Mary Magdalene with the Resurrected Jesus by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov


“He Is Risen!”

A Message on John 20:1-18
For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
April 1, 2018, Easter Sunday
By Doug Wintermute

John 20:1-18(NRSV)


Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed 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 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who 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 returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other 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 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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 Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because 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 she told them that he had said these things to her.


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One day a Sunday School teacher was talking to her elementary-age students about Easter. “Can anyone tell me what Easter is?” she asked the class.


“It’s when you get new dresses and shoes and hats,” said one little girl.


“It’s when the Easter bunny comes and you hunt Easter eggs!” said another student.


“Yes, but what is the REAL meaning of Easter?” she asked.


It got real quiet in the room. Then, very slowly, a little boy raised his hand. “Yes, Johnny,” the teacher said.


“Easter is when we celebrate Jesus,” he said.


“That’s right,” said the teacher. “What do we celebrate about Jesus?”


“Well,” said Johnny, “There were some people who didn’t like Jesus, so they killed him. And after they killed him on the cross, they put him in a hole in the ground.”


“A tomb,” said the teacher, feeling proud that at least one of the children knew the meaning of Easter. “Go on.”


“Well, then, after he’s been in the hole in the ground three days, he comes out at Easter.”


The teacher was proud. “That’s right, Johnny, very good.”


“Then,” said Johnny, “if he sees his shadow it means that there will be six more weeks of winter.”


While this story is humorous, it points out what I think is a very real truth: for many people Jesus rising from the dead is treated as just another fictional legend. It’s just something that isn’t real but that does have entertainment value.


The scripture we read today from the Gospel of John tells us about the first Easter morning. Mary Magdelene goes to the tomb early in the morning. Mary was a follower of Jesus who has been the subject of urban myths herself. There are theories that she was a prostitute, that she and Jesus had a baby, and other things that are based more on speculation than on fact or the scriptures.


Two of the gospels, Luke and the longer ending of Mark, say that Jesus cast seven demons out of her. All four of the gospels mention her, and she is mentioned 12 times between the gospels. That’s more than most of the disciples get mentioned.


It is fact and not fiction that she is an important follower of Jesus Christ. It’s also a fact that early in the morning she goes to Jesus tomb. In John’s gospel she goes alone, while in Mark’s gospel she is one of the “Three Marys” that visit the tomb. (Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother of James, and Mary “Salome”) Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene going to tomb with “the other Mary,” and Luke just mentions “the women.”


Mary gets the name “Magdalene” from the town she was from, Magdala. This was a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Mary, or more technically “Mariam,” was a popular name at the time and so often they were referred to also the town they were from in order to differentiate between different Marys.


Mary is the one in John’s gospels who is the first to see the risen Jesus. She recognizes him when he calls her by name. Jesus gives her a task, to go and tell the disciples, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” And she does. Her first words to them are, “I have seen the Lord!”


The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the very tenet of the Christian faith. I don’t think you can be a Christian if you don’t believe this.


Over the years there have been many attempts to discredit the resurrection. Jesus wasn’t really dead, only unconscious. Right before he was crucified Jesus switched bodies with someone else. The Roman guards were bribed by Jesus disciples who came in the night and took his body away.


To me these theories are no more valid than the groundhog seeing his shadow on Groundhog Day.


Jesus was really dead. The Roman guards saw to that. They well well versed in crucifying people, and they knew when they were dead and when they were not. The spear in Jesus side confirmed it. Jesus was dead.


But he didn’t stay dead. The huge stone was rolled away from the tomb and Jesus walked out alive. He even tidied up the place a bit before he left, rolling up the cloth that had been around his head.


We read these words in scripture, and we believe.


The resurrection of Jesus is proof that he is the messiah, the Son of God. And it gives us joy and it gives us hope.


Hope because we know because of our faith death does not have the last word for those who believe. No matter what happens to us in this world, we have hope because we are promised that something better is coming.


When a loved one dies, we have hope because something better is coming.


When the doctor gives us a diagnosis of cancer, we have hope because something better is coming.


When relationships disintegrate and our hearts are broken, we have hope because something better is coming.


When addictions destroy lives and bodies, we have hope because something better is coming.


When our bodies begin to fail as we grow older and pain becomes a daily reminder of our mortality, we have hope because something better is coming.


Something better is coming, and we can claim and hold on to that because Jesus was resurrected from the dead.


Jesus isn’t dead. He is no longer in the grave. He is risen!


So my challenge to you this Easter Sunday is to live boldly, knowing that something better is coming. It’s not a fictional story. It’s not an urban legend. It is fact: Jesus is alive. He is risen.


In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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