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Showing posts with label Easter Sermon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Easter Sermon. Show all posts

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Jesus Rises from the Grave

Where do you find ultimate meaning in life?  Do you even think such a thing exists?  That is the subject of today’s message.  The Christian faith promotes a relationship with Jesus as the way to ultimate meaning in life.  The Disciples thought they had found ultimate meaning, but then they suffered the great disappointment of Jesus' arrest, crucifixion, and death.  Suddenly, their faith was called into question.  On that first Easter morning, they were still in shock, trying to figure out what was going on.   

Slides – Luke 24:1-12
1But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

The Empty Tomb
At Easter, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the grave.  But in this Easter reading, Jesus does not yet appear.  The women went to put spices on the dead body of Jesus; but when they arrive at the tomb, Jesus is not there.  Peter rushes to the tomb to see the body, but Jesus is not there—dead or otherwise.
Usually when I think of Easter, I think of the radiant, resurrected Christ smiling and saying, “I told you so!  I told you I would come back to life!”  But here in this passage, we have only an empty grave and a pile linen.  It is the absence of Jesus in the passage that strikes me.  For those of us who know the way the story ends—we want to jump right to the point of acknowledging that Jesus is alive.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  
            As I pondered this passage, it occurred to me that these twelve verses illustrate three common attitudes people have toward spirituality.  First we have the women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James.  They didn’t come seeking the risen Jesus.  Such a thing never occurred to them as a possibility.  They were looking only for the dead body of Jesus.  It was customary in that day to put fragrant spices on the body of the dead as a way of honoring those who had passed—much the way we place flowers on the graves of our deceased loved ones today.  We don’t go to our deceased grandma’s grave with flowers expecting to see her risen to life.  We go to remember the dead.  And so it was for the women in this passage.  They sought only to remember a dead Christ, not to see one risen in power and glory.

It strikes me how much that attitude prevails in church people these days.  These women came to the tomb in grief and sorrow.  They were looking for a dead man’s body.  They are like people who go through the motions at church, but aren’t truly seeking the living Christ.  They say and do the right things, but they only come to pay tribute to a dead man.  Their lives do not display the power and glory of the risen Christ and they do not reach their full spiritual potential.  It doesn’t matter how many flowers or spices they use to make it look or smell good, it’s still just dead and lifeless.  No wonder people turn away from a church that worships God like that.  

But then, the women in our story saw something amazing that dramatically altered their state of mind.  They saw two men in dazzling clothes that appeared and told them the good news—Jesus is not dead!  He has risen from the dead, just as he said he would!  This sight seized their attention and they forgot all about their religious duty to put spices on a dead body.  Suddenly, they were filled with excitement and hope and they rushed off to share this astonishing story with the Disciples.
I have known quite a few church-goers who for years just went through the motions. They really didn’t come to church expecting anything exceptional. They were—in a sense—just seeking a dead man’s body. But then something shook them from their spiritual slumber and they forgot about their dead religion and started seeking the risen Christ. And suddenly, they began to worship and live with a new passion. They even begin to tell others about their wonderful new experience of life. 

Next in the story are the Disciples.  If we examine them, we also see an attitude that is common in our day and age.  They took the women’s story to be nonsense.  The Greek word Luke uses to describe the women’s story is the same that Greek physicians used to describe the babbling of a fevered and insane mind.[i]  And that is how the disciples took the women’s story—it seemed like nonsense to them.  You can almost hear them saying to the women, “Why, just this morning you were going out the door, carrying all your spices to put on his dead body.  Now you claim he’s alive?!?  You must be sick with grief.  You're not making any sense.”
This is much the same as cynics in our time who say there is no real meaning to life (or that such meaning is unknowable).  They shrug off the stories of those who claim to have had deeply spiritual experiences.  Yes, and many people in our age look at the church and scoff.  They think these stories Christians tell about changed lives and divine power is a bunch of non-sense.  “Why, I’ve seen the way you worship at church,” they say.  “It’s boring and lifeless and dull.  If you ask me, you’re just worshiping a dead man.” They dismiss the church; they dismiss Christ; they refuse to believe. 

