Open your eyes!

Posted: March 27, 2016 in John, Uncategorized
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Resurrection Sunday 2016
John 20:1-18, “Open your eyes!”

We can find ourselves blinded to all kinds of things if we’re not careful.  When we fall into certain routines, we just continue on our merry little way doing the same things we always do (which isn’t always a bad thing).  But because we’re never expecting to see anything different, we never see anything different.  And in the process, we can miss out on some incredible stuff going on around us.

That’s what happened with Mary Magdalene on the best morning ever.  Resurrection Sunday (the Sunday following the final Passover with Jesus) was truly the most glorious day ever to see a sunrise – yet you wouldn’t know it from looking at Mary or the disciples.  They were all grieving, Mary especially so.  Their grief, of course, was totally understandable.  We look back on what is often called Holy Saturday & we enjoy the preparations for the next morning.  They went through it first-hand, and they mourned the loss of not only their rabbi & friend, but their Lord & King.

Jesus had told them of all of this in advance.  He made it clear how He would had to die, and be lifted up in His death, so that all who looked to Him would live. (Jn 3:14,12:32).  He had prophesied His betrayal by Judas (Jn 13:18-19), His abandonment by the disciples (16:32), and also the fact that His death would only be temporary (16:19-23).  In short, He had prepared all of them for everything He would endure in going to the cross – they just hadn’t understood or believed.  They thought they believed what they could, but certainly couldn’t predict what they would think when they were in the midst of it. (Who could?)

Once it all came to pass, their world went into a tailspin.  They were lost in disillusion – their faith was shaken – their world was shattered.  They weren’t sure what to think, and they weren’t sure what to make of the things they witnessed as they unfolded.  But what they witnessed was marvelous!  Their day may have begun in weeping, but it blossomed into wonder!  Their only obstacle to joy was themselves.  They were blinded from faith because of their focus upon themselves – all they needed to do was open their eyes.

John 20:1–18

  • Mary’s discovery: the open door (1-2)

1 Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.

