Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes, 11 but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15 “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18 NIV)
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! We need that. Martin Luther once went through a difficult time in his life. People didn’t want to hear God’s Word. Worries tormented him. And his wife noticed. One day he came home and found his wife Katie wearing all black. He was surprised, “What’s going on?” Katie said, “Jesus died.” “That’s crazy!” Martin said. “What are you talking about? Jesus didn’t die again!” Katie said, “No, it’s true. Jesus must be dead or Martin Luther wouldn’t mope around here so sad!” Was she right? Don’t the worries and tears of life take our eyes off of Jesus? Here’s the truth. Jesus is not dead. He lives. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!
When I hear that story, I can’t help but think of Mary Magdalene on Easter morning. For her, Jesus really was dead. She had watched him die! We don’t know much about Mary, other than that Jesus had driven seven demons out of her. Can you imagine that? Jesus gave her the hope she’d always been missing. But now he was dead! Easter morning for us is a joyful time. Not for Mary. I don’t know if she wore black, but I’m sure her eyes were blood-shot. Tear-stained. There was no joy for her. Just lots of tears—and running. She got up early and ran to the tomb. But Jesus was gone! She ran to tell Peter and John. They all ran to the tomb. There was no Jesus! Peter and John left, but “Mary stood outside the tomb crying.” Crying on Easter morning…
So why are you crying? “Who, me?” you say. “I’m not crying! It’s Easter! Everyone’s happy!” I don’t believe that. Easter lilies and scrambled eggs don’t take away tears. When was the last time you cried? I bet it wasn’t that long ago. Here are reasons I’ve seen people cry just over the past week: Cancer news shocks a family. A husband fights against faith in his house. Children fall away from faith and now walk right down the path to hell. Conflict with people you thought you could trust. The memory of a loved one who isn’t here for Easter. Guilt at the sin you just committed again. Why are you crying? I bet beneath the smile today there’s a reason—or five!
With tears in her eyes—I’m surprised she had any tears left—Mary looked into Jesus’ tomb. Peter and John had just look in—it was empty. But not anymore! “She saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been.” Angels! You’d think that would have been a pick-me-upper, right? But Mary was too sad to even notice. The angels asked her the question of the day, “Woman, why are you crying?” Mary must have been thinking, “What do you mean, why am I crying? Isn’t it obvious? They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” Without Jesus, nothing could stop her tears. Not even angels! “I need to find Jesus.”
So she turned her back on the angels, and whom did she see? Jesus! But she didn’t recognize him either! Did Jesus not have his Jesus uniform on? Was he wearing street clothes? Or is this what our tears can do to us? They cloud our eyes and thoughts, so we can’t see what’s right in front of our faces. Jesus asked that same question: “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Mary, “thinking he was the gardener, said, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Mary asks Jesus where Jesus is! She wanted Jesus. She needed Jesus. He was standing right there! But she couldn’t see him through her tears.
That makes me think of some of my darkest days. The days when nothing goes right. Do you have those? Then days slowly stretch into weeks and months and years. Maybe you’re in one of those dark times right now. Depression—have you been there? I have. To have every day be a day of tears. It’s never really over, right? Can I tell you something you don’t want to hear? What I’ve learned from personal experience? When you’re in one of those darkest times, whom is your mind always focused on? You! We don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. The devil’s goal is for you to walk through life with Jesus right in front of you, but never able to see him, because your focus is on you. When we take our eyes off of Jesus, what’s there? Tears. Why are you crying?
As Jesus saw the tears in Mary’s eyes, what do you think he was thinking? I wonder if he was thinking, “I know.” The prophet Isaiah once described Jesus like this: “A man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Tears? Jesus knows. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Matthew 26:38). As hung on the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 26:46). Tears were part of Jesus’ job description: “A man of sorrows.” Jesus knows tears!
But on Easter morning, Jesus didn’t have tears in his eyes anymore. Why? Sin causes tears. After Jesus paid for our sin on the cross, what did he say? “It is finished!” Sins are forgiven! Death causes tears. What did the angels proclaim on Easter morning? “Christ is risen!” Death is defeated. As we heard, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). Jesus won forgiveness for us. Jesus defeated death once for all. The devil lost. Jesus won! For Jesus, there were no more tears!
