Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus Sunday morning after he had been crucified and buried Friday afternoon. She believed he was dead, so she was confused when she arrived and found the stone that sealed the grave rolled away. Someone had to have to taken the body. Who?
She ran to Simon Peter. They have taken the Lord out of the tomb. Who did she mean by ‘they?’ The Romans? The Jews? Peter and John raced to the tomb and confirmed Mary’s story. So what happened to the body?
The disciples did what Mary did not do. First Peter and then John went into the tomb for further investigation. They were under the same assumption as Mary. Someone had stolen Jesus’ dead corpse. The mystery thickened when they saw what was inside the tomb.
Grave robbers would have been in a hurry. They’d have to elude the guards stationed at the grave site. It would be the darkest time of the night. Would they pause, unwrap the dead body, and then reshape the burial cloths in the configuration of the body in the place where the body had been set. No! For grave robbers it would be grab and go. They could unwrap the body once they were in the clear. Peter and John stepped into the tomb and saw that things were in order. The burial clothes were where they should have been. The only thing missing was the body itself. The head wrapping was even formed as if the head were still in it, like a pillow that maintains the shape of the sleeper’s head. This made no sense.
Verse 8 says John believed, but what? At that moment did he know Jesus was alive? He knew this was something more than a grave robbing, which was common in those days. Something else happened. John knew Jesus was more than a wise teacher and he was ready to accept all that Jesus had said. But he too was confused. They all were in the early hours of that morning.
Mary followed the male disciples back to the tomb. She lingered, and then when in. Two angels were waiting for her.
She didn’t even ask about the two men sitting in the tomb where the body should have been, she wasn’t curious about that. She did not see that they were angels, not men. They asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?”“They have taken my lord,” Mary said. She said, “They have taken my lord.” She didn’t give the angels an opportunity to say a word. She turned and left the grave.
Immediately, she bumped to another man who she supposed was the groundskeeper. He must have taken Jesus’ body. He spoke. “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”“Sir,” she said,“If you have taken him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” How was she going to do that? How would a woman, all by herself, move the dead body of a man? And, where was she going to take his body anyway? If the cemetery groundskeeper had in fact moved the body, it would have been to another grave. Mary’s hopes were gone when Jesus was nailed to the cross. Then the gardener spoke. “Mary.”
What changes when I hear Jesus speak my name? Rob. James. Tabitha. Heather. Jesus looks and speaks. Starlyn. Roger. Bryce. Sharon. Jenny. Alan. Albert. The eyes of the resurrected, glorified Christ are described as “a flame of fire” (Rev. 1:14). Those eyes look your way, burning with love, and they speak. Ben. Ginger. Michael. Jina. Josh. Cathy. Laura. David. Tom. Mary.
And, she knew this was no gardner. Mary’s eyes were opened. She became the first human being to see the resurrected Christ, she reached out to him. Before coming to Jerusalem, a woman, in an act of worship, washed Jesus’ feet and anointed him with expensive perfume. She exalted him before his death.
Now, on resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene did the same. She threw herself at his feet; clung to them; weeping, she worshipped. She also held on for dear life because she wasn’t going to let anyone take him from her again. But he said, “Do not hold onto me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”
Was the resurrection of Jesus really so unique? Monk is a TV show about a neurotic man named Adrian Monk. His phobias drive himself and everyone around him crazy. His idiosyncrasies are fueled by the pain of losing his beloved wife Trudy. In one episode, the quirky detective was at Trudy’s grave site. He feared that he had seen her on the street and he wanted to be sure she was still in the grave. So, he went and while there, he saw another mourner visiting the grave site of her husband. He turned to her and with a smile on his face confidently said as he pointed to his wife’s grave, “She’s still dead. She’s still in there.” Then Monk pointed at the woman’s husband’s tombstone, and said, “I am sure he’s still dead too.” He gazed around at the field of graves and said, “This is a good cemetery. They know what they’re doing! I am sure most everyone here is still dead!”
We agree, don’t we? When someone dies, he is dead and that doesn’t change. So, the story of Jesus that ends with Him alive after he had died is unheard of. Actually, in the Bible, it’s heard of a lot. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 5, we meet the leader of the synagogue, a man named Jairus. He asks Jesus to come and heal his daughter. Jesus agrees but as he goes, he is delayed by a woman who has bleeding that won’t stop. As he heals her, the waiting, sick little girl dies. Those around Jairus tell him not to bother Jesus any more, but Jesus comes anyway. He calls the girl from death and she rises to life.
In the Gospel of John, chapter 11, the narrator says Jesus’ good friend Lazarus is extremely ill. When Jesus is told, he lingers where he is for two more days. It takes a couple more days to get to Bethany, where Lazarus lives with his sisters Martha and Mary. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead four days. Jesus calls him from death and Lazarus rises back to life.
Read the book of Acts, chapter 9. A godly woman named Tabitha dies. She has a heart for the poor and is a skilled seamstress. She is beloved, so those around her summon Peter. He comes as quickly as he can, but her body is cold and cleaned and set for burial. The mourners have gathered. Peter dismisses them and then prays. He calls for Tabitha to arise and she does exactly that. He helps her to her feet, back to life. In the Bible, death is not always the end. Sometimes, under the power of God, people who have died come back to life.
Is the story of the resurrection of Jesus different from other occasions where people come back? What happened with daughter of the synagogue leader Jairus? She came to life when Jesus called her. When Jesus was resurrected, there was no one else there to offer assistance. No human being called him back to life. When Lazarus was resurrected, he stumbled out of the tomb still wrapped in the grave cloths. When Jesus came to life, his grave cloths lay in their place, undisturbed. Was Jesus a ghost without physical form? No, Mary held onto him after he was raised. He told Thomas that he could touch and feel the holes in his hands. The resurrected Christ had full human form and yet he could pass through walls and through grave clothes without disturbing them.
In the resurrection of Tabitha, Peter had to be there. He prayed and then helped Tabitha to her feet. No one prayed for Jesus’ resurrection because no one expected it. No one thought it was possible.
Finally, the daughter of Jairus may have lived a long full life and done great things. But, she would die again. Her bones have decayed and gone back to the earth long ago. The same is true of Lazarus. He’s dead gone. Have you bumped into him? I have not. And Tabitha; if she were here today, she’d be about 2007 years old, give or take. The media would know if someone that old was walking around.I am not sure the daughter of Jairus, or Lazarus or Tabitha were to be envied. Each had to go through death of the body twice. Each would have a funeral they would not come back from.
When Jesus walked out of the grave, death itself had been defeated. His glorified, resurrected body was changed. He was physical, but different in a way we cannot explain. He was in a body; but the body had an incorruptible, eternal quality. He who rose from death, whose eyes burn with fire hotter than man can produce, who knows my name, who calls your name, this Jesus promised he would go and prepare a place for his followers.
We will be resurrected as he was. We will live in bodies that cannot die.
From 1 Corinthians:
15:42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
On the morning of the resurrection, when Jesus told Mary to let him go, he spoke words of love. He knew she loved him. He needed her to let go so that he could appear to the disciples whom he would give them the great commission. He would empower them to build the church. He would send His Holy Spirit to dwell in His churches and in the hearts of all who put their faith in Him.
The church, from the time of the resurrection until today, tells the world how people can receive the gift of eternal life and a relationship with God by trusting in Jesus. What difference does Easter make? Because Jesus defeated death, he has the power and authority not only to walk in a resurrected, glorified body, but to invite His followers to come along with him. Because of Easter, we have the hope of resurrection. We know there is life after death, life that is glorious and joyful, life that never ends.