  • From the outset, we need to acknowledge that there are going to be some differences between John’s account of the resurrection & that of the Synoptic gospels.  “Differences,” however, are not the same thing as contradictions.  John does not contradict the Synoptics; he simply draws out different aspects and emphases in his account.  We need to remember that John was aware of at least one of the other gospel accounts (if not two or all three), which is something that is evident throughout his writings.  His narrative often fills in the gaps left by Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  Thus since he was aware of the other books, it doesn’t even make logical sense that he would allow for contradictions.  There’s absolutely no way John was purposefully contradict what others had already written about Jesus, if what they wrote was true. (And all of the Synoptics are true, as opposed to the heretical Gnostic accounts, such as the so-called “Gospel according to Thomas,” and others.)  What we see John doing here is what he’s done elsewhere, and fill in the gaps.  Particularly, he concentrates on some of the personal eyewitness testimonies from that Resurrection morning.  In regards to the tomb, the Synoptics deal with broad sketches of two groups: the women and the apostles.  John deals with individual portraits of himself, Peter, and (particularly) Mary Magdalene.
  • It’s his account of Mary that’s so striking.  Mary Magdalene is mentioned all three of the other gospels, but she is the only woman at the tomb that John personally describes.  Although she did not have a sordid past of prostitution (in contradiction to modern mythologies about her), she did have massive struggles with demon possession.  At one point, Mary had been possessed by seven demons, and her only freedom came from the personal intervention of the Lord Jesus (Mk 16:9).  What does all of this have to do with the resurrection account?  Everything.  It deals with honesty & credibility.  In the ancient culture of the Romans & Jews, the testimony of women was not valued nearly as much as men.  Add to that Mary’s former demonic possession, and it’s quite possible that many people would not have given Mary any credibility at all.  In their minds, she was a formerly crazy lady – and maybe Jesus didn’t quite free her, after all.  As with any account of the resurrection from women, the gospel writers had every reason to hide their testimony…especially that of Mary.  Yet they don’t hide it; they freely proclaim it.  John goes so far as to give Mary extra space in his writing, highlighting her interaction with the Lord.  There was no reason to do this, unless it was true.  And it was/is.  The resurrection of Jesus is historical fact.  It wasn’t the imagination of a bunch of deluded men trying to invent a new religion; it actually happened.  And the best proof they had was in the actual history.  Just like Jesus chose the most unlikely of ways to enter the world (through a virgin birth in Bethlehem), so He chose the most unlikely of ways to reveal His resurrection to the world.
    • Jesus doesn’t always match our expectations, and praise God for it!  If He did, we’d have no reason to expect forgiveness, for we certainly do not deserve it, nor can we earn it.  We’d have no basis for which to ask anything of God, because we are so utterly defiled by the filth of our sin.  But Jesus goes beyond our expectations!  His ways are not our own, and that’s the only reason we can receive anything from God, because He gives it to us out of grace.
  • As to the text itself, John begins by giving us a time marker: “the first (day) of the week.”  I.e., Sunday.  [FYI, this is why the Christian church typically meets for worship on Sunday rather than Saturday.  It’s not that the Sabbath has changed (it hasn’t); it’s just that we have a marvelous motivation to worship on the 1st day of the week rather than the 7th.  Our Lord is risen from the grave!]  Mary went to the grave as soon as reasonably possible, even heading out on the road “while it was still dark” outside.  Again, there’s no contradiction with the Synoptic accounts which tell us how the women got to the tomb at dawn, when the sun had risen (Mk 16:2).  If sunrise is set for 7:15am, the first crack of light starts to show up around 6:50.  Mary likely got going at the first hints of daylight, and arrived at the tomb when daylight proper had begun.
    • Also, that Mary was up early prior to sunup did not break any Sabbath day regulations.  How so?  Because Sabbath was already past.  The Sabbath lasted from 6PM Friday to 6PM Saturday.  By Sunday morning, the Sabbath was nearly 12 hours past already.  Mary was free to wake up at midnight if she so desired…she just wouldn’t have been able to do anything at the tomb if she had.  She (and the other ladies) waited as long as would be practical, and headed out at their very first opportunity.
  • It’s not the time that Mary got started walking that was surprising; it’s what she found when she arrived.  The stone was gone!  Keep in mind, this was no simple task.  Mary and the other women had originally intended to continue to the burial rites begun by Joseph and Nicodemus (seemingly not knowing what all the men had accomplished), but even according to their original plan, they had no idea how they were going to deal with the stone.  Depending on the type of tomb, the stone was likely 4.5 feet in diameter, being a foot thick, and the weight would have been massive.  In the end, the weight of the stone was a non-issue, but the stone itself certainly was!  The fact that it was tossed aside was more than unusual, it was a problem.  According to Matthew, the stone had been sealed with the official sign of Rome, and the tomb itself was supposed to be guarded by a group of Roman soldiers.  If the stone guarding the entrance of the tomb was gone, something dramatic must have happened!  The disciples would likely be blamed, and trouble was sure to come.  When Mary first encountered the missing stone, it wasn’t a sign of hope; it was a renewed reason to panic.
    • Have you ever mistook something good for something awful?  You thought that what you experienced would be the worst thing in the world, and yet God worked a miracle through it, which you never would have seen otherwise.  That is exactly what happened at the cross itself!  The event could not have been worse: the death of the Son of God. But the result was amazing!  The price of sin was paid – our redemption was made possible.  Likewise with the missing stone.  At first glance, it would have looked terrible to Mary, but the reality was wonderful.  Mary just didn’t know it yet.
    • Have you ever considered that God might be doing in your life of which you might not yet be aware?  Wait & see!  Trust Him & have faith!