So Jesus looked at Mary and said just one word, “Mary.” When she turned to look at him again, can you picture the smile on Jesus’ face? How do you think Mary felt? Indescribable joy. Just that one word… What was the greatest relief of your life? Passing your driver’s test? I wonder if she felt like Tiger Woods finally winning the Masters again—after all his struggles—times about a thousand. We talk about a wave of relief or of joy. “Mary!” Just one word. That’s all it took!
Because every tear or disappointment or sadness in life is a reminder that you have a Jesus-sized hole in your heart. God made you that way! God made you for himself. When you try to fill that Jesus-sized hole with anything other than Jesus, it won’t fill you up. It will just rattle around like little jelly beans in an Easter egg. Every tear is God calling you to find in him the one thing you can always depend on. Your heart will never be truly at peace until it finds rest in Jesus.
How does that happen? Five years ago, the commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command gave the commencement speech at the University of Texas. In his speech he told a story about his time in Navy SEAL training. The goal of the instructors was to break those men’s wills so that only the strongest survived. In the middle of Hell Week, the recruits went into the mud. Mud up to their necks. They sat in the mud for 15 hours. Cold. Exhausted. Groaning. The instructors offered a deal: If just five of you quit, we can stop. The groans increased. You could sense that some were ready to give in. Then suddenly a voice in the back started singing. It wasn’t singing on key. In fact, it sounded downright awful, but it was singing. And then another voice joined in. And another. And soon every single man was singing. The instructors yelled and cursed at them. They threatened that if they kept singing they’d never get out of the mud. But the men kept singing. And as the now admiral later described it, “Somehow the mud seemed a little warmer, the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away.” Do you know what that was? Hope. Hope.
This is what our world needs: Hope! Do you know how hope starts? With a single word outside a tomb—“Mary.” Then Mary’s voice joined in: “I have seen the Lord. I have seen the Lord!” Then the voices of the other women: “He is risen. He is risen.” Even if no one believed them. Even if it sounded impossible: “He is risen!” Finally, the disciples caught on: “He is risen.” And their disciples and their disciples. No one could stop that song! The Pharisees couldn’t stop it. The Romans couldn’t stop. All the persecution couldn’t silence it. The devil himself can’t stop it. For 2000 years, the song continues. Christ is risen! There is hope in Jesus! No more tears!
So why do we still cry? The song’s not done yet. When she heard her Savior’s voice, Mary hugged Jesus and didn’t want to let him go. She didn’t ever want to lose him again. But Jesus said something surprising: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Jesus’ work of salvation is finished. But the finished product isn’t here on earth. There’s one more stop to go yet. Sin has been forgiven. Death has been defeated. But the tears won’t stop until we get home. To our Father’s house. “Tell my brothers that I’m going home!”
I bet Mary cried again. I bet she cried when Jesus’ disciple James was beheaded—and then one by one Jesus’ disciples were executed for their faith in their risen Savior. I bet she cried when the Christians were kicked out of Jerusalem. I bet she cried when many of her own loved ones didn’t believe this incredible story about Jesus. I bet Mary cried again and again. But every tear reminded her of where she was going: Heaven. The place with no more tears! “In this world, you will have trouble,” Jesus promised, “but take heart, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).
John—the same John who wrote those words—John was the last disciple left. In the middle of this world of tears, Jesus showed John what heaven is like, so that he could tell us. Listen: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). You know how the story ends—with no more tears! So when the tears come, remember you’re not there yet. You have one more stop yet to go.
Until then, who in your life needs hope? The worries and tears of life take our eyes off of Jesus, but hope—real hope—starts with just a single voice: “Christ is risen!” Be that voice. Like Katie Luther, whom in your life needs Jesus? Just look around and ask, “Why are you crying?” When cancer shocks… “Christ is risen!” When children fail… “Christ is risen!” When loved ones die… “Christ is risen!” When guilt plagues… “Christ is risen!” When tears stream… “Christ is risen!” In the midst of the tears, there is forgiveness, joy, hope. In Jesus! He will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Imagine that! No more tears…