Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. She saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she left and ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,” she told them, “and we don’t know where they put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. 5 Bending over, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in.
6 Then Simon Peter, who was following him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 The cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not lying with the linen cloths, but was folded up in a separate place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who arrived at the tomb first, also entered. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not yet understand the Scripture that he must rise from the dead.)
10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
11 But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, weeping. As she wept, she bent over, looking into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white clothes sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?”
She told them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid him.”
14 After she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?”
Supposing he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you carried him off, tell me where you laid him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and replied in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means, “Teacher”).
17 Jesus told her, “Do not continue to cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go 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 and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” She also told them the things he said to her.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! This is a good day to be a Christian. It’s always good to be a Christian-eternally good, every day. But today especially as we thank our Lord for the events of this day which change everything. It makes it worth getting up extra early on a Sunday morning, right? Not gonna’ lie, it’s still tough for some of us to get up and moving. But totally worth it. Because we know the whole story. We know what happened on Easter Sunday and what it means for us.
But what if you didn’t? What if you didn’t know the historical facts of Easter and the significance which those facts have on everything? It makes me think about how hard it must have been for Mary Magdalene to wake up on that first Easter. She was up very early on Easter Sunday, probably earlier than any of us were up today. But she woke up on this Easter Sunday without any hope. Because she thought the only thing left to do was to care for the dead body of her friend Jesus.
It was the only thing left to do, because, finally, to her way of thinking, after Jesus died three days earlier on that Friday, what was there left to do in life that had any meaning? Jesus’ death had left her empty, with nothing but tears and fears. Because she was working under the assumption early on that Sunday morning that everything in which she had believed was a lie. She had thought that Jesus was God’s promised Savior. She had believed that Jesus was God himself. But, when Jesus was condemned and put to death on Good Friday on a cross, she feared that her faith was a farce. Tears and fears consumed her because she thought death had the final word.
And so, you can understand why, when Mary Magdalene saw a stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb as she and the other women approached it very early on this Easter morning…you can understand why she assumed what she assumed. She ran back to the disciples and said: “They’ve taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.” That’s a statement spoken from the viewpoint that Jesus is missing, but Jesus must still be dead, because death has the final word.
And those fear-laden assumptions were so debilitating to Mary that it didn’t even seem to register with her that maybe there was some special significance to the fact that there were two angels sitting in the very spot where Jesus’ body had been in that tomb, and they asked Mary a most provocative question: “Woman, why are you crying?” For future reference, if God’s angels show up after your dear Lord is put to death and ask you why you are crying as they sit in the spot from which Jesus is missing, maybe that should be your first clue that there’s something that those angels know that you don’t know. But Mary can’t get out of her own way, right? She is so crippled by what she thinks she knows to be certain that she can’t help but wallow in her tears and fears.
You and I get it. We’ve been there. Tears shed over loved ones we’ve lost. Fears over our relationship with God, especially in light of the nasty things we have a propensity to think, say, and do. False assumptions and fears about our future. We get Mary’s early Easter morning sorrow and her questions and her pain.
Easter drives away all those tears and fears.
All it took for Mary was a word. One word that changed everything. One word spoken by a man she had been assuming was a gardener-one word from that man whose true identity had been hidden from her until he said “Mary.” And then she knew truth. This man was no gardener and Jesus was no longer dead. It was him. Jesus lives. Christ has risen. And that truth-that we have a risen from the dead and very much alive today Jesus changes everything for us, too. Your Lord Jesus lives to drive away all of your tears and fears.
Specifically, Christ’s resurrection proves that he is truly is the Son of God. No mere human being can beat death. People had been raised from the dead before. In the Old Testament Elijah and Elisha raised people from the dead-by God’s power and authority. Before his death, during his earthly ministry, Jesus raised people from the dead. But no one previously had taken their own life back from the dead. Until Jesus did on Easter Sunday. Because he’s no mere human being. His resurrection proves what he claimed to be-the one and only true God. And that means that you and I don’t have to have any fears about our future hold and about who’s in control of our lives-our living God is. And it means that we can trust him when he makes a promise to us. Because he promised to rise from the dead, and he followed through on that promise. And if he kept his promise to rise from the dead, then there’s no promise he’s made that’s too big for him to keep. You can rely on him for every good thing you need in your life. You don’t need to fear.
Furthermore, Christ’s resurrection proves that your sins have been forgiven. You know, as Mary Magdalene gathered up the spices she was taking to the tomb early on this Sunday morning to care for her Lord’s dead body, she assumed that her Lord’s death on the cross was the ultimate defeat. But nothing could have been further from the truth. That had been God’s plan all along. Jesus willingly went to the cross for us. The Son of God had to die to pay the eternal penalty our sins deserved. And he did. Just before he died, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” That’s why what Isaiah wrote in the lesson we heard earlier is true for us: “I will give thanks to you, Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger has turned away, and you comfort me.” (Isaiah 12:1) On Calvary’s holy mountain, Jesus turned God’s anger over our sins away from us and directed that righteous anger on himself. Your forgiveness had been won on the cross.
But we have absolutely no guarantee of that fact if we have a dead Redeemer. We’ll hear the Apostle Paul say it later this morning: “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile-it’s worthless. You are still in your sins.” But you know that your Redeemer lives. And Jesus lives to assure you that the payment for your sins has been accepted by God the Father. Paul wrote to the Roman Christians: “Christ was delivered over to death for our sins, and he was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 12:1) You don’t have to have any fears about where you stand with your God. “Not guilty” is the courtroom verdict he has rendered upon you. You are God’s child. The fact that your Savior lives proves it.
And finally, Christ’s resurrection from the dead also assures you of what’s going to happen to you when you die. Many of us have stood where Mary stood early on that first Easter Sunday morning. “Mary stood outside Jesus’ tomb, weeping.” Many of us have shed tears over the death of someone close to us, someone whom we love dearly. And some of us have grappled with fears over facing our own time of death.
But Christ’s resurrection gives us the ultimate comfort in the face of death. Easter Sunday proves to us that our God has power over death. Jesus was victorious over his own death. And if Jesus has power over his on death, then he most certainly has power over our death, too. In fact, Jesus assures us, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25) Jesus’ resurrection assures us that, when we shed tears as we stand next to the grave of a Christian loved one, the power of God’s promise can help to wipe those tears away. We can be sure that Jesus has taken that child of his home to heaven. And we will see them again, on the Last Day. And that’s true because of what’s going to happen to you when you close your eyes in death. Christ’s resurrection means that heaven’s door is wide open for you. When you die, your Lord will take you home to be with him. And, when Jesus returns on the Last Day, he’ll raise up our bodies from the grave. He’ll make your body glorious, like his body after he rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection assures us of our resurrection. You’ll have eternal life with him.
My brothers and sisters, thank God that Christ is risen. It changes everything. It makes today and everyday a very good day to be a Christian. Amen.