2 Then she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”

  • With the stone removed, Mary knew only one thing to do: go tell the others.  Again, this is different than the other gospel accounts, but remember that the other gospels speak in broad strokes about the groups in general.  It’s not at all unlikely that while the other women remained at the tomb, Mary Magdalene individually ran back to tell the disciples what had happened.  And for good reason.  If Jesus’ body was stolen, the disciples would be blamed, and there would soon be a manhunt for them.
  • Who the “they” are is unsaid.  It’s unlikely that Mary had any coherent theory at the time.  It wouldn’t make sense for either the Jewish priests or the Romans to steal the body – they were the ones who set the guard to ensure the disciples wouldn’t do anything to it.  All Mary knew is that the body was gone, and she didn’t have any explanation for it.
  • Mary is panicking here, but notice what is unsaid, yet still true this whole time: Jesus is alive.  Jesus had risen from the dead, but Mary (nor the disciples) didn’t know it yet.  Without that knowledge, Mary’s whole world was crumbling around her – but it didn’t change the fact that it was still true.  Mary may not have known that Jesus was alive, yet He was.
    • Jesus is alive, whether or not we believe it.  Our faith may affect our future in Christ, but it doesn’t affect the fact of Christ.  He IS risen – He IS alive.  If we don’t believe the fact, we’re the ones living outside of reality; not Jesus.
  • So Mary tells Peter & John what she saw, and what do they do?  The only logical thing: check it out for themselves…
  • Peter & John’s examination: the empty tomb (3-10)

3 Peter therefore went out, and the other disciple, and were going to the tomb. 4 So they both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first.

  • As a runner, I’ve got to appreciate this.  Some take this to imply that John was younger than Peter, which was the reason he beat Peter to the tomb.  It’s doubtful there were too many years separating them.  John just had a better kick to the end. 🙂  Obviously, this wasn’t Chariots of Fire – these were two young men desperately racing to see this thing for themselves.

5 And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

  • Interestingly, although John arrives at the tomb first, he stops short of entering it.  Whether he is in shock of the things he saw, or hesitant to defile himself with a dead body is unknown.  At this point, there doesn’t seem to be much sense in trying to force a logical flow of thought on any of the people involved.  Their emotions had pretty much taken over at this point (which is totally understandable).
  • Peter, however, does go in.  John may have beat him to the tomb, but Peter still beat him inside.  What Peter saw astounded him.  The “linen cloths” in which Jesus was wrapped by Joseph and Nicodemus were there, but there wasn’t a body.  And beyond the cloths was the “handkerchief” that had covered Jesus’ face, and that was rolled up to the side.  BTW – “folded up” is not the best translation.  The word used by John describes something that is wrapped or rolled; not folded.  Scholars debate whether this describes that the handkerchief maintained the basic circular shape of Jesus’ head, or looked to be rolled up & placed to the side. 
  • Whatever the case, what happened is clear: this had been no grave robbery.  In a robbery, the movements would have been quick.  First the robbers would have had to deal with the Romans – but supposing that the soldiers were no problem, the robbers still had to move hastily for fear of being discovered.  They certainly would not have taken the time to unwrap Jesus’ body (with the 75 pounds of spice that was on it) – they would have taken it wrapped & all.  They certainly wouldn’t have taken the time to roll up the head covering & place it to the side.  This wasn’t the scene of a rushed robbery; this was a calm, purposed departure.
  • In addition, think about the grave clothes themselves.  When Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus, he had to have people unwrap him.  He had to have help once he walked out of the grave.  But what happened here?  How did the grave clothes of Jesus get left behind in the tomb, at the place where He laid?  If there had been a robbery, and if people unwrapped Jesus, shouldn’t the cloths been tossed every which way?  Nothing about this made sense.  It was as if the Person who unwrapped Jesus had all the time in the world, because He had no fear of discovery.  The only way that would happen was if it all took place inside the tomb when the stone was still sealed.  IOW, it had to be done from the inside, and there was only one Person on the inside: Jesus.

