“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). John 20:15-16 NLT
This third Mary, who we meet on our journey to Easter, is Mary Magdalene. Of her background we know only that Jesus had cast seven demons out of her (Lk 8:2). Speculation beyond that runs rampant among the Hollywood crowd, but what the Bible does make clear is that this woman, followed Jesus. She along with a few other women ministered to the daily needs of Jesus and His disciples. Mary Magdalene also stood by His mother Mary at the cross. Like us, she was helpless get the religious authorities to accept Jesus or to alleviate His suffering on the cross, but on Easter morning, she along with other women came with spices to prepare the body according to their traditions. This was not only a demonstration of love and respect for the dead, but also a part of the grieving process. But it was not to be. The tomb lay open and empty! As they saw it, someone must have come as a final act of disrespect to hide the body. Little did they yet know the full and amazing truth of Easter. Yes, angels had met them, and told them that He was risen. Peter and John had even come and gone. But after they have all gone home, Mary stands alone and weeping outside the door of the grave. She does not understand what this all means. Are you there this morning? Have you read the story of the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, but have a hard time connecting to how that touches your life? Just like Mary, many of us have come looking for Jesus, but our hope comes not from gaining more information about His whereabouts. Hope and joy come from discovering that Jesus has come looking for us! He is looking for those who are looking for Him. The joy of Easter comes not from an explanation of the fact. Joy and faith come from the sound of His voice calling our name!
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? John 14:1-2 ESV
While the other gospels just tell us that Jesus went from the Last Supper table to the Garden of Gethsemane; John allows us to listen in on the conversation along the way. Jesus begins by letting them know that one of them will betray Him, the rest of them will run away, and Peter will even deny Him. Of course, they are shocked and start to argue with Him. (Haven’t you argued a little with God once in a while?) But in today’s passage, we see that Jesus pivots, from the bad news about the disciples’ impending failure, to the amazing news about what God has in store. Today’s verse is one you probably have heard at a graveside ceremony or to people living out their final days. And while God’s promises certainly apply in those end-of-life situations, they are also true in our everyday world. Just like the disciples, we may be facing discouragement, confusion and fear. We find ourselves in the middle of battles we didn’t start and conflicts that we don’t know how to resolve. At exactly our lowest moment Jesus comes and gives us these words; “Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me!”
You see, faith is not just handy for funerals or on Sunday mornings. Real faith, the Jesus kind of faith is meant for every day of our lives and can help us with whatever we are facing today. But real faith is more than just a gift. It is also a spiritual muscle that God wants us to exercise. Jesus actually commands us to get off our duffs and take control of our heart and say, “Stop all the fussing! God is still in control!” You might say you don’t have a lot of faith, but Jesus tells us we only need a mustard seed of faith to move mountains. So pick yourself up from the feeling sorry for yourself corner and to turn to God for strength. He knows what is going on and He says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled!” He has a special place prepared for us today!
The angel said to the women,”Don’t be afraid, for I know you were looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen, just as He said! Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples!”Matthew 28:5-7a NIV
Fear is one of those things everyone has battled ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit. As a friend who had done work building 600 foot steel towers once told me, “The man who says he isn’t afraid is a liar!” We are all afraid, at different times and in different places. But whatever we are fearful of this morning, we are advised to look and see, He is not here. In the place where He is, fear is forever vanquished. He is alive and is calling us to come and see for ourselves, and then go and tell others He has risen. “We don’t need to be afraid anymore!”
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