Join us every sunday at 9:30 AM

“Don’t Just ‘Go Home’, Tell the Others”

April 9, 2023 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: John 20:1–18

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.


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!).  Dear friends, it’s Easter!  This day we celebrate the most important event in the Christian church.  It also just happens to be the most significant occurrence in the history of the world.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was dead is alive again.  Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!).  Jesus told his disciples that he would rise from the grave three days after he was laid in the tomb and the stone was placed to seal its entrance.  Forget the brightly colored baskets, the egg hunts, the baked ham, and especially the bunny that seems to get a great deal of the attention at Easter.  Christ Jesus, who was crucified has risen from the grave!  And, by his resurrection he has secured salvation for the world and life eternal for those who believe in him.

And this is why we gather together here this morning, to rejoice that God has raised Jesus from the dead and that by his rising we are assured of the coming of the kingdom of heaven.  We believe this because we have the benefit of knowing how the whole story unfolds; the Scriptures tell us that Jesus appears among the disciples nine more times after Mary’s first encounter with the risen Christ.  Yet it certainly doesn’t seem that the disciples and Mary this  morning are initially convinced that the promised resurrection has in fact, taken place.  When Mary first arrives at the tomb and finds that the stone has been rolled away, she doesn’t even look inside.  Instead, she runs back to tell Peter and “the other disciple” that someone has stolen Jesus’ body.  And I submit to you that this is not a terribly inappropriate response to discovering an empty grave.  But then again, we may ask, “why didn’t Mary believe what Jesus told her about rising him from the dead?”

Next, Peter and the other disciple (who is generally accepted to be John, the writer of this morning’s gospel) race toward the tomb to discover for themselves what has happened.  There’s a bit of a footrace to see who gets there first, and John wins.  He goes a bit further than Mary; he at least takes a peek inside the tomb, and sees the burial cloths lying there.  Peter finally steps inside the cave, followed by John.  Both find the funeral wrapping but Jesus’ body is gone.  And the next verse is one of the most misunderstood in all of Scripture; “Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed “.  This line of the passage is often assumed to mean that John ‘believed’ that Jesus had risen.

But hear the verse that follows; “for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead”.  It’s much more likely that what John ‘believed’ is what Mary had told them, that someone had stolen Jesus’ body.  So, rather than take a moment to consider that Jesus was being truthful when he proclaimed to the disciples on several occasions, that he would rise from the dead…they went home.  So much for faith!  These two, along with the rest of Jesus’ first followers have been travelling with him as his disciples for three years.  They witnessed the miracles, saw the healings, listened to the teachings, and heard the proclamation from Jesus’ own lips; “I will rise again on the third day”.  So, did they remember these words and actions and rejoice when they found the tomb empty?  Nope, they went home.

At least Mary remains for a while, weeping in her grief, but it’s clear that she also hasn’t considered the truth of Jesus’ words.  Now, I am aware, as we all are that it was an extremely difficult three days for Jesus’ followers.  This man whom they anticipated would become the promised warrior Messiah come to free them from the oppression they suffered at the hands of the Romans, has instead been put to death by this same occupying force.  So, we ought to give the disciples and Mary the benefit of the doubt when they don’t grasp the reality of Christ’s rising right away.  But even the appearance of two white-clothed angels now sitting in the tomb isn’t enough to induce Mary to consider the alternative; when asked why she weeps, she tells the angels that Jesus’ body has been taken by grave robbers. 

And even when Jesus appears to her and they begin their conversation, she still doesn’t recognize the risen Christ until he calls her by name.  Then she immediately grasps hold of the One she calls “Teacher”, and the truth of the resurrection becomes real.  Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!).  The passage ends with Mary hurrying to tell the disciples that she has in fact, encountered the risen Jesus; what he proclaimed regarding his resurrection promise was absolutely true.  So many different responses to the miracle of Easter, so many assumptions, so many refusals to accept the truth, so much blindness to reality, so little faith.  In this morning’s gospel account of Mary and the disciples at the empty tomb we are witnesses to the varying ways they responded to the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day, the different reactions they had to the Easter miracle.

Some simply disbelieved and “went home”.  Others wept in their grief.  There was a lack of recognition of what was right before them, a forgetfulness of what had been foretold.  There was the desperate clinging to Jesus, an overwhelming need to hold on to the Messiah once he was recognized for who he was.  The overwhelming joy in knowing that Jesus had risen.  And in the end what followed was a rush to tell others that the Good News of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ had happened, just as he promised.  These are the ways the first followers of Jesus responded to the resurrection.  And all of them are understandable, all are valid, all are of them may be attributed to the ways humans behave when faced with that which is difficult to acknowledge.

Now it falls to us, we are faced with the same truth of Jesus’ resurrection and how we respond to this Good News defines our claim of discipleship, our proclamation that we are followers of the Way of the risen Christ.  Do we come to church on Easter morning, shout out a couple of “Alleluia’s” and, like Peter and John simply “go home”?  Like Mary, do we weep with grief, unwilling to believe God’s promise that we too will inherit eternal life through our faith in the risen One?  Do we fail to recognize, to acknowledge the truth that is right before our eyes?  Do we ultimately become aware that Christ is near and that we are also able to cling to him, to gain strength, comfort, and healing by his presence?  And most importantly, do we feel compelled to tell others that Jesus has defeated the grave and that belief in him as the Son of God ensures forgiveness for all the people of the world?

Well, we had better be.  For that is what we are called, we are commanded to do.  It is up to us, we Easter people to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to those around us.  And this proclamation is most effectively declared through our servanthood; we best speak to the message of the risen Christ when we serve those in need.  Jesus gave us the “new commandment” as he met with his disciples during their “Last Supper” together.  “Love one another as I have loved you” he commanded them, and us.  He assures us that by this, people will know that we are his disciples, and in this way we will show that we believe in the promises of God.  And the best way to show our love for one another is through our servanthood.  When we feed, clothe, or shelter one in need we, like Mary are rushing to tell others that we have seen the risen Lord.

Whenever we perform an act of service to our neighbor we display the love of Jesus to them.  Proclaiming the resurrection in this way is how we show that we understand the true meaning of the empty tomb.  Alleluia! Christ is risen!  (Christ is risen indeed. Alleluia!).  This is the most significant event in the history of the world, it’s up to us to ensure that the world knows about it, and we do this by serving others.  Otherwise, the bunny wins.                        
Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, we rejoice that our Lord and Savior has risen this day.  Help us to proclaim this truth to those who need to hear it.  Help us to not be the ones who simply “go home” and ignore the miracle of Easter.  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One whose rising secures salvation for all who believe in the truth of the empty tomb.       

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.