My first Easter in my first congregation was amazing. We got to sing our Easter praises and celebrate again Christ’s victory over death. We also celebrated Holy Communion — what better way to celebrate our Lord’s rising from the dead to give us life than by partaking of His body and blood that gives life to our souls? We had 186 for worship — at 6:30 am! (That may be changing in the future. I personally am a fan of worshiping that early on Easter — the first Easter took place very early too — but I understand that not everybody is a morning person. We’ll see.) Then the men put on the Easter breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, buttered bread, and coffee. It was delicious and then everybody got to travel to see family — we wrapped up for the day by 9 am. Then I got to collapse.
The sermon in the form it appears here on the blog is not exactly what I preached — maybe 15-20% is the same as you see here. I’m not entirely sure what I preached. It was a big day and I altered it (hopefully for the better) in the preaching. Hope you enjoy! Christ is risen!
1Early 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. 2So 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!”
3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8Finally 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.)
10Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13They 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.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15“Woman,” he said, “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.”
16Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”
18Mary 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. (John 20:1-18 niv)
Usually when somebody is crying, you want to know why. Moms hear their children cry, and they go rushing into the other room to find out what’s wrong. If your friend is crying, you usually ask why. Even if you see a total stranger crying in a public place, you might still have the urge to go up to them and find out why they’re crying. We want to help, even if there’s not always a lot we can do. We want to ask, “Why are you crying?” As we turn our hearts toward the gospel for today, we’re going to ask ourselves, “Why are you crying?” We will see that because of the resurrection of Christ, there is no more reason to cry. God has changed our gloom to gladness by his Son’s rising from the dead.
It took Jesus’ first followers awhile to catch on to what had happened on the first Easter. They didn’t get it right away. The women had gone to the tomb very early, and the big rock in front of the entrance had been rolled away. Mary Magdalene immediately goes and gets Peter and John. She wants their help to figure out what’s going on. They run to the tomb and look inside. No Jesus. Only the strips of linen he was buried in, lying there as if they’re still wound around him. The cloth that had been over his face is lying by itself, as if it’s still wound around his head. But he’s not there. They look and look, but they can’t figure it out. It wasn’t grave robbers. Grave robbers wouldn’t leave the graveclothes behind, and even if they did, they wouldn’t be neatly laid out – they’d be torn off and thrown everywhere. Where was Jesus? Could he really have risen from the dead? Eventually they go home and Mary Magdalene is left there by herself, heartbroken. All she wanted to do was give Jesus’ body a proper burial, give her Teacher one last sign of respect, and now she can’t even do that. She’s standing outside the tomb crying her eyes out. She looks inside and sees something unexpected. Two men dressed in white are sitting in the empty tomb. They’re looking at her calmly. They ask her, “Why are you crying?” The angels must have moved, because Mary turns around and sees Jesus, only she doesn’t know it’s him. Jesus asks her the same question: “Why are you crying?” Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? She’s standing by an open grave. She misses someone she loves. Mary’s crying because she can’t cope with what’s happened. It’s all too much for her. She’s overwhelmed. She’s lost. All the answers that people try and give in these kinds of situations, the reasons they come up with, just don’t make sense. She has no answers in the face of what’s happened to her.
We can just as well ask ourselves that question. Why are you crying? Well, where do we start? My kids hate me. I’m not sure my spouse still loves me. We had a miscarriage, or we can’t have a baby. I just lost my job. Or I have a job, but it’s terrible and I work too hard for too little pay. I’m just barely making it – I can’t make ends meet. Someone I love is sick. I’m sick. Someone I love is suffering, and I can’t help them. I’m afraid. I’m alone. I feel guilty all the time. Someone I love just died. I’m about to die. There are dozens of different reasons we cry. Maybe you’re crying for the same reasons Mary was. Maybe you have no answers for what you’re going through. Maybe nothing makes sense anymore and it hasn’t for quite a while. Life in a sinful world is like that. This world has been ruined by sin. Not one of us here has escaped being touched by it. All the bad things that happen to us have their origin in the sin that corrupts this world and kills us. Sin infects each of us. That’s why we die. Sin brings death.
Today Jesus still asks you, “Why are you crying?” He can say that because he is alive again. He has risen from the dead. He laid down his life, and now he has taken it up again. He lives and he cannot die anymore. It’s the risen Christ who says this. Jesus has taken away every reason for us to cry. His death and resurrection fix everything that makes us sad or afraid. He has undone all of sin’s effects and all of the devil’s works. He has freed us from death and from our slavery to sin. Jesus is alive! He has taken away your sins. You have a clear conscience before God now. You have full and free forgiveness of all your sins. Your guilt and your shame are gone forever. You know where you’re going when you leave this world. Jesus is alive! You are not alone. Jesus is with you. He will never leave you. He’s always with you, because he promised to be. Jesus is alive! He has conquered death. You don’t have to fear death anymore. Because he is alive, you too will live. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and he who lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus has real life in himself, life that can’t be destroyed, and he gives it to all his followers. Jesus is alive, and nobody can take our Jesus away from us.
Whatever you’re going through right now, wherever you’ve been and whatever you’ve done, Jesus knows and he understands. He’s been through it too. Jesus shares our flesh and blood. He knows what we go through. He’s faced everything we do, and he’s conquered it for us. He’s been through it all and come through alive again to bring us to be with him. Christ, the Living One, the Firstborn from among the dead, is our brother. Just like Jesus called Mary’s name, so Jesus still looks for each of us and calls us each by name. He knows each of us. He knows our struggles and our problems and our heartaches, and he rose from the dead to remedy them forever. He lives, and he has ascended back to the Father to care for us and watch over us. He has returned to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God. We are sons and daughters of the living God now, brothers and sisters of the risen Christ.
You might know someone who’s still crying. You might know someone like Mary Magdalene, so lost in grief or regret or fear that they can’t see or hear anything else. When you do, tell them that there’s really nothing to cry about – forever. Not because you’re belittling what they’re feeling or experiencing. Not because you don’t care or because you don’t understand. Because Christ has risen and has taken away every reason to cry. He has given us lasting joy, purity and sinlessness before God, and a guaranteed home in heaven. Why are you crying? Who can cry when Christ is risen, when death is dead, when sin is gone? Who can cry when Jesus promises that since he lives, we too will live after we die? Death has lost its sting! We are set free from sin, death, and the devil forever! Nothing in all creation can separate us from his love – not even death! Christ is risen! Alleluia! Amen.