, your stomach is empty, you just need to get something in it and you'll be fine." About a week later, the pastor came by to visit. While conversing with the mother and her child, he happened to mention that his head hurt. The little girl piped up and said: "Oh pastor, my mommy says that your head is empty, you just need to get something in it and you'll be fine."
Think about it. When your car’s gas tank is empty your car won’t move. When your glass is empty you tend to get thirsty. When your kitchen cupboards are empty you need to run to the store. If we are sitting in an empty old creaky house by ourselves, we tend to have scarry thoughts. However, all those things are things of this world. Today we are not talking about things of this world. We are talking about things created by an almighty God who through all things are possible. So when the tomb of Jesus is empty, that is always a good thing for those who believe. And we are a house filled with believers. Are we not? And all the children of God said…..
The birth of Christ was a wonderful event. Everyone, even non-Christians, enjoy the Christmas season. It is a time of celebration and a time of celestial amazement. It can even be a time of miracles just as it was with Jesus’s birth. Obviously without it we would have only the Old Testament writings with a bunch of prophecies still waiting to be fulfilled. Christ’s death on the cross was important to show just how much God loves his children. That God was willing to sacrifice His own Son to die for the forgiveness of all our sins. But the resurrection was what believing in God and having faith in Jesus is all about. If Jesus had remained in the tomb, then again, we would have all those Old Testament prophecies about the risen Lord and the New Testament would have been much shorter. But the meaning of the resurrection goes way beyond that. There would be no proof that Jesus descended to Hell and fought and defeated sin. Without the resurrection there would be no proof that Jesus defeated death and therefore gives us the promise of eternal life in heaven when our earthly lives come to an end. 1 Peter 1:3-4 tells it this way, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.” Our inheritance is Eternal Life. That's what the Promise is all about. And that Promise, our inheritance cannot be destroyed. It cannot be defiled in any way. Nor will it ever fade as long as we REMEMBER THE PROMISE because THE TOMB IS EMPTY, BUT NOT THE PROMISE. That is the importance of Jesus being resurrected from the grave.
But in the end of our reading today, we find Mary standing outside the empty tomb after all the others had gone. And she was weeping at the loss of her Savior’s body. After being greeted by 2 angels she was confronted by someone she thought to be the gardener. After he (Jesus) asked her why she was weeping and who she was looking for, she explained that someone had taken the body of her Lord and was it he that had taken him. Jesus, still hiding his appearance to her, calls her by name, “Mary”, and suddenly she recognizes him.
Isn’t that just like Jesus today? I am sure He has made an appearance to many of us in one form or another without us even knowing it. It could be in the form of a homeless person begging in the street, a dog that leads us to someone who is need of help, or perhaps just as a voice in the wind that fills us with comfort during a trying time. We just never know how or when Jesus will be before us. In fact, not even Jesus knows when the time will come when He returns for the second and final time as we are told in Mark 13:32, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” We must be ready. All we need to do is listen for His voice and we will see Him.
Jesus lives. Matthew 28:20 assure us of Christ's presence with us as He tells us, "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age". And to do that He must be alive and cannot and will not be found inside the tomb. Just knowing those two facts reminds us that we never have to face life’s difficulties alone. Life will always have its ups and downs no matter how hard we try to be good. But just knowing Jesus is with us all the time we can always look for the silver lining around every dark cloud, that joy that hides within every sad moment. No matter how gloomy things may seem, goodness can always be resurrected just as our Lord and Savior was. Friday night we somberly sang, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”. But from this day forward we can joyfully sing, “Were you there when Jesus resurrected from the grave?” I know I was. Were you?