“Why Are You Weeping?”

John 20:1-18, April 17

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


Easter Sunday

“It is Easter Sunday! Let us now listen to the account of that morning as recorded in the gospel of John, chapter twenty, verses one thru eighteen.”

John 20:1-18

1 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.

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.

“Having listened with our ears to what is recorded, pertaining to that first Easter morning, let us consider the meaning of what we have just heard.”

“Why Are You Weeping?”

If we met Jesus today, will we, would we recognize him? What will he look like? Mary didn’t recognize Jesus on that first Easter morning. There is a good chance we might not either. So, what is it we need to be looking for in those we meet, to realize that Jesus is indeed within the strangers we encounter every day? Interesting thought – isn’t it? Imagine working with this notion the next time you encounter someone you do not know. For example, I was talking with a man on Thursday morning, a stranger. We were in a group gathering and he heard me mention being in Thailand in Nineteen Sixty-Eight. He was shaking my hand and started to share that he was there just a bit after I was. He talked about the elephants and the culture of the country in ways that I had clearly missed. I felt mesmerized by his words as he opened for me a completely new image of the country, which I had experienced when I was just twenty years of age. I asked him if he was visiting the area and how long he would be with us. By the time he finished talking I had no clarity as to whether I would ever see him again. I am unsure of his name. I felt as though I had met someone very special. As I write this I am musing as to who he really was. Surely, he had a touch of that Spirit of Christ we all long for. Was there more? Only God knows, as he is gone from my sight. What we know about Jesus we learned from the scriptures or from someone else. There are no photographs of Jesus, just paintings which are the artists vision of the man Jesus. What is your vision and again I ask, would you be able to describe Jesus in a way others might recognize him when they encounter the man from Nazareth –

the Son of God?

When we were children, adults such as our parents, Sunday school teachers and the local church Pastor talked to us of Easter lilies, Easter eggs and the most talked about – the Easter Bunny. Sermons were left to the adults to hear. In our teens we were taught the Biblical stories, as written in Holy Scriptures. As we learned of his birth in Bethlehem, we got to know of the hardship his parents Mary and Joseph had.  The stark poverty that had them in a stable with the barn animals as there was no place for them in the local Inn. Thus, the baby Jesus was born humbly in a setting that had him in the midst the sheep, cows, and such. Jesus’ first outfit was what was just some cloth found there. Surprisingly we were told of the shepherds and the Wise men that came to find the baby and the gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold. Then as the story of who Jesus was continues, we find that before he was two years of age, Old King Herod had heard of his birth; believing that he was to be the new king of the Jews. In his fear and anger, he had all Hebrew infants aged two or younger killed.

Already we see the mix of poverty, then persecution, driving the story line of a baby born to be the Holy One, the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

But that is just the early understanding of Jesus’ life. By the time he was twelve we find him in Jerusalem mesmerizing the teachers in the temple of his insight and grasp of the scriptures. Jesus takes on the role of a budding theologian, which amaze his parents and everyone around him. Then there are the miraculous accounts of his baptism by John the Baptist at the River Jordan, which brings the astounding vision of the Holy Spirit and his subsequent journey into the wilderness where he was tested and prepared for his ministry to come. Let us not forget the voice from heaven declaring he was “The Son of God”. The more we read, the more insights we got of who Jesus was, and his favor and his approval in the sight of our Heavenly Father in heaven was. As our journey through the scriptures continued, we learned of the gathering of his disciples, the crowds that were drawn to hear him teach and preach to them. The miracles, the healings and the astonishing parables and his enlightened teachings which began to shed some light on his being the long-awaited Liberator, the Messiah. The scriptures also follow the signs of his enemies plans to put an end to his perceived dangerous and stirring disruptions in the crowds that followed him.

Betrayal and anguish followed as we matured in our understanding of the Jesus story. Despite the testimonies of Jesus being far more than just another Prophet, like Elijah, or a King such as David, or a Leader such as Moses, the plot to stop him by his enemies thickened. To everyone’s dismay, the night of what we now know as the Last Supper, much like the Passover Meal celebration, has come to symbolize the broken body and spilt blood of Jesus at his execution by Roman soldiers at Golgotha, the skull-shaped hill, alongside two criminals. The brutality of his torment is hard to grasp and almost impossible to accept. The mock trial, the calls for his crucifixion from the gathered crowd, all seemingly unreal considering the mystical miracles. Jesus was many things: a teacher, a prophet, a healer, a shepherd, a carpenter taught by his father Joseph, and he was the son of Mary; but he was not a criminal deserving punishment and surely, he did not deserve to be flogged and crucified, nailed to a cross till he was dead!     

Even in his last hours hanging on that cross Jesus could find no hate or bitterness in his heart. Among his last words being, “Father ‘forgive’ them, for they know not what they do!” /Luke 23:34/ Surely, he was the “Son of God.” Likewise, he was surely the “Son of Man” as he suffered, bled, and died on that cross. We are taught that Jesus died for humankinds’ sinfulness and that those who believe in his Divinity as the Son of God, will be forgiven. Yet, we know the story does not end here.

Truly it is only the beginning! Just as surely as a seed’s journey has ‘only just begun’ it’s destined life and purpose ‘as it is ripped off the branch of life in its conception’ and thrust into the darkness of ‘Mother Earth’ and covered until a blanket of darkness overcomes it! If that seed could speak it would cry out “Save Me! Please save me!” If only the seedling had ears to hear with, it would hear the whispering voice of God, crying out “Let Go, my Child; let Go. All shall be well. All manner of thing shall be well!” /Original Author unknown/ The young, frightened seed will spring forth and become a new thing, bearing much fruit and its offspring will continue from generation to generation! We know the story. Today is Easter morning! The Resurrected Spirit of Christ springs forth, no matter what destruction, turmoil and devastation falls upon the creatures of Creation; no matter how often the ‘Innocent” and the ‘Good’ are persecuted and killed. Christ was not found in that dark harsh rock tomb!

On that first Easter morning Mary and the others went to the Tomb. We know the stories testimony. The large bolder, the large stone had been removed and the tomb of Jesus was found empty. Only the linen cloth his body had been wrapped in remained. Mary and the others cried. Yet, Mary stayed behind as the others left. She saw an angel or was it two.

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.” /John 20:15/ She had questioned them… then turned away and encountered what she thought was the gardener, but it was not. It was the Risen Christ. Mary did not recognize Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (Which means Teacher). /John 20:15b &16/

Today is Easter Sunday. We are gathered here in worship, to praise and celebrate the miracle of the Easter Event. As the hours and the days ahead wear thin…’on the meaning of this day’, we need to reflect-back on the story. Let us allow ourselves to be renewed and refreshed in the miracle of the Resurrected One. The Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ lives! As surely as the seeds the gardener plants, they shall spring forth with new life, and so shall we. The face of Christ, his hands and feet will not be easily recognizable, for they have been transformed into an eternal form, that shall not wither or fade or be torn and deformed as in times of war. No! We shall not carry the burden of our old broken and torn bodies. We shall rise-up and join with Christ Jesus in a new place in a new time, with new hope and new awareness of the Kingdom of God – in a new and unimagined way! 

The angels asked of Mary, “Why do you weep?” /John20:13/ You and I, we weep for joy today, because of the testimonials throughout the ages of the Living Spirit of God, which sprang forth from the life, death, teachings, and the prophesies of Christ Jesus; The Son of God! “In the beginning was The Son of God, and The Son was with God, and The Son was God. The Son was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through The Son of God, and without the Son not one thing came into being. What has come into being, in The Son, was life, and the life was the light of all people.” /John 1:1-5 adapted/

Amen

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