            But then there is Peter.  He hears the women’s story and he rushes out the door to investigate for himself.  And when he arrives, he sees that indeed the stone is rolled away and the tomb is empty.  All that’s left are the empty linen wrappings.
It’s ironic how things turn out.  According to Luke, Peter is the only one who runs to check out the women’s story.  Peter was not a particularly “spiritual” person in the sense we might think.  He was not a monk or priest or holy man of any sort.  He was a fisherman, a sailor, a common worldly man.  (Today, we use the expression, "He cusses like a sailor" for a reason.)  By Peter's own estimation the first time Peter met Jesus in Luke 5:8, Peter exclaimed, “I am too much of a sinner to be around you.” And yet it is Peter who goes to look in the tomb when all the other Disciples dismiss the story.  And it says when Peter saw the tomb was empty, he went away wondering what happened.
Peter reminds me of people in our age who are sincerely looking for meaning in life.  They may or may not consider themselves to be particularly “spiritual” people, but something prompts them to take a deep look at themselves and they recognize, “Huh… Something really important is missing.  I wonder where it is.”  And they start to honestly search.  They might look in quite a few places.  They might look for ultimate meaning in their career.  They might look for it in another person—a spouse or a friend.  They might look for it in a cause or in a family or in some other place.  But everywhere they look, they find only an empty tomb.  Where is that Most Important Thing that they crave? 

Which Are You?
The Christian faith teaches that life’s ultimate meaning is found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.  But some people miss out on the fulfillment that comes from a relationship with Jesus because they are like the women.  They are really only looking for a dead man.  Others are like the Disciples; they think the story of Jesus’ resurrection is a bunch of non-sense.  And still others are like Peter—they hear the good news, investigate for themselves, and discovered that the tomb is indeed empty.  Who do you resemble?
Are you looking for a dead man instead of a risen Savior?  Is your religious devotion helping you experiencing the life changing power of God or are you just trying to put sweet smelling spices and flowers on something dead?
Or maybe you are like the Disciples; you think all this talk about a risen Savior is just a bunch of non-sense.  You think, “There is no Higher Power and people don’t change.”  Maybe you’ve dismissed Christ and the church.  If so, I hope you will listen.  I hope you will take an honest look for yourself.  Maybe then you will see that there are a lot of empty, meaningless tombs in your life.  Maybe then you will say to yourself, “Huh…  Something important is missing in my life.  But maybe it’s out there somewhere.  Maybe what those Christians say is really true.  Maybe Jesus is alive.  And maybe Jesus is what I really need.”   

Dear God,
            Thank You for glorious hope of Easter—Christ is risen, just as he said.  Help us to see the empty tomb.  Jesus is not there.  Help us to see the lifeless parts of ourselves where Jesus cannot be found.  By Your grace, help us to surrender these to You, to let them go so that we can experience the divine, life changing power of the risen Christ living in us.  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.

[i] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series, the Gospel of Luke, revised edition; page 292

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

An Idle Tale?

Luke 24:1-12 [Slides]
1But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. 11 But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. 12 However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

An Idle Tale?
            Verse 11 is the key verse for this blog.  In the NRSV it says, “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
            When the women told the Apostles they’d found an empty tomb and two men dressed in dazzling robes saying Jesus had risen, the Apostles dismissed it as an idle tale.  They didn’t believe.
             And that’s the way many people view the Easter story today (maybe some of you view it that way too).  You think, “It’s a great story.  It’s inspired a lot of people.  But it’s just a story—an idle tale.”  
            What if that’s true?  What if Jesus was just another nice guy?  What if he was just another figure like the prophets and kings and great world leaders who taught us some good lessons and then died and the story ends?  What if Jesus’ bones are still lying in an unmarked tomb somewhere in Palestine?
            Peter had to see for himself.  It was too important a question to leave unanswered.  So Peter jumped up, ran to the tomb, and looked inside.  He saw the tomb was empty, save for the empty linen wrappings.  And he went back home puzzling over what had happened.  He still had not seen the “risen” Jesus.
            We have to be like Peter in this story.  We have to go and look for Jesus ourselves.  It’s too important a question to just write off as an idle tale without an investigation.

