Just some early morning thoughts from me to you…
“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. 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.”…
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 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.”
Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
John 20: 1-2, 6-8, 11-16 (ESV)
Listen to this familiar verse from John 3:16— “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
And then the verse after that, which we don’t hear quoted as much—verse 17:
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
There it is. That’s why Jesus came, and went to the cross and rose again.
But who saw any of that coming?
That’s what Mary and the disciples and so many others believed way back then. But they came to the tomb on that first Easter Sunday, without hope. He was dead. It didn’t matter anymore, what Jesus had said He was going to do, and why He came—it wasn’t happening.
Mary was there on Friday when the leaders screamed for Jesus’ blood. Her hope was Jesus. Jesus had cast seven demons out of her freeing her from unbelievable torment. He had changed her life. He had given her life, hope, a reason to live, a place in His kingdom. He had given her worth and dignity, understanding, love and compassion.
But now that hope lies flat and lifeless. They heard Him cry out “It is finished.” And then they saw the sky darken, felt the earth shake, and watched the curtain of the temple tear in two. No hope, no more. And they had thought He was the Messiah.
That’s what they believed. That the Messiah was coming—and it was Jesus. But it’s just not so, they thought hopelessly to themselves. It wasn’t happening. Was it all just words, a slight of hand—all the miracles he performed?
But, she still came to the grave that morning. But she came defeated. She no longer believed. He was dead.
Mary is knee deep in her pity party, with the crud rising quickly toward her neck. She has given up, life is without meaning, and all hope is gone.
But then something happens. She hears a noise, a whisper. “Why…are you crying?” she hears. She sees two angels in blazing white seated where the body of Jesus had been. “They have taken my Lord away”, she says, “and I don’t know where they have put Him.” She still calls Him “my Lord”.
Jesus must have been moved by her devotion as He stands behind her. And suddenly, as if she could feel His breath on her back, she turns and there He is.
She never saw it coming.
But it was to be an eternal moment for her—in the midst of her despair. In that moment, she turned away from all that was around her, the voices of hate, and the stuff of the world—and turned toward Jesus. Her pity party was over, and she was on the way to living the life that Christ had set her apart to live—a life of meaning and purpose—with Him in the lead.
They came that morning—Peter, John and Mary—expecting to find the lifeless body of their Lord. But instead they found an empty tomb. Christ was risen—just as He had promised He would.
They never saw it coming.
Here we are, a day after Easter Sunday, and we pick up the morning paper or turn on the TV and see that the world around us seems to be spinning out of control with no soft landing in sight. And if you’re anything like the rest of us—there are things going on you don’t know how to deal with. Things you’re struggling with. And you may feel like Mary did that morning—empty and without hope.
And we can’t figure out the next step. What’s the point? The economy’s a mess, and our finances are on life support. Any faith we once had in our leaders has long since gone. An illness in the family has been announced as terminal. A dream you have long sought now seems to have evaporated.
Someone you trusted has let you down. A child has lost their way and you don’t know how to help them to get to a better place. Things from the past keep flooding your todays, and hold you back from becoming all you were meant to be. Hurts, pains, & scars won’t seem to heal? A habit you need to end, seems never-ending.
Over 2,000 years ago, they thought Jesus was coming to take over the government and make their lives better and easier—right then. But instead He went to the cross, so that we can stand today—forgiven. And then rose from the tomb, so we have the assurance of eternal life and the power of the risen Christ within us—always.
He paid much too high a price for us to turn away, to quit, to just go through the motions of living, or to stop living our lives to the fullest. He calls us to be all He created us to be.
Christ came as a baby in a manger, then died on the cross for you and me, then rose from the grave.
Who saw all of that coming?
And He did it all—for you and for me. So we could accept invitations to pity parties? So we could throw our hands up and give up? Or so we could spend the rest of our lives trying to live up to the world’s expectations? Not on your life. And certainly not on His!
The message of Easter, the message of the Empty Tomb—is that we are never alone. So, what will we do, together with Him, and with the lives, the gifts, abilities, platforms, resources and opportunities we have be given, to change the world through the power of the Risen Christ, before we run out of time?
In His Name—Scott
Copyright 2016. Scott L. Whitaker. All rights reserved.