Perhaps one of the most moving stories in scripture is the passage we read this morning from John’s Gospel. As we enter the story, we read that it was early in the morning on the first day of the week. While it was still dark, Mary went to the tomb. It was a natural place for her to be... to be as close to her Lord as possible, even thought it was only his dead body covered over by a large stone.
When she got there, she saw something that startled her, throwing her into deep confusion and turmoil. The stone had been removed form the entrance. Wasn’t it enough that they had put Jesus to death? Did they now have to come and raid his tomb and remove his body? It was a devastating discovery for Mary, for whom Jesus had been her life and her joy.
Running back, we read, she found Peter and the Beloved Disciple (believed by most to be John). Upon hearing the news it seems that a race ensued between Peter and John to see who could get there first. John outran Peter, but then waited at the entrance of the tomb for Peter to arrive. After Peter had gone inside, John joined him where they saw the burial clothes neatly folded where the body of Jesus should have been.
Some find it easy to believe. John it appears was one of them. We read that when he saw, he believed.
Others find it more difficult to believe. At this stage, Mary was still in deep confusion and turmoil. Peter and John went back to their homes, but we read that Mary stated behind, crying. It was all too much for her.
We read however that as she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus should have been.
“Women, why are you crying?” they asked her.
As she replied to the angles, it seems that she turned away from them, perhaps trying to hide her tears. Turning around, she saw Jesus standing in front of her, but she did not realize it was him. As she turned around, Jesus repeated the question that the angels had asked:
“Woman, why are you crying?”
1) In this passage we see that the Easter Story invited us to get in touch with our own pain.
Woman, Why are you crying?
For Mary her tears were tears of utter grief and loss. The man who had given her life back to her had been cruelly tortured and brutally murdered. The one who had shown a love to her like she had never experienced before was dead.
It must have been an utterly devastating moment for her; like the bottom had fallen out of her life. The centre of her life had been taken away from her. The one person who had brought meaning and purpose to her life had been taken away from her.
This was the source of her pain; an indescribable pain, an emptiness within that throbbed with a pain that must have felt like it would never go away.
Why are you crying?
The Easter story invites us to get in touch with the things in our lives that bring us pain, that cause us to weep when no-one else is watching, that leave us feeling empty with a throbbing sense of meaninglessness.
Why are you crying? What is the pain you carry with you today?
For Mary the pain was so great that sage couldn't see Jesus stadning in front of her. It seems that her own tears obscured her vision. Sometimes our tears and pain obscure our sense of the Presence of God... we are unable to recognize the one who can wipe away our tears.
Why are you crying? What is the pain you carry with you today?
2) The second thing we see in this passage: As Jesus asks her why she is crying, he asks her a second question: “Who are you looking for?”
Who or what are you looking for? If truth be told, we are all looking for something, something that will fill the void, that last puzzle piece of life that will make the picture complete. We are looking for something; that one thing or that one person who can make our lives complete.
We look in various places
that one special relationship... if I can just find that 1 special person the emptiness will be filled.
Revenge – A number of years ago, Dr Phil interviewed a woman who was looking for revenge. She had been treated appallingly by her husband. When she divorced him she had an overwhelming desire for revenge. But she came to Dr Phil because she discovered that revenge was not helping her. It was not filling the hole like she had thought it would.
What are you looking for?
What is it that you are searching for in life?
The Christian story teaches us that beneath all of our striving; underlying all of our searching is ultimately a search for God, the Infinite, the Eternal. If all things come from God, then ultimately our real deep search in life is for God. The superficial desires and searching that we have is only a front or façade. Ultimately it is only the Infinite, the Eternal that can satisfy the hunger within. Mary was looking in the wrong place. Mary was looking for a dead body, and through her tears she couldn’t see the Risen Christ standing in front of her.
3) The third thing we see is that the One who we are searching for already knows us by name.
The crucified and risen Lord, the one who holds the key to deep happiness and fulfillment, who holds the keys to a life of true meaning and purpose already knows our name.
Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?
Mary answers out of her pain: “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him and I will go and get him”.
And Jesus replied: “Mary”
The one we are ultimately looking for already knows our name. There is a God who sees and knows us.
Sometimes it seems as if our lives go unnoticed. Would it really make any difference if I was not around? About 10 years ago, I was helping with the music at the Methodist Churches conference with a few hundred delegates from all around the country. During lunch the presiding bishop walked past me and said: “Brian, I dint know you played bass guitar so well.” It was startling. I didn’t even know that he knew who I was. And he called me by name.
In the story of the servant woman Hagar, in Genesis 16:1-13, we read of how badly she was treated by Abraham and Sarah and so she runs away. The angel of the Lord finds her near a spring in the desert where she has laid down to die. After the angel has spoken to her and brought encouragement to her, Hagar speaks and gives a name to God: “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the One who sees me.”
The one who we are ultimately looking for already knows our name. There is a God who sees and knows us.
4) Lastly, we see in this passage that as Mary hears her name being spoken, she turns around, and only in turning does she finally realise and recognize that it is in fact Jesus standing in front of her.
If we are to recognize the risen Christ it will often require us to turn and to face him. It is as Mary turns that she recognizes Jesus. TO see Jesus requires a turn... a turning point i our lives, a change of direction.
If you are to recognize the risen Christ, in what way do you need to turn today?
The Easter story invites us to a response... to bring our tears, to bring our restless searching, to be embraced by the Christ who already knows our name; to recognize that we may be at a turning point in our lives.