Happy Easter! It’s good to be gathered together to worship this morning and read God’s Word. John 20:1-9 tells us what happened that first Easter morning. They were seeking Jesus. Maybe someone invited you to tune in today. You’re in the right place if you’re seeking who God is. We celebrate God’s love for us today just like we do at Christmas and other Christian holidays. God sent His son to go to the cross for us. On Good Friday, the son of God took our place on the cross and died for us. God wants to forgive our sins and restore us back to Him. All of this is part of the Christian story. Easter, there was something different about that day. The unbelievable happened. We cannot explain it with logic or reasoning. We believe Jesus Christ is the son of God and raised from the dead.
This is a story of two people who discovered an empty tomb. This is remarkable. There’s a state of being neutral here. God overlooks what we’ve done in the past through forgiveness in the death of Jesus, but resurrection means restoration, a new life, a better life. In John 14 Jesus says He is the way, the truth and the life. What God gives us goes beyond forgiveness. No matter what we face we know we have conquered the grave. This is the core of Christianity. We have a God who rose from the dead. Paul said if Jesus did not rise from the dead everything is foolishness. If Jesus did not raise from the dead there’s no reason to worship, but if Jesus rose from the dead, it changes everything! What can Jesus do in my life? John 20 is an eyewitness account of what they saw in the tomb. Mary wanted to serve Jesus. She was there as his body was wrapped and placed in the tomb. To serve God sometimes we wonder what we can do for God.
We wonder what we can do for God.
Mary wants to bless Jesus. She wants to honor his body. John zooms in for us in this first person account. What did Mary experience that transformed her? Sometimes we want a first person review. The last few weeks we are learning new technology. We’re asking other people what they’re using to connect with one another and how that’s working for them. We want to know about their first-hand experience. John lets Mary tell us what happened.
1Now 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.
Mary arrives at the tomb to do what she wants to do: anoint Jesus’ body and finish the burial process. Mary goes after dark. John writes with a theological purpose. What’s going on behind the scenes is theological. Light hasn’t come yet but something BIG is about to happen. Mary is unaware but she noticed the tomb is open. The stone is moved. Her first thought is that someone has taken Jesus’ body. It was a capital crime to disturb a grave. Mary seeks help.
We seek help.
2So 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.” 3So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.
The disciples spring into action. They go to the tomb and wonder why all this is happening. Think about God’s view on this for a moment. God desires a relationship with us. God loves Mary, John and Peter. Their lives are upside down. God is seeing all of this maybe thinking they’re worrying about something they don’t need to worry about. It’s not a problem. Perhaps you’re in a place of no hope? God wants you to know what He has done for you. We run around frantically trying to find solutions. God loves us.
Years ago an administrative assistant came into my office saying she had a problem. She couldn’t find her glasses. She’s looked everywhere and said she is blind without them and asked me to help her look for them. I asked, “The glasses you’re looking for, are they different from the pair on your head?” She laughed. How many times has Jesus told the disciples He will go to Jerusalem to die and be raised from the dead? How much greater things can be in our lives and we don’t always see it.
We compete to complete the task.
There’s a competition between Peter and John. These are the two most prominent disciples. Peter was the extrovert. John sat back and thought deeply. We see them competing together here in verses 4-5:
4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
John wants us to know he got to the tomb first. Historians tell us John was younger than Peter. Many of us have the kind of competitiveness inside us too. John outruns Peter and this is a sign for us that this will be a different day! There’s something that causes him to move forward. What did John see that moved him from grief to hope? John goes into great detail to describe the linen cloths. John was one of the few disciples that was at the cross with Mary. John was there when Jesus’ body was taken down. Nicodemus took his body, had him wrapped in linen cloth that was very expensive. John saw Jesus’ body with the expensive spices. Here, John is at the tomb again and the cloths he saw froze him in his tracks. He knows something else happened. Jesus’ body wasn’t stolen.
We have so many things to deal with. We are trying to keep the things we have together and deal with many new things at the same time. It’s difficult to allow God to speak. When God speaks we realize:
We realize that the task was never the point.
God is trying to speak into our lives. God is doing this here; John is frozen. Peter arrives.
6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
Imagine the body of Jesus wrapped in cloths and as he rises from the dead he unwraps his head cloth and lays it aside. Jesus rose from the dead and is no longer bound by cloth! Jesus defeated death and rose from the dead! John sees and knows this in his heart. My King Jesus lives! John wants for us to figure this out on our own. God doesn’t force himself on us. He invites us to see with our own hearts, eyes and spirits. This is the moment when John first believes. He realizes that if Jesus can rise from the dead than nothing is impossible! John later writes the book of Revelation. This is John’s life changing moment. John knew he could trust God fully with his life. God invites us to this place to discover this for ourselves.
We discover what God has done for us.
9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
John did not come to this realization through studying Scripture, not through Bible study. It was the cloths and the experience of standing in the presence of God. Later, the disciples look back and it all made sense. This moment God spoke into their lives. John knows Jesus is who he claimed to be. Jesus is the Lamb of God who took my place, rose from the dead and can transform me. Anything is possible.
As we gather this morning, Easter of 2020, the same Jesus who stands in victory can give us life full of meaning. Does God love you? Will God forgive you? Can God change your life? Jesus loved you before you were born and loves you still. Will you reach out to God now? Can you pray this prayer?
God, I believe You sent Jesus for me. I believe Jesus lived on earth and died on the cross for my sin. God, forgive me for my sins. I believe You raised Jesus from the dead. I believe You can raise my life up. I give You permission to work in my life. Help me follow You.
If you just prayed that prayer and asked God to do a work in your life, would you send me an email just saying you just asked Jesus to forgive you? Or maybe you just want to know more? We want to get you some resources to help you get to know the God who saves us and restores us.
Sermon Notes are taken, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.