8 Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

  • It was as John personally saw all of this with his own eyes that the light began to dawn on his faith.  Again, it’s unlikely that either Peter or John were able to think through all of this logically at the time, but it was certainly enough to spark the match of John’s faith that would turn into a raging unquenchable fire.  “He saw and believed.
  • Have you believed?  You may not have seen the evidence with your own eyes, but you’ve heard eyewitness testimony of it.  What we have in the New Testament are not the writings of men who lived generations after these events took place; these are first-hand accounts.  These are what scholars would call primary sources.  You can’t get more first-hand than that of the apostles of Jesus.  They saw the evidence of Jesus first hand, and they believed.  They believed despite the costs that would come to them.  They were willing to give up their careers for Jesus – they were willing to endure torture for Jesus – they were willing to die in horrendous ways for Jesus.  Why?  Because they were absolutely convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.  Remember that these men were the same men who abandoned Jesus at the first sign of trouble.  When the Jews & Romans came to arrest Him, Jesus’ disciples scattered & were nowhere to be seen for days.  Yet after that Sunday morning (and especially after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit), the disciples became extraordinarily public in their faith.  They so spread the gospel that they were accused of turning the world upside-down.  What would make that change?  What would cause that to happen?  It all had to be true.  Jesus had to be risen from the dead.  They saw, and they believed.
    • Now it’s your turn.  Believe!  Have faith in the Risen Jesus!  Today is the day that you can be transformed by the Living Son of God.  You can know the forgiveness of sins, the reality of being made a child of God today, and the promise of living as a child of God for all eternity in heaven.  You can be saved!  (You’ll have an opportunity to do that at the end of the message, but you don’t have to wait until the end to be saved.  Place your faith in Christ right now.)

9 For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.

  • This emphasizes the fact that the disciples hadn’t yet understood everything.  They saw the evidence, and John believed what he could, but there was more to understand.  Jesus had indeed taught them everything they needed to know about Himself over the course of the past three years, but they were slow to believe.  And at the moment, they were still in shock.  They needed time to put it all together – and most importantly, they needed the Holy Spirit who would continue to teach them these things & help confirm everything that Jesus had already said.
  • BTW, the Scripture does teach that the Messiah would rise from the grave.  Not only had Jesus personally taught of His resurrection multiple times during His ministry, the OT proclaims it as well.  Over and over again, the Bible speaks of the everlasting reign of the Messiah, while also speaking of His sacrificial death.  That only takes place via a resurrection.  The Messiah’s resurrection is foreshadowed in the event of Abraham’s almost-sacrifice of Isaac, with Abraham knowing that he and his son would return from the mount (Gen 22:5), and that God had the power to raise the dead (Heb 11:9).  Psalm 30:5 sees David thinking God for bringing his soul up from the grave & keeping him from the pit. And perhaps the most direct prophecy of resurrection (which Peter and Paul each quote): Psalm 16:10, "For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption."  The resurrection may have been mysterious, but it certainly should not have been a surprise – the Scripture is replete with references to it.
  • That all speaks to the prophecies regarding resurrection, but what about its necessity?  John wrote that “He must rise again from the dead.”  No doubt it was necessary in order that prophecy might be fulfilled, but it’s more than that.  The resurrection of the Messiah was necessary in order that the Messiah might be the Messiah.  IOW, the resurrection is necessary because of what it proves.  When we think of the cross, we think of the price that was paid for our sins (and rightly so).  But how do we know that price has been paid?  After all, many men died via crucifixion, and obviously all men die at some point.  The wages of sin is death, and death is something that is expected of every human being.  What is it that makes the death of Jesus different?  It’s that He is the only person who didn’t deserve to die.  He was/is completely innocent of sin, being that not only is He the perfect Man, but He is also the perfect God.  But how do we know that?  Sure Jesus performed miracles, but many men performed miracles.  Elijah performed all kinds of supernatural acts, as did Moses, yet neither of them were the Messiah.  What sets Jesus apart?  How can we know He is different?  The resurrection.  One of the reasons Jesus had to rise from the dead was for proof that His death was truly sufficient for all death.  Only the death of the sinless Messiah would be enough for the world, and the only way to know that is for Jesus to rise from the grave.  It would be if death had no permanent hold upon Him, because what Jesus did was more than enough.  And it was!  Romans 1:4, "and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead."  We know that Jesus is who the Bible says He is because He is risen from the grave.
    • We can know…do you?  The declaration of God has been made; we need believe!

