Last week we celebrated Easter, and I wanted to follow its observance with a series of posts titled, The 7 NEXT Sayings of Jesus. Many are familiar with the seven last sayings of Jesus uttered on the cross. But I wanted to focus on the first post resurrection comments from Christ because I felt they were timely and appropriate for where we are in culture today.
While I take credit for the content of these posts, I cannot take credit for the concept. I came across a book by the same title several years ago written by a pastor named Shane Stanford. I liked his approach and immediately thought it had the potential to be an important post Easter series that would help people make the bridge from Easter up to the upcoming summer months.
It’s hard to get a clear read on the disciple’s reaction to the crucifixion. Three times during the last six months of his ministry, Jesus plainly said that he would be delivered up by wicked men who would crucify him, but that on the third day he would rise again. He didn’t make this prediction is veiled terms. He said it plain and simple.
The image that the gospel record seems to convey, however, is that the disciples and those closest to Christ were either hiding in fear or waiting for the Sabbath to pass so they could resume their ordinary existences. John chapter 20 is no exception. The chapter begins with the exciting account of the resurrection, then sharpens the focus on Mary Magdalene who had gone to the garden to finish the burial preparations for the body of Jesus.
Mary is an important character whose story is interwoven through the story of Christ. Some scholars believe that she is the woman famously “caught in adultery” in John 7:53-8:11 (look it up!). Luke reports that Jesus had at one time cast seven demons from her. She had a sketchy past, and her life of loyal devotion is evidence that she had experienced an uncommon transformation. She certainly knew Christ and was as familiar with him as anyone could have been.
The reader is surprised by her surprise that the stone has been rolled away and that the body is missing. She is confronted by a man she assumes is a gardener and inquires where the body of Jesus had been taken. It wasn’t until Jesus spoke her name that she recognized the risen Lord. Sometimes the tears in our eyes can distort the images of reality right in front of us. That is the setting of he first post resurrection saying of Jesus, found in John 20:15, which reads, “‘Dear woman, why are you crying?’, Jesus asked. ‘Who are you looking for?'”
The relevance of the questions are obvious. Like Mary, many of us have spent time, money and energy looking for something or someone who can fill the empty void of life. We find ourselves desperate, having climbed the ladder of life’s meaning only to discover we’ve put the ladder against the wrong wall. In my opinion, Mary’s tears are not just tears of grief. They are also tears of frustration, maybe even tears of anger and disappointment. Disappointments, I’m reminded often, are nothing more than failed expectations.
But with one word Mary experienced a complete reversal. Who are you looking for? The good news of Easter is that Jesus remains beside the tomb, challenging us to look inside and discover the power of a new beginning. And when we think we’ve lost hope we discover that the same hope exists in a way that we could have never imagined.