Why I believe Jesus is Alive
            Now, every person has to decide for themselves if Jesus is really alive.  I have decided he is.  But I can’t decide for you.  No one can decide for you.  You have to decide for yourself.  But I would like to share with you why I believe Jesus is alive; and maybe this will encourage you to have the faith to see the risen Christ.  So briefly, I want to share 7 reasons I believe Jesus is risen.
First of all, I asked God to show me the Truth and He did.  I grew up going to church and knew the story of Jesus.  But when I was 20-years-old, I really began questioning the validity of everything I had been told about Jesus and Christianity.  What if it was all just idle tales?  So I prayed to God to show me.  I prayed with all sincerity, “God, show me the Truth—the only Truth that really is.  I’m willing to reject everything know if You will show me the real Truth.”  And I began a quest to know the Truth.  I studied about Christianity, the Bible, other religions, and even atheism.  And what I found was the Christian faith Jesus brought to our world makes sense.  I found I believed it was the Truth God wanted me to know.  God answered my prayer.  As Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find.  Knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The second reason I believe Jesus is risen is Jesus changed my life.  I was not a very good person growing up.  I had a terrible temper.  I was violent.  I enjoyed being “bad” and looked for ways to actively rebel.  I bullied other children.  I was a vandal and a thief.  Now, I understand i was just a child and how "bad" can a child be?  It wasn't the degree to which I was bad that mattered.  It was the path I was on; it was the trajectory of my life that wasn't good.  If I had stayed on the road I traveled as a child and as a young teenager, I would have lived a very immoral life.  I do not know how it would have turned out, but it would not have been godly at all.  I know how it turned out for many of my friends who stayed on that road.  Some went to jail.  Some fell into addictions.  Some wasted years of their lives before they turned around.  Some died and others committed suicide.  Some I know are still wasting their lives in rebellion to God.
That could have been me, but my path changed because I decided to follow Christ.  I became a Christian when I was 8, but it wasn’t until I was 17 that I started actively following Jesus down a different path—a path to life instead of death.  I am who I am today because Jesus is alive and not dead.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not perfect.  There’s still a lot that needs to change.  But because my Jesus lives, I know I’m gonna get there One Day!

The third reason I know Jesus rose is because I have been resurrected.  I don’t mean that I have died and come back to life—though I know that will happen at the end of my days on earth.  What I mean is, I have faced times in my life when my strength ran out, when I just couldn’t go on.  I have even wondered at times, how can I continue to be a minister.  But then Jesus fills me with new life, new energy, and I come back stronger than I was before.  That kind of resilience is not because of me—it’s the resurrected Christ living in me.  It’s the power of Jesus who conquered death and rose from the grave that empowers me to rise from any gloomy situation in this life and will one day even raise me to new life when my body wears out and I die.

Fourth, I know Jesus is alive, because I have seen miracles.  I don’t have time to recount all the times I have seen Jesus intervene through miracles.  I have seen people healed.  I have seen doors open that should have been closed.  But let me just tell you one miracle that involved people in this church.  
In 2013, when we took a group on a mission trip to El Salvador, we carried thousands of dollars of medicine with us to treat illness among the people we went to serve.  And just as our plane was about to take off from Atlanta, we learned from our partners in El Salvador that the paperwork for our medicine did not go though and our medicine would be confiscated at customs in El Salvador.  Our whole team prayed and asked our friends to pray too.  When we arrived in El Salvador and worked our way through customs, the authorities allowed everyone on our team to pass right through without checking our bags for medicine.  The only person they stopped was Jason Denson.  They asked him if he had any medicine in his bag and he said “yes”.  The guard opened his bag, glanced right at the medicine, and then closed the bag and told Jason he was free to go.  Our team loaded the bus as fast as we could and left to begin our week of mission work with all of our medicine intact.  That is the work of a living Savior, not a dead man still in a grave.

Number five, I have had personal encounters with Jesus.  I always feel Jesus is personally present when I pray earnestly.  Now, Jesus has never appeared to me in a bodily form.  I’ve never touched his nail scarred hands like Thomas did in the Bible.  However, when I talk to Jesus, I know he is present in a special way—and I am as sure of his presence as I am that you are here with me today.  I have also heard him speak to me—not in an audible voice—but I have known he was speaking to me, telling me something, comforting me, or guiding me to answers.  It was a Voice from outside of myself, something divine that was a higher power than anything found in this world.
Once, when I was a pastor of a small church and had reached a very low point in my ministry and was so worn out I didn’t know how to keep going, I prayed and Jesus encouraged me as I listened to a praise song.  The words of the band became the voice of Christ as they reminded me, “I Am a Friend of God!  I am a friend of God!  I am a friend of God!  He calls me friend!”  And the words became Jesus’ words to me.  “Don’t give up!  Remember, you are a friend of God!  He can carry you through this.  He has great plans for you.”  
Dead men don’t speak.  Dead men can’t make their presence known.  Dead men can’t encourage you and give you strength to persevere.  I serve a Risen Savior and he calls me friend!