10 Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.

  • It’s a bit of a footnote, but it’s an interesting addition.  John doesn’t try to add to the narrative – he doesn’t try to make himself or Peter sound any more heroic or faithful than what they were.  John may have believed (at least a bit), but he still went home.  He didn’t go out preaching the gospel at that very hour.  He was in shock, confused, and unsure of himself…just like many of us would have been.  The disciples were normal people, just like you & me.  What made them different?  The empowerment of the Holy Spirit (which would later come in Acts 2) – that same power is available to us, too!
  • At this point, John turns back to Mary Magdalene.  She reported the news of the removed stone to Peter & John, but what happened afterwards?  That’s where her story picks up…
  • Mary’s grief: the angels (11-13)

11 But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

  • Unlike John & Peter, Mary never entered the tomb.  Unlike John, Mary still had not yet started to believe.  Obviously she had seen less evidence than either one of them (not for lack of availability), but apparently she didn’t even talk to John or Peter as they left.  Perhaps they were shocked & speechless – perhaps she was too distraught to attempt any conversation.  All we know is that Mary wept – and wept – and wept.  Eventually she did look into the tomb, and she saw two angels sitting where Jesus once had been.
  • There are a couple of points of interest: (1) The angels didn’t attract any attention.  According to the Synoptics, there had been angels when the women first arrived at the tomb, but it seems entirely possible that Mary fled the scene before she received too much of an explanation.  Obviously the angels had left at some point prior to Peter & John’s visit to the tomb, but now they had returned.  Yet they don’t make a massive visual entrance.  There’s no lightning bolt from heaven signaling their arrival.  Nor is there anything unusually special about their appearance other than their white clothing.  Nowhere in the Bible are angels ever pictured with wings, harps, or halos – those are imaginations dreamt up by medieval painters.  (2) Regardless of the angels’ lack of fanfare, Mary barely pays them any attention at all.  At the very least, we would think Mary would be curious as to when/how these two men arrived.  If they weren’t in the tomb when Peter & John were there & Mary was outside as they left, then where did these angels come from?  And especially if they were at all recognizable as angels…Mary still didn’t pay any attention to them.
  • Mary is so overcome by grief that she misses the miracle taking place right in front of her eyes.  Almost everywhere else in Scripture, when angels appear, men fear.  Invariably, those who witness angels have to be told not to fear.  Mary Magdalene is so distraught that she doesn’t even have the sense to be afraid of these angelic beings.  This is what lack of faith does.  Unbelief (and especially self-centered unbelief) causes us to totally miss the work of God.  And of course, this is only going to be demonstrated in an even greater way in a few moments.

13 Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”

  • Even as Mary engages with these angels, she still clings to her grave-robber theory.  By this point, she’s seen the evidence, but she hasn’t absorbed it.  Her grief has blinded her to the good news of what has happened, and she is joyless in the very place where joy begins.
  • The empty tomb of Jesus is the greatest event in all history!  Although it was upon the cross where the work was completed (“It is finished!”) – it is at the tomb where that completed work is made known to all the world.  Creation mourned when its Creator died.  The earth quaked & the sky went dark as Jesus took His last breath on Friday.  Yet that particular Sunday morning was surely the most beautiful ever known.  Doubtless the birds sang more joyfully and the garden outside the tomb never looked more lovely than on the day its Creator walked among them again.  If the tomb is empty, it is because Jesus no longer lay in it.  Jesus had no more need of a grave, because He breathed the breath of life once more.  That is truly good news!
  • But it is news that will never be enjoyed by those who have no faith.  Beware that your grief and sorrow doesn’t blind you to the good news of Christ.  Be careful that your regret over past sin doesn’t bind you from running to the Savior for forgiveness.  Like Mary, you might have your own ideas and false theories – but the truth is still the truth, regardless of your faith.  Jesus IS alive, and He can be known.
  • Mary’s hope: Jesus (14-18)

