Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Sunday Message - Why Are You Crying?

In chapter twenty of the Gospel of John, we see Mary Magdalene standing outside the tomb that was the final resting place of her teacher and Lord, Jesus Christ. She had gone there early in the morning to properly prepare his body as was the custom of the time. What she discovered was the large stone that sealed the tomb rolled away and it was empty. She ran back to tell the disciples. All came to see the tomb empty and the only thing remaining were the linen strips that wrapped the body of Jesus.

As the disciples went back to where they were staying, Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb and wept. She looked over at the tomb and saw two angels robed in white seated where the body of Jesus had lain.

The two angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

She explained that someone had taken the body of her Lord away and she didn’t know where his body was taken.

Then, a man appeared and asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

She, thinking that he was a gardener, answered, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

The man then called her by name. It is at that moment that she realized that the man she thought was the gardener was Jesus.

As I prepared for this Easter Sunday message, I began my study in John. The question asked by the angels and by Jesus caught my attention. I had read the passage repeatedly over the course of decades, but the question never really sank in until I felt the Holy Spirit moving inside me.

Human beings are one of the few animal species that weeps when they are sad. According to an article in the December, 2017 edition of the Smithsonian Magazine, human beings are the only species that weeps when expressing emotion, such as grief or joy. It is the one thing that makes us human and expresses our deep humanity. We weep when we are happy or sad. Our tears are the outward sign of the pain or joy we feel inside. I have often said that tears are the blood of the soul. When we are injured, our spirit bleeds tears.

The question is even more profound today. As we endure each day of the pandemic, we see the increase in the number of the dead. According to the Presidential taskforce, we all, in time, will be touched in some way by this ravenous foe called COVID-19. Friends or family members may die from it and we will weep for them.

But, just as Mary realized that the gardener was Jesus, her tears of pain and sadness soon turned to tears of excitement and happiness. In just about the blink of an eye, things changed from grief to gladness and from sorrow to serenity. 

We, too, weep for those who have succumbed to this fearsome foe, but, in time, our grief will change as we see our loved ones again. That moment came to us in the gift of salvation from the hand of the Father through the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, as an atonement for our sins. 

In chapter twelve of the Book of Hebrews, the author, speaking of Jesus, wrote, “But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

Under the old law, we would have to offer up sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice to satisfy the law and atone for our sins. When you consider our sinful nature, there aren’t enough animals in the entire world to offer up to cover the sins for just one individual.

Jesus came into the world to save it and gave his life as our one and only sacrifice for all time. We weep for the moment when he commended his spirit into the hand of His Father. But, as we witness the miracle of the resurrection, our tears turn from grief to gladness. Because of his sacrifice, death no longer has a sting or the grave...a victory over our lives.

It is only through the blood of Jesus that we are able to face tomorrow and it is only through his sacrifice that we have the promise of eternal life with our Heavenly Father. Our lives were never meant for this world. We live to serve and to preach the message of the Good News. We are here to share with those who walk in darkness the joy of a peace that surpasses all understanding.

When Jesus asked Mary Magdalene why she was crying, Mary paused for a moment and realized that she did not need to weep in sadness. Her tears became tears of joy. It was that question that got her to think and remember the words that he had shared with all. 

Paul, in chapter fifteen of his first epistle to those in Corinth, writes, “So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back.

Don’t concentrate on the moment of death and let it consume your life. Look to the moment when we will all, like Jesus, be raised from the dead. We will be transformed from perishable to imperishable in that moment.

We will then behold the face of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, and he, as written in the Book of Revelation, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Let us each day express our joy in the Good News and weep in joy for those who have gone on to be with Jesus. In Jesus’ last moments on the cross, one of the criminals asks him to remember him in paradise. Jesus looks over to him and assures him that he would be with him in paradise. Although there was probably no one there to weep for him, we, as his Christian brothers and sisters, weep tears of joy for him knowing that he was saved in that moment by realizing Jesus as his Savior.

When we share the precious gift embodied in this Easter Sunday, we give each person we minister to a gift that will allow them to stand firm in His grace.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

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