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April 12, 2020 [White] Easter Day John 20:1-18
Life changes on Easter morning
Tears on Easter morning
Brothers and sisters, we come together this morning to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord. When someone says, “Christ is risen,” we are delighted to respond together, “He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”
Easter is supposed to be the best day of the entire Church year, isn’t it? But Due to the current world circumstances, our risen Savior seems not nearly as close to us today. Instead, we still have to stay home to protect our lives from our invisible enemy roaming on our streets. As we watch the news, we see tears of people who are suffering from this pandemic. Watching all those tragedies, it may be hard to celebrate Easter.
Regardless of this coronavirus, we know there are lots of tears in our world. There are always tears over the loss of our beloved; there is brokenness in our families; there are always diseases and violence in our world. While thinking of those tears, I was also reminded of my mom’s tears when I left her alone in her country. She kept saying through her tears “Son, I may never see you again until I die.” Separation is always hard. I didn’t cry because I am a big boy, but my heart was broken when I left my mom behind.
Why do you talk about tears or pain and sorrow on this Easter Sunday morning? Are you still stuck in Lent, just like you confessed last week? Not really! But I still have to talk about tears because it is a reality in our present situation, and is actually the subject of today’s Gospel lesson.
Meeting the risen Christ in our grief
In our passage from John’s Gospel, Mary Magdalene was in tears early on Easter Sunday morning. We know how much she loved Jesus. She had centered all her hope and trust in him. But her heart was terribly broken because she had seen Jesus die, really die, cruelly, on the cross and buried in a tomb. She was crying because just like my mom, she thought she would never see her Lord and Friend Jesus again. Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, she came to the tomb to see Jesus again just as we want to have a last look at our beloved lying in the coffin in the funeral home.
When she arrived at the tomb, however, she couldn’t see Jesus’ body because it was not there. She thought that someone had taken away the body, but she didn’t know where to find it. Then she saw someone close by, probably a gardener who had risen early. In weeping, she asked him, “[“Where is Jesus?”] (v. 15)
“Where is Jesus?” Isn’t this what we often say when we are in trouble? Just like Mary, I have been in a desperate situation, that I needed Jesus to be right here with me more, so I came to church and cried for help. Of course, I never doubted that Jesus is my Savior; he is my Shepherd; he takes care of my life. But I felt like my heart was still thirsty and even empty. So just like Mary, I wondered, “Where are you, Lord?”
So where was Jesus when Mary was desperate for him? According to the passage, he was actually there in front of her eyes. Surprisingly, the man who she thought was a gardener was Jesus. How could she mistake Jesus for a gardener? In her deep sorrow, she couldn’t recognize him standing in front of her.
Just like Mary, we are sometimes overwhelmed by grief or despair, and we may forget Jesus is alive; he is in control, he has a plan for us; and he is always here in our lives. But the truth is, Jesus, fully alive, is there in our grief. He has conquered our death and our future is safe in his hands.
Seeking Jesus in grief
In her grief, she lost her vision and her faith and that’s why she couldn’t see Jesus in the midst of it. But we should learn from her. Let me continue her story.
Yes, Mary was there to look for Jesus. According to the text, however, she was not the only one who was looking for him. Just like her, Peter and John also came to the tomb when they heard Jesus’ body was missing. They were desperate just like Mary, but unlike Mary they hurried back to their home, not even searching for his body, because they were afraid of people’s eyes on them. But Mary didn’t give up. After the two disciples left, she still stayed in the tomb. She was even more desperate for Jesus – “Where is Jesus?” she cried out! And finally, Jesus came. He called her name, “Mary” (v. 16), and her grief turned to joy.
Just like Mary and the disciples, we get into desperate situations and need Jesus to be right there in our situations as we believe that he is our Savior. But the question is, how earnestly do you seek the Lord? Just like the disciples, will you come to the church several times or pray several days and just give up and go back to your homes? Or Just like Mary, will you continue to come and look for the Savior? You know which one is the one we must follow. Just like Mary, you can be upset; you can be frustrated; you can be desperate in your grief, but just like her, don’t give up; keep calling his name and keep looking for him. Jesus knows why you are sad and what you need; he knows your name and will speak it in love when you continue to look for him. Those who earnestly seek him will find him.
And finally, look at what Mary did next after she met the risen Christ. She went to the disciples and said, “I have seen the Lord” (v. 18). She didn’t keep thinking about her own emotions but went out to witness to the Good News. What a dramatic reversal of life! She came to the tomb with tears but went back home with tremendous joy! When she encountered the risen Christ, Mary also experienced resurrection in her heart, that she could live a new life and new joy.
Keep looking for Jesus
Reflecting on Mary’s conversion, let me say this to you: the miracle of the resurrection is not only that God raised Jesus from the dead, but also that God changed the way of our life by the power of resurrection. As we encounter Christ, sadness turns into joy; despair turns into hope; fear turns into courage.
How can we encounter the risen Christ, so that we can also have new life in him and peace in spite of our struggles? On the Easter Sunday morning, Mary teaches us what we should do. In the midst of our grief, we must cry out, “Where is Jesus?” Jesus is near when we are desperate for him. He cares about our loss and pain. He has conquered our death; he has broken its grip, so that you might have hope and comfort, even in the death of our sorrows. “Where is Jesus?” We have to keep looking for him until he calls our names and shows his final victory! Amen.