14 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”

  • Incredibly, Mary has almost the exact same conversation with Jesus.  For the first time since John’s account of Sunday morning began, the Risen Jesus actually appears, and what ought to be the most glorious reunion in Mary’s life almost turns out to be a non-event as she completely misses what is going on around her.  Theories abound as to why Mary didn’t recognize Jesus.  It’s possible that Jesus hid His identity from her, as He apparently did in other post-resurrection appearances.  It’s possible that Mary’s tears so cloud her eyes that she can’t physically see straight.  And of course it’s possible that Mary is still so overcome with sorrow that nothing makes sense to her.  Regardless of the reason she didn’t recognize Jesus, it’s apparent that she’s not looking for a living Lord, but a dead one.  When directly asked who it was she sought, Mary flatly (but politely) accuses this supposed Stranger of being the one to have stolen Jesus’ body.
  • On one hand, Mary’s devotion is admirable.  After all, how exactly did she imagine that she would carry Jesus’ body back to the disciples?  Jesus’ body would have been far too heavy for her to manage.  None of those details mattered to her; all she wanted was to see her Jesus again, even in death.
  • Yet Mary could see her Jesus right then & there if she only looked up!  If she picked her heart up out of grief for enough time to listen for the voice of God, she would have known to whom it was she spoke.  Thankfully, Jesus reached out with His grace.  Knowing her weakness and inability to see Him, Jesus took the initiative and spoke to her in a way she would understand…

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

  • After everything Mary already experienced & saw, all it took was a single word: her name.  When Jesus spoke her name, the grieving sheep heard the voice of her Good Shepherd and recognized Him immediately.  This was her teacher – her dearest Rabbi calling to her.  He spoke, and she heard.
  • For some of you today, Jesus is calling your name.  To this point, you’ve carried around sorrow or sin or shame – but whatever your burden, you have been unable to respond to evidence of Jesus all around you.  But you cannot ignore Him calling your name.  Hear Him & respond!  Be careful not to harden your heart against Him.  Mary received what might have been a one-time opportunity.  She wasn’t guaranteed another chance and neither are you.  When Jesus calls your name, respond!
  • And respond, Mary did!  Apparently she grabbed hold of Jesus and didn’t want to let go…

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”

  • Be careful not to assume the worst of Jesus and think that He’s forbidding Mary even from touching Him.  From the KJV, it would be easy to come to that conclusion, yet we know from other post-resurrection appearances that Jesus could indeed be touched & handled.  In fact, that plays a major role in Thomas’ later encounter with Jesus (20:27).  The idea here is that Mary was presently continually holding on to Jesus, and Jesus has to reassure her that He isn’t going anywhere…at least, not yet.
  • Soon Jesus would leave, just as He had told His disciples while He was still with them in the Upper Room.  Very soon Jesus would physically ascend to God, and that would start a brand-new phase in both His ministry, and that of the disciples.  That’s the point that the Holy Spirit would come upon the disciples & empower them to do the work that God called them to do as the church.
    • BTW – that phase of Jesus’ ministry continues to this very day.  He still lives, yet He is ascended to God’s right hand, and it is the Holy Spirit who resides among the church today.  The Spirit indwells us at our salvation (something that will be pictured later in Ch 20), and in addition, He comes upon us for power.  It is only by the Holy Spirit that we have the power to do the work that God calls us to do as the church.
  • Even if Mary (and the other disciples) may have been left a bit confused by the message of Jesus concerning His ascension, notice the one thing they surely wouldn’t have misunderstood in the slightest: their inclusion in the family of God.  They were not only His disciples & friends; they were His brothers.  God the Father wasn’t only the Father of Jesus; He was their Father as well.  The same God worshipped by Jesus is the God worshipped by the apostles.  Every relationship that Jesus had with God the Father was shared by those who believed in Him.
    • That is the blessedness of being a believer! We are brought into the very family of God, and we share in the richness of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  What Father and Son share in eternal communion, is what we share through faith.  Christ holds nothing back once we come to faith in Him.  What He has been given, He shares with us in full.