A sixth reason I know Jesus is alive: I have known many people who have been completely transformed by Christ.  I have friends who have been delivered from addiction that they couldn’t beat on their own.  I have known lives that—like mine—have been changed from selfish pursuits to godly lives; and these have changed not only their lives, but have saved their families too.
I know one woman personally, who was molested as a child and grew up very wounded and damaged because of it.  (I will not share her name, but my wife and I know her personally.) And in her marriage she struggled for years because of her own baggage and because of her husband’s sins too.  And she became promiscuous and cheated on her husband and was months into divorce proceedings and a custody battle over their children.  And then, because of the miraculous life-changing power of a risen Christ, she and her husband somehow reconciled and she found healing from her wounded sexuality and they have been happily married now, following Christ together, for around 10 years since that whole episode.  Christ is alive and changing lives everyday!

The last reason I believe Jesus is alive is because of history. Since the beginning of the world, civilizations have risen because of their economic, political, and military power.  But just as soon as they rise, they quickly fall.  At the time of Christ, the Romans were the greatest power in the world.  No one could stand against them.  And yet, Jesus—who was by all worldly measures insignificant, who had no political power, no army to command, no wealth to speak of, who never wrote a single book or held a single governmental post—changed the world by being executed and buried in a grave after only 3 years of active ministry.  A dead man could not do what Jesus did.  Many men and women in history have impacted the world through martyrdom, but Jesus turned the world completely upside down because he not only died, but also rose to life again.  And so the very empire that condemned Jesus to death, embraced his religion within 300 years.  And the Christian faith, which started out as only a handful of followers proclaiming their dead leader had risen, became the largest religion in the world—over a quarter of the world’s population adheres to Christianity today.  This came about because our Lord is not dead, but alive. 

Seeing is Believing

These are some of the reasons I believe Jesus is alive.  What I've shared are not scientific arguments or theological reasons (though there are those as well).  What I've tried to share are my own personal experience.  I am like those first women who went to the tomb and saw the angels proclaiming Jesus had risen.  I am like Peter who ran to the tomb and found it empty and later saw the living Jesus for himself.  Jesus is alive!  He is no longer in the grave!
You may hear my message and think it’s all just nonsense.  You may think it’s just an “idle tale.”  But don’t just dismiss it.  It’s too important. If what I’ve said is true, it changes everything.  And if you are hungry to see him, Jesus may appear to you too.  But you’ve got to be like Peter who ran to the tomb to see if the “idle tale” had anything to it.  And you’ve got to have eyes of faith to see.  You’ve got to let go of your cynicism.  You’ve got to have the faith of a child (as Jesus said).  That goes against human nature; more so in some who are more skeptical than others.  You’ve got to want with all your heart to know the Truth and ask God to show you the Truth.  You’ve got to be willing to be changed and know that Jesus can change you.  Then maybe you can start to see the miracles as you surround yourself with other believers who have been transformed by the power of the risen Savior; and you may encounter the risen Lord for yourself.  

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Tomb is Empty - Easter Sermon

Copyright by Chris Mullis March 30, 2015
John 20:1-18

John 20:1-18
1Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.

“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”

14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?”

She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”

16 “Mary!” Jesus said.

She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).

