Sermon John 20:1-18 April 20, 2014 “Alleluia! We Have Seen the Lord!”*
Well, good morning. This morning, as you can see, I have a glass with some juice in it. Happens to be orange, but it could be anything. Now I suppose there are at least two ways of looking at this glass of juice. Some people might look at the glass and say its half empty. And then there are others who would look at the glass and say it’s half full. (Drink all of the juice in the glass.)
There, we solved that problem, didn’t we? Now, when we look at the glass, everyone would say that it is empty, wouldn’t they? But you know what? We still have a problem, because we still might not look at the glass in the same way. Some of us might grumble and complain because it is empty. Others might look at the glass and see it as a glass just waiting to be filled with something good to drink. The bottom line? There are always different ways to look at any situation.
That’s what we run into when we look at the gospel stories of the resurrection. On the Sunday morning after Jesus was crucified, a woman named Mary went to visit the grave where the body of Jesus had been laid. When she got there, she found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. She ran to find someone to tell them what she had seen. She found two of the disciples, Peter and John, and she said to them, “They have taken our Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”
Peter and John rushed back to the tomb with Mary. When the three arrived, they all saw the same thing, but they didn’t all look at it in the same way. Peter, being Peter was curious. The Bible says Peter went in the empty tomb and looked around. He saw strips of linen lying around and the cloth that Jesus had been buried in folded neatly and placed where the body had been. “Hmmm, very interesting,” Peter might have said to himself.
Mary looked and she was sad. The Bible tells us that Mary didn’t even go inside the empty tomb. She just stood outside the tomb and cried because she feared that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. The stone had been rolled away; for Mary that was enough evidence that the tomb was empty. She didn’t need to enter; she knew.
John, on the other hand, looked and believed. What the Bible actually says is that John looked in where the body of Jesus had been laid saw it now empty of the body and he believed. Now, I don’t know exactly how much John understood, but I think he believed that Jesus had risen from the grave just as he said he would.
Three people — they all saw the same thing — one was curious, one was sad, and one believed. I think that’s pretty much the same way people react to the story of Jesus today. Some of us hear the story of the empty tomb and Christ’s resurrection and we are curious. We want a few more details. When did it happen? How did it happen? Was Jesus in bodily form when he walked out of the tomb? Did the stone move of its own accord or did Christ move it? Why move the stone at all? If Christ is spirit, couldn’t he just walk through the walls of the tomb and exit that way? We’re curious.
Some of us, like Mary, are sad. We ask questions that reveal our painful lives. What’s the good news for me in this story? Why should I care? Will this story of Christ’s miraculous rising heal me? Look at my life, at my troubles, at my losses, at my pain! What’s God going do to free me from my entombment? Now there’s one that tugs at the heartstrings!
And then there are those of us who just believe. We believe in the resurrection of Christ. We believe in Christ’s miraculous ability to heal us from our own sin and ills. We believe that Christ is life and hope. Against all odds, even when the evidence is still coming in, we believe Christ is everything Christ said he was and is. We believe our world can be more than it is because of what Christ has done for us. We simply believe.
How do you view the story of the resurrection this morning? Does it pique your curiosity or trigger your inner sadness? Or do you believe? The tomb is empty; Christ has risen from the grave to draw us closer to the God of our lives. Christ has risen so that we might rise with Christ to be the people God has called to love and serve others in his name. Christ has risen so that we might be more than we are at this moment that the world might be blessed by the gift of our lives. So, drink deeply from that cup of life and know that because Christ lives, we live also. Alleluia! We have seen the Lord!
Let us pray:
Dear Lord, today we look into an empty grave. Help us all to see and believe that Christ Jesus has risen just as Christ said he would. Alleluia! And Amen!
* Based in part on a sermon written by James Sanderson July 25, 2004 entitled “Half Empty or Half Full?”