18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

  • Peter & John may not have shared much with Mary as they left the tomb, but Mary couldn’t help but share what she experienced.  They had experienced the empty tomb, but Mary experienced the Risen Jesus Himself!  She heard, touched, and saw the Lord Jesus alive, and her whole world changed that very instant.  One moment she was so overcome with grief that she didn’t even acknowledge the presence of angels in her midst, nor even recognized the Savior she longed to see.  The next, she was overcome with joy – her grief having turned to gladness.  Her Savior called her name, and she came to faith.  She knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that her Lord lived, and there was a glorious future in store for them all.  Even if Jesus hadn’t specifically instructed her to tell the disciples these things, there was no possible way of keeping it secret!
  • There still isn’t.  Jesus is risen from the dead!  How can we possibly keep that news to ourselves?  There are so many who need to hear.  Even as believers, we need to be reminded that our Savior lives.  He may reside in heaven, but He didn’t go there through death; He went there in power & glory.  And He will return the same way!  Are we ready to see Him?  Are we even looking to see Him?  We need to constantly tell one another the good news of our Jesus’ risen life!
  • And we especially need to tell the world.  According to some statistics, over 150,000 people die every single day.  How many of those know the Lord?  How many perhaps have never even heard His name?  WE are the ones to tell them!  Like Mary, we have been charged by our Lord Jesus to tell the world that He lives, and that He has a plan to come back.  We have been given the most glorious news in all of history: the news that Jesus died for our sins, yet lives today.  How many of those 150,000 who die today still have the opportunity to hear the gospel?  Tell them!
    • And if you’re someone who does not yet believe, how do you know you’re not one of those 150,000 people for today?  Or tomorrow?  None of us know how long we have left on this earth.  Even those who are told by their doctors of life-threatening disease don’t even have the next heartbeat guaranteed.  None of us do.  Take the opportunity you have today to believe the gospel!  Put your faith in Jesus, the One who is risen from the dead!

Mary’s hope is our hope!  What Peter & John witnessed is evidence for us to believe!  Jesus is risen from the dead.  The battle against death has been won, and Jesus is the victor!  He lives even today, having risen to the right hand of God, though He will not be there for much longer.  He has promised to return, and one day all the world will know that Jesus lives!

How do we respond to the news of Jesus’ resurrection?  For some of us, it is simply to worship & to share.  We’ve believed upon Jesus in the past, and every Resurrection Sunday is another reminder of the glorious things that Jesus has done for us & the victory He has won.  So we give Him our praise & we recommit ourselves to telling our friends, neighbors, and family about Him.

For others of us, it’s an opportunity to recommit.  This week you’ve been reminded about the great cost of your sin, and you cannot bear to walk in it any longer.  Although you have asked Jesus for forgiveness in the past, you cannot honestly say that you’ve been walking with Him lately.  Today, you can.  Recommit yourself to Christ, knowing that His resurrection from the dead frees you from those things.  You don’t have to be blinded by guilt and shame any longer.  Hear the voice of your Good Shepherd & give yourself again to Him.

Finally, it’s also an opportunity to believe.  For some of you, maybe you’ve seen bits & pieces of the evidence, but you’ve never given yourself over to faith.  Maybe you haven’t wanted to believe – or maybe you have, but counted yourself unworthy of the love of God.  News flash: all of us are unworthy…that’s why God calls it “grace.”  God loves you so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die for you, and because Jesus rose from the dead, now you can be made a son or daughter of God.  So believe upon Him today!  Turn away from your sins, confessing them to God & asking His forgiveness – and then believe upon Jesus, asking Him by faith to be your Lord & King.  He will save.  All you need do is ask.


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