Our Easter text comes from John 20:1-10. Although there is much in this passage to discuss, I want to spend my space here talking about the reactions of Mary and the two disciples as they encountered the empty tomb.
As Mary comes early in the morning, she finds the stone has been rolled away and the tomb no longer holds the body of Jesus. Her first reaction is to run back to the disciples and tell them what she has found. Her tale is telling. Keep in mind that she, along with so many others have spend the better part of three years with Christ while he has taught them and the masses about who He is and the kind of Kingdom he is bringing. Among those teachings, we find at least three distinct times when Christ told them all that He would be betrayed, killed, and would rise from the dead. At this point, he was betrayed just like He said, and killed just like He said, and He has risen from the dead. But what is Mary’s story?
She tells the disciples Jesus’ body has been stolen. Before you worry too much about Mary’s faith, when John and Peter race to the tomb, we get this description, from John himself, about how he reacted, “and he believed…” (vs 8). Believed what? The next verse helps us answer the question. They did not yet understand that Christ would rise from the dead. When Scripture tells us John believed, it is not telling us that John had an amazing moment of faith, it is telling us he and Peter believed Mary’s story. We may be able to excuse Mary’s take on the resurrection because she may not have been in on all Christ’s discussions about His resurrection, but we cannot say the same for Peter and John-two of the closest disciples to Christ.
As the chapter proceeds, Christ reveals Himself to Mary and then to the disciples, and at the end of the chapter, Thomas enters the scene. This poor disciple has been given the unfortunate moniker “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe in the resurrection until he saw and felt Christ. But the same should be said for every other disciple!
I am struck by this question: why did Jesus allow Mary and the disciples to encounter and empty tomb before they encountered Him? Keep in mind Jesus has been up for a while now and if He has been just a little faster, or had not been stuck in traffic, He would have gotten to Mary and the disciples before they reached the tomb. He didn’t, though.
I believe Jesus was giving them a chance to believe the story He had been telling them for three years. Mary and the disciples, when they were confronted with the empty tomb, fell back to an easy and comfortable belief-that Jesus’ body had been stolen.
During Easter we are confronted with the same opportunity-will we believe the easy, human, politically correct version of Jesus’ story, or will we choose to believe what He has been trying to tell us for centuries? Our lives hang in the decision.
You will be able to find the audio of the sermon here.