17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

            We begin our conversation at a tomb.  A place where they keep dead people is not the happiest place to begin a conversation, but our text requires it, so here we are.  There are all different types of tombs.  You've seen them.  There is that old dilapidated graveyard with the weeds growing through the neglected and cracked tombstones.  There is that small, crowded cemetery at the old, country church.   There are the spacious, well maintained graves at the perpetual care cemetery.  There are those places where people of great fame lie buried in historic cemeteries.  I even read once about a pauper’s graveyard that was full of unmarked graves.  There is something mysterious about a tomb—something that awes us and commands deep respect.
            Once I visited a confederate civil war cemetery in Marietta.  It was a place of mysterious beauty.  The grounds were well maintained; but because of the sheer age of the graves, many of the tombstones were old and worn.  Some were very hard to read.  I walked slowly from one grave to another, reading the names of those who had been born, had lived, and died.  There was a great variety of lives represented—men, women, and (most strikingly) the graves of little children who may have only lived a short time.  In one section, about a hundred plain white markers were lined up in straight lines—as if in military formation.  These were the graves of a whole company of confederate soldiers who had given their lives in battle—fighting for what they believed.  In another place, there was a tall monument—about 5 feet tall, shaped like the Washington Monument.  At one time it must have been a regal headstone, but now it was old and rough and gray.  It was the marker of a prominent Marietta family.  The names of each of the family members were engraved on the front of the marker; the dates of death ranged through the early to mid-1800s.  A few feet from this old, worn monument lay four roughly hewn stones.  A sign on a post explained that these stones were the unmarked graves of four of the slaves that worked in the family home; some speculation was made as to what their names may have been.  I continued on, captivated by the memorials to the lives that had been lived and had ended—as life always does. 
            And of course, there are those familiar tombs, where we have buried our loved ones.  My Grandma and Grandpa lie side by side in a cemetery in Macon, GA.  They died six years apart.  I attended both their funerals.  I saw their coffins a few years apart standing poised above freshly dug graves, waiting to be lowered and covered.  I have visited their gravesites a few times.  I've read the simple, metal markers seated in the ground that honor their lives.  I have placed flowers on their graves in loving memory of them.  I have stood above their burial plots remembering their faces and the good times we shared. 
            There's an eerie aura that surrounds a cemetery.  Cemeteries are the setting for ghost stories.  I mean, who would want to visit a cemetery all alone in the dark?  Yet this is where we find Mary Magdalene in our passage from John.  

Movement One – Dark Sadness
It's still dark.  There is a chill on the air that cuts to the bone.  And here comes Mary, eyes swollen and red from grief, walking all alone down the path that leads to Jesus' tomb.  In John, it doesn't say why she came and before we can find out, she discovers that the stone—which was meant to keep the tomb securely locked—has been rolled away, leaving it wide open and unprotected.
The first thought that came to Mary's frantic mind was, "Oh no!  Someone's stolen the body!"  Can you imagine showing up to visit the grave of your loved one, only to discover that someone had dug up the body and stolen it? 
          Jesus was a famous man.  He'd worked many miracles.  He'd healed the sick, brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, even raised the dead.  Mary, herself, had seven demons driven out of her by Jesus.  Maybe someone had stolen the body, hoping to steal its power.  Or maybe some religious fanatic had stolen it, hoping to propagate the rumor that Jesus had risen—just as he said he would.  Or maybe some sick soul just wanted an exotic souvenir.  But Mary wasn't looking for any of those things.  She was just looking for the body of her beloved Jesus—her Lord, who just days before had been brutally murdered by the religious establishment.  She was looking for a sealed tomb, with a marker to remember the wonderful man she’d known, but what she found was and empty tomb and all she could think is, "They have taken the Lord's body out of the tomb, and I don't know where they have put him!"
          So she ran and told Peter and John.  Why she told Peter I don't know.  Maybe she didn't realize that just the other night he had adamantly denied even knowing Jesus.  But she told him nonetheless.  And Peter and the John ran to verify the news.  They even looked inside the tomb where the body had lain.  Sure enough, the body was gone.  Only the linen body wrappings remained—folded up neatly in the corner.  Didn't the thieves who stole the body realize that the linen shroud would be worth a lot of money? 
          Peter and John looked around, verified that the body was gone, and went back home.  The scripture said that the Messiah would rise.  They now knew that the body was indeed gone, but they hadn't put two and two together yet. 
          But poor Mary remained at the tomb.  Weeping for the dead.  They’d robbed her of her Lord.  Now they had even robbed her of his memorial.  How would she ever be able to get on with life, now that her beloved Jesus was gone?  She was so distraught that when she stooped and looked into the tomb, it didn't even register that she was speaking with white-robed angels.  

Why are you crying, Mary? 
The Sun is beginning to rise.  The tomb is empty and the stone is rolled away.
Why are you crying, Mary? 
The body is gone but the grave clothes are still here—for Christ has no need of earthly coverings!
Why are you crying, Mary, as though you've lost the one you love? 
Look, you don't even know you are speaking with angels!
Why are you crying, Mary?  Why are you looking for the living among the dead? 
You will not find the living in a tomb made to hold the dead!

