By Jared Warner
April 21, 2019
Willow Creek Friends Church
John 20:1–18 (ESV)
20 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 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.” 3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes.
Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 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.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
This year I want to remember Holy Saturday. For the past couple of weeks, I have sat while reading scripture and I have reflected on Saturday. I think we rush from the crucifixion to the resurrection too quickly. When we do this, we often forget one of the most important aspects of the life and ministry of Jesus. Jesus was fully human and fully God. Jesus is Emanuel, God with us! We are excited at this concept when things are going as expected. When the Chiefs are winning, we know God is with us. When the Royals lead the game, God is with us. When we get a new client, when our boss gives a raise greater than we anticipated, God is with us. When the blessings are flowing toward us, we are often quick to remember to praise the God from who all blessings flow. But on Saturday when Jesus lay in a tomb, nothing felt like a blessing.
Last week we joined the celebration of a king, The King. The king of kings and lord of lords. Jesus rode into the holy city being cheered as the king of the Jews the very anointed son of David. The people cheered because at that point everything was amazing. This great teacher attracted crowds to the shores of the sea, crowds coming from Jerusalem, Galilee, and even from the coastal regions of Lebanon. Diseases were being healed, the ears of the deaf were being opened, the tongues of the mute were loosened so that they could sing the praises of the Lord. At the mere touch of Jesus hand, at the breath of his words dreaded skin diseases were eradicated, by the brush of the fringe of his garment chronic blood disorders ceased and at the sound of his voice the dead awoke from their eternal sleep.
Not only does the human body bend to the command of Jesus, but nature. The closest followers of Jesus had testified to Jesus walking on water, he even commanded one of his disciples to join him on the surf. Peter joined him in the waves and if his eyes were focused on Jesus he was standing on the surface of the swells. The disciples of Jesus could walk on water if they maintained faith in their beloved leader. Do you understand the value of this ability? Rome lays beyond the sea. Anyone wishing to bring a battle to the capital of the empire would have to do one of two things: build a navy and sail the Mediterranean or march across the entire empire. With Christ as king they could defy the laws of nature and avoid the garrisoned cities throughout the empire and march directly to Rome across the waves with no need for ships or sails. Not only could they simply walk the sea, but they would not need to dread the threatening storms. One of the greatest fears of the ancient seamen was a storm. If we remember the story of Jonah, we would remember that they believed the storms to be the anger of the gods. People met their deaths upon a stormy sea and under the direction of Jesus, this teacher from Nazareth those fears were laid to rest. Yet that was not all, out in the wilderness far from the nearest as town Jesus was able to cause bread and fish to multiply. He was able to feed a multitude of thousands not once but on two different occasions. Illness and injury, storms and nature bent to His will, but the greatest thing is that the dead could rise. An army under the command of Jesus would be invincible. Hail the King!
We cling to these stories. These are the stories of power and hope. The stories of victory and liberation. When Christ is for is who can be against us! Imagine the pride of the disciple as the marched into the holy royal city of David. Imagine the vanity of the disciples closest to Jesus, who not only walked with him but could perform many of the same miracles. Imagine not only a king able to do these things but also those that spoke in his name. And not only those close to him, but anyone that called upon. The name of Jesus could join into this powerful multitude. These followers of Jesus were walking into the city not as meek petitioners of grace, they were marching as conquerors.
They marched as conquerors, but only in their own minds. These were not people of power or influence. They were beggars, they were prostitutes, they were people who had spent years in isolation. They were common men and women deemed unworthy of greater positions. They were simple uneducated laborers. These were not the leaders of men. They were not the military strategists. They were not even scribes or teachers of the law. They were common people like you, or I. Common people filled with pride of their heritage and faith and hope for their future marched to the city singing their praises while their king wept. He wept because he knew what they were unable to see. People with power and influence do not like when their power is threatened. And even ambitious people with the best of intentions can do the worst and most unjust things to obtain and maintain the influence they seek.
This is what brought about Good Friday. It is something with source that go to the very origin of the roots of humanity. Our first parents saw that the fruit on that tree looked wonderful and it promised something they greatly desired, to be like God possessing the knowledge of good and evil. Every side of the story believed what they were doing was for good of some sort. The religious leaders believed they were maintaining the faith of their ancestors. The Romans were maintaining and securing their authority and rule over the provinces. The disciples were seeking the establishment of the new kingdom of Israel. Yet everyone used their perceived knowledge of good and evil and totally missed what the creator desired
We call this original sin or the sinful nature. Simply put it is putting our desires before honoring God and encouraging others. It was this desire, this desire of self-fulfillment and power that drove the religious establishment to seek to silence an opponent. It was this desire of self-fulfillment and power that urged the governor of Judea to allow public opinion to rule instead of justice. Christ died for our son. Christ died for our selfish pursuit of power. Christ died for our injustice.
