Sermon: He is Risen!
Scripture: John 20. 1-18
Preacher: Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Location: First Presbyterian Church Fort Lauderdale
Date: John 20.1-18
20.1Early 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. 2So 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.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.[1
He is risen! (He is risen, indeed!)
Once upon a time a priest, a pastor and a Rabbi walk into a bar. They’re good friends and they occasionally get together to decompress from their lives in the parish. The Rabbi asked the two Christian clergy, “Say, imagine you’re at your own funeral and you can see what’s going on around you. You see the people, you hear their conversations, and you can see how they’re acting with your loss. What would you want to hear them say about you as they filed past your casket?” Now that’s quite a question, isn’t it? It’s interesting to think about our own funerals and try to guess what people would say. What would you want to others to say about you at your funeral?
Anyway, Father O’Malley thought for a moment and said, “I’d like to hear them say, ‘Here lies Father O’Malley, devoted priest and a lovely friend who was there with me in thick and thin.’”
The Presbyterian pastor, Pastor Bob, says, “I would love to hear my people say, ‘Here lies Pastor Bob who now rests from his labors as a tireless shepherd of his little flock.’”
Now it was the Rabbi’s turn. He stroked his beard and leaned forward towards his friends. Raising his right eyebrow with a glint in his eyes he says, ‘I want to hear my people say, “Ah, here lies Rabbi Schwartz…and look! He’s moving!”
Oh my friends, the Rabbi is the one who figured out the power of the Christian message and promise: He is Risen! (He is risen, indeed!). Father O’Malley and Pastor Bob would appear to have become too familiar with the Easter promise; their everyday work in the lives of their parishioners – counseling parents on the baptism of their children, running a finance meeting, saying an invocation at City Hall, visiting patients in the hospital or even simply trying to keep gossip down among church members – all these dalliances of life obscure the real meaning of their purpose and work which is to point others to the hope and promise of what Easter Day is all about! It took the Rabbi to remind them that, “Hey! Look! He’s moving!” or as those in the Christian tradition proclaim, “It’s that He is risen!” (He is risen, indeed!)
This morning, the one issue, the one question that emerges for me from this text is in verse 15: Woman, whom are you looking for? John’s Gospel is silent on why Mary Magdalene ventured out in the dark and came to the tomb that first Easter morning. Other gospels mention her coming with an entourage of others to help give Jesus a proper burial since they were so rushed on Friday evening as Sabbath began. John’s gospel is different in that it doesn’t mention the other women directly except with an obscure “we” in verse 2. It is silent on why she came so early. All we know is that her love and devotion to Jesus caused her to climb out of bed and explore the possibilities awaiting her at the tomb.
What got you out of bed this morning to come here to worship? Whom are you looking for? What are you looking for?
Peter and the others did not bother to get out of bed. They were not looking for anyone or anything; they were huddled behind locked doors. When Mary runs to let them know the stone has been rolled away (we don’t know if she realizes Jesus is gone yet as the text is silent), Peter and John, also known as the one who Jesus loved, ran to the tomb to see if what Mary said was true. John, the faster of the two arrives first but hesitates to go inside. Peter finally blunders up and charges straight into the tomb. Peter looks around and sizes things up and is silent. John looks around and sees the evidence of the two sets up wrappings where the body once was. One wrapping was for Jesus’ head and the other was for his body. Peter ponders and John believes. Both are appropriate responses. Whom were they look for that morning? A dead Jesus. What they discovered was an empty tomb. And then they do something I never understood very well. They simply went home. They didn’t linger at the empty tomb. They didn’t engage any bystanders as to what might have happened. They just went home.
What got you out of bed this morning? Whom or what did you expect to see? Peter pondered. John believed in something. Yet, they both simply went home.
And then there’s Mary Magdalene, who in our Story this morning becomes the first apostle, the first ‘sent one’. Her love was too deep. Her pain was so visceral. It was only after Peter and John left for home did she in her solitude and her heart’s interior castle of tears peer into the tomb and saw that it was empty. For the first time she is asked, “Woman, why are you weeping?” by two angels inside the tomb. At this point in the Story, Mary only knows that Jesus is gone. She seems to be oblivious to her angelic messengers as well because in most other New Testament accounts, people are falling all over themselves in fear when an angel shows up. Mary, however, is nonplused. She then turns around and walks smack into Jesus himself but again, her sadness is too heavy. For the second time in a matter of minutes, Mary is asked, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Once again, Mary is so focused on her own pain that she fails to see Jesus. Thinking it’s the cemetery gardener she pleads, “If you have taken him away, please tell me where!” And it’s right here that the action grinds to a stop and time is suspended. One arresting word was spoken that penetrated the sobbing woman’s broken heart, grief, and spirit. Jesus spoke her name, “Mary.”
The empty tomb did not cause her to see Jesus.
Seeing the tangible proof like John did was not able to penetrate her psyche so that she could Jesus.
Encountering two angels shining in white was not able to get through her pain.
The very resurrected presence of the Lord himself did not help Mary realize what was going on that morning. It was only after God softly spoke her name that the proverbial scales fell from her eyes and she saw Jesus for the first time.
Beloved, whom are you looking for this Easter morning? Some of you may be like Peter and John and wish you were still back in bed if it wasn’t for the woman in your life who drug you to church this morning! But even Peter pondered once he arrived there and John saw the evidence and believed. I believe that God will use whatever means possible to get us out of bed and face to face with the empty tomb.
Some of you may come this morning and experience something like Peter and you will leave pondering what all this hubbub is about. Some of you like John will have an experience where your love will be rekindled for the Lord and will have a new hope instilled in your life that you have been missing for some time. But what I really want to urge each of you this morning is to pay attention and listen. Listen for the Lord to gently speak your name.
Jesus will meet you where you are and speak your name. Jesus will take you in whatever condition he finds you in and will speak your name. Are you sad or depressed? He’s calling your name.
Are you lonely and despondent? He’s calling your name.
Are you in pain or are feeling miserable in the midst of your treatments? He’s calling your name.
Is your life stuck in a professional Groundhog Day where you’re bored sick and hate what you do? He’s calling your name.
Are you at a critical juncture in your life where you need direction? He’s calling your name!
Beloved, names are powerful things! When someone knows your name, they can grab your attention and speak directly to you in the midst of a crowd. If a person knows your name, there is a conduit for a relationship that’s already there. When a person calls out your name, they are exerting a gentle power of you because they can command your attention and you or I cannot help but listen.
The promise of Easter is that the Great I Am, the God who is, was, and is yet to come, knows each of us by our names! If we would be but still enough to listen, we will hear the resurrected Christ speaking to us in the radio transmitter of our hearts, reminding us, NAME (inserting names from congregation), I am with you even now; I got this for you.
He is risen! (He is risen, indeed!) And let’s add one more thing: this time, say, He is risen, indeed and calls me by my name!
Happy Easter, Beloved.
Patrick H. Wrisley, D.Min.
Senior Pastor & Teaching Elder
First Presbyterian Church
401 SE 15th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
© 2019 Patrick H. Wrisley. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.