Movement Two – Darkness to Light
          Mary is in such a spiritual fog, she doesn't even care that she's speaking with angels.  She can't recognize the truth that should be coming to light, just as the sun is beginning to rise above the horizon—bringing light to the world.    
          There's a funny thing about light in the gospel of John—it always has two meanings.  On the one hand, it is the physical characteristic that makes it possible to see.  But light also has a deeper meaning in John—it symbolizes the light of Christ:
8:12 Jesus said to the people, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

12:35 Jesus replied, "My light will shine out for you just a little while longer. Walk in it while you can, so you will not stumble when the darkness falls. If you walk in the darkness, you cannot see where you are going.

12:46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the darkness.

          In the same way, darkness has a metaphorical meaning in John.  Remember when Nicodemus approached Jesus in John chapter 3, trying to understand about being born again, he approached him at night.  When Judas left to betray Jesus into the hands of his enemies in John 13:30, it says, "he immediately went out; and it was night."  The darkness of night in John represents more than just the absence of sunlight-S.U.N.  It represents the absence of the Son's Light-S.O.N.
          And when Mary Magdalene visited the tomb that first Easter morning, she visited, "early, while it was still dark…" And even as time wore on, though the sun may have begun to rise above the horizon, the darkness in her mind continued to cloud out the Light of Christ's Truth—he was not dead, there was no body to find.  Yet she was seeking a dead Jesus, not a risen Lord.

Why are you crying, Mary? 
The Sun is beginning to rise.  The tomb is empty and the stone is rolled away.
Why are you crying, Mary? 
The body is gone but the grave clothes are still here—for Christ has no need of earthly coverings!
Why are you crying, Mary, as though you've lost the one you love? 
Look, you don't even know you are speaking with angels!
Why are you crying, Mary?  Why are you looking for the living among the dead? 
You will not find the living in a tomb made to hold the dead!

Movement Three – He Calls My Name
          Mary was still lost in a dark fog of despair.  She didn't see the Truth; she didn’t recognize the angels; she didn't even recognize Jesus standing behind her.  From the shadowy entrance of the tomb, she mistook her Lord for the gardener.  Therefore, Christ called her out of the darkness by name, "Mary!"  He called her out of the darkness, just as he once called Lazarus out of the darkness of a tomb, "Lazarus, come out!"  You remember Lazarus.  At the sound of Christ's voice, Lazarus, dead for four days, came stumbling out of the tomb still wrapped in his grave clothes. 
          In the same way, when Christ called her by name, Mary came stumbling out of the darkness of the tomb and into the light—recognizing that her Lord was not dead, but alive!  Immediately, as he spoke her name, she knew that Christ her Savior had risen!  He took everything the evil of this world could dish out; he died on the cross, was buried in a cold dark tomb and yet, he rose from the dead and he is alive!  At his command, she ran as fast as she could to proclaim the Truth to the other disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"
          Often we are like Mary.  We get lost in the dark fog of despair.  We don’t recognize the Truth—even when it’s right there in front of us.  We grope around in the darkness and don’t see that Christ our risen Lord is right there with us.  But sometimes he calls to us—calling us out of the darkness, calling us by name.  Do you hear his voice calling?
          Christ is risen!  You will not find him in a tomb.  You will not find him among the dead.  He is not there.  He is here with us.  He is calling us by name.  John!  Bobby!  Scott!  He is calling us by name!  Do you recognize his voice?  Sara! Joanna!  Kaye!  Who are we looking for?  Are we looking for a body or are we looking for a Risen Savior?  We will not find the living among the dead!  Jack! Kelly!  David!  Turn around and recognize him in light of his resurrection!

Why are you crying? 
The Sun is beginning to rise.  The tomb is empty and the stone is rolled away.
Why are you crying? 
The body is gone but the grave clothes are still here—for Christ has no need of earthly coverings!
Why are you crying, as though you've lost the one you love? 
Look, you don't even know you are speaking with angels!
Why are you crying?  Why are you looking for the living among the dead? 
You will not find the living in a tomb made to hold the dead!

          Christ is alive!  "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."  He offers this eternal life to you.  You need not stumble along in the darkness anymore.  Turn to the Light.  Recognize the risen Savior.  Believe in him and be saved.  For this is the glorious message of Easter Sunday!