And on Holy Saturday Christ laid in the tomb. He laid in that tomb for each of us. He knows what it is like to be wrongfully accused. He knows what it is like to experience injustice. He knows what it is like to have amazing potential and for that potential to seemingly have the bottom drop out before it starts. Jesus knows. God knows how it feels to be in our position.
The disciples also know. Imagine you were there last Sunday cheering. And imagine you were there on Friday in disbelief. Imagine you sat all day and night Saturday waiting in an upstairs room, wondering what had just happened. You invested everything you had into this sure to win opportunity and all your hope is buried under tons of cold stone.
The disciples were depressed. They were hopeless that Saturday. Everything they lived for died. It is alright to admit that at times life plain sucks. God knows. The saints know. You are not being sinful to admit that at one point in time we have no hope for the future. It is ok to live through a Saturday every now and then. We lose jobs. We lose clients. We might get divorced. When a child or spouse gets sick it is alright to cry out that life is not fair, at times life sucks and sometimes it seems like all our hope and all our dreams are buried in a tomb dead before they even had a chance.
We live through Saturdays, but we know something the disciples didn’t, Sunday is coming! Mary went to the tomb early Sunday. She walked there with the other women, dreading the feeling they knew they were going to be felt. The dreaded the sight they would see, because they thought that maybe, just maybe they would have hope. That finally normal people, common people would finally have a chance. Yet they were going to the tomb to wash and anoint the body of their beloved teacher, their king. They were going to clean the blood from the man unjustly slaughtered because people with wealth and influence were uncomfortable. They went to the tomb, but the tomb was empty.
We endure Saturday but Sunday is coming. We do not always know why things happen now, but we know that God can recreate something out of nothing, God can bring light to the dark, God can breathe life in to death. We wait through Saturday, but Sunday is coming
Mary looked in the tomb and she ran to tell the others what she thought she saw. Peter and John ran, and they saw the burial clothes laying where the body of Jesus should have been. Peter even saw the head covering neatly placed by itself apart from the rest of the clothes. Just so you know how important that one point is, the fact the head coving is laying separate means that Jesus’s bodily did not turn to vapor as some say in attempts to explain why the tomb is empty. The way they buried the dead is they cover the head and then wrap the body. Jesus body was unwrapped, and he stood before removing the head covering.
They went back to the house wondering what all this meant. Even though Jesus had told them three times what was going to happen they still did not understand. They did not understand because their minds were set on their own ideas, their own desires, their own interpretations as to what Jesus and the Messiah was to be. When Jesus died, their hope was buried with him. They were caught in that dark Saturday of hopelessness unaware that Sunday was upon them.
As Peter and John returned to the house, as they returned to their room of mourning, Mary waited at the tomb. Unable to bear the loss anymore she just stood and wept. Unable to serve even the memory of her teacher she wept over the loss of hope she wept over the reign of injustice and misery. She stooped one last time to gaze at the last remnant of the teacher, the blood-soaked linen garments. She looked through her tears she saw two angels in white standing where the body once was. They asked her why she wept, and she answered them. It did not even occur to her that she was talking to two beings that just manifested a presence before her eyes. No one entered the tomb she was there when John and Peter left, she was at the door, yet she stood there weeping as she spoke. Unable to see what was before her eyes because she was dwelling in Saturday when Sunday had come.
Then Jesus came behind her and he spoke to her himself. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” He asked. She, even though she too knew what Jesus taught because it was her brother’s house in Bethany that Jesus had stayed just a week before, thought that the man standing there was someone else. Because she dwelt in Saturday. It was only when Jesus called her by name that Sunday dawned.
Today is Sunday. Yet often we dwell in Saturday. People all around us are broken and bent under various oppressions. Many are faced with injustices and live without hope. They live in the shadows of the tomb buried under the cold stones, hopeless and in the dark. Their dreams are dashed against some stormy shoreline. They once had dreams, they once had potential, they were once going to change the world. But life began to weigh in, catching and hemming them into an endless Saturday. They are unaware that Sunday is upon them. It took Jesus calling Mary by name. It took the intimate encouragement of a loving friend to draw Mary from the dread of Saturday to the hope of Sunday. And at the uttering of her name Christ rose to life before her eyes. The mournful blindness was removed and hope once more reigned and dreams could again be considered because sin could not hold, and the curse of death no longer carried a sting. Christ has risen from the dead and Sunday is upon us!
But do we live in the day of the Son or do we dwell in the cool tomb where death sat? Christ is calling you. He calls to you like you are his own. Just as David said his psalm:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Even though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death. That is the tomb, that is that area of hopelessness that we all feel at times. Even when we walk through those dark times. We know God is there with us, He is calling us by name and opening our eyes once again to the light.
Saturday has past, Sunday has come. Why do you seek the living among the dead, He is risen! Amen