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Vigil of Easter Vigil of Easter

"Where have they laid Him?"
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Vigil of Easter

Posted on Tue, Mar 29, 2016

John 20:1-18

March 26, 2016


Vigil of Easter

Gospel Text: John 20:1-18

The Resurrection of Jesus

Early 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. 2 So 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.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The 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. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and 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. 13 They 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.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ 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.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (Which means Teacher). 17 Jesus 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.” ’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.



We read the Easter Lesson from John chapter 20 today, because Mary Magdalene came to the tomb “while it was still dark.”


But I like this version of Easter morning because it is the most personal resurrection story.


We can hear John 20 as a drama in two scenes.


 Scene 1: Mary, Simon Peter, and the Other Disciple (presumably John): Darkness and light are important themes in John, remember Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night to Jesus’ claim, “I am the light of the world.” Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark -- perhaps she simply couldn’t wait until daylight. There is no indication that she brought ointment to anoint Jesus’ body, but she knew Jesus wasn’t alive. She had been there when he died (John 19:25), and was possibly with the group that prepared Jesus’ body for burial. When she saw the stone rolled away she didn’t shout, “Christ is risen!” She didn’t assume there was a resurrection; even though Jesus told them three times He would be arrested, suffer, be crucified and rise on the third day. But it also isn’t as if the concept of resurrection was far from her heart, it was only recently that Jesus raised Lazarus from a four-day stint in a tomb, complete with burial bandages…


However, after seeing the empty tomb, in confusion not faith, she ran to tell Simon Peter and ‘the other disciple,’ the “one whom Jesus loved.” We last saw this unnamed disciple at the foot of the cross with Jesus’ mother. He is the only disciple who stayed with Jesus through the crucifixion (John 19:26-27).


Upon hearing the news that the stone that ceiled the tomb had been rolled away, only then did the two disciples run to the grave. But what were they willing to believe as they ran to the empty tomb?


The “other disciple” looked into the tomb, but didn’t enter. As expected, Peter immediately went inside.


They notice the clothes ‘neatly’ folded in place, not thrown around as if Jesus’ body was suddenly stolen or there was a big commotion. When Lazarus came out from the tomb, his face was still covered by strips of clothes… what could this say about Jesus?


Simon Peter saw all these details, but gave no response. When the other disciple went in, “he saw and believed.” Both disciples returned home. There’s no indication that they ran to tell anybody. But how could they keep news of what they witnessed silent? …


The brave boys leave the scene, and Mary is left alone. She peeks into the tomb again; is she expecting to see something different? Kind of like when we put something away, very aware that we put it away, but ‘just in case’ we may still return to open the drawer to see if the object we put away hasn't moved, or is in fact in the place we know we put it… a sign of growing older I suppose.


But she looks in and this time the scene IS different, there are two angels in white, sitting where Jesus’ body was lying. The strange fact to me is that Mary isn’t startled; she only continued to cry, until one angel asked her a most ridiculous question, at least from an angel’s point of view… (We have to remember that the word, “angel” means, “messenger” and they knew the message they were to proclaim as if it was natural and inevitable…) JESUS HAS INDEED RISEN! “How come you, so-called followers of Jesus, don't understand this? He, Himself, TOLD YOU!”


Still locked in human understanding, and not recalling the prophecy Jesus had promised them about His resurrection, she said a most human-based statement, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’


I wonder if the angels rolled their eyes back in dismay, or began to giggle because, just as she was speaking, Jesus came up from behind…


Maybe because her ever gifted, “eyes-of-faith,” were filled with tears, she mistook her resurrected Lord for the gardener…


After a short awkward conversation, it wasn't until Jesus called her by name, “Mary,” that she understood that she indeed had been speaking to her crucified and risen Lord…


Can you imagine what it must have felt like hearing our Resurrected Lord say your very name in a moment like this… Like Mary, my first instinct would also be to want to ‘hold him’ and not let go! …  


And then, we hear Jesus make a painful and almost unimaginable request of Mary, “Do not hold on to me…” Jesus gives a reason, but it seems so ethereal, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.” What could Jesus mean by this command?


Theologians are all over the map trying to explain Jesus command, but let me tell you what I think it means. No matter what Jesus told Mary and the other disciples about his death and resurrection, after they had seen Jesus die, and laid in a tomb, their minds went back to the past, and all the good times they had with Jesus and all the things He had told them. If Jesus was gone, truly gone from them because of death, they would probably long to be with the Jesus of old, they one they had always walked and ate with; the one they remembered and could relate to.


But those times were gone, the ‘historical’ Jesus, was gone and now standing before Mary, was her, was our, was the worlds, resurrected Lord and Savior. With Jesus’ resurrection, sin and death were defeated; the New Age of LIVING IN THE PROMISE OF FORGIVENESS AND RESURRECTION had begun! The Old Adam was dead, and the new resurrected Adam was now alive.


The Greek for Jesus’ words, “hold on” (to me), is more like “cling to someone.” With a resurrected Lord and God, there is no clinging and holding onto the past, or the ‘historical’ Jesus. The old ‘historical Jesus’ is gone, and now we walk with the Resurrected and Triumphant Jesus, and therefore, we are now a New Creation; and the faithful God of the Old Testament has accomplished all this!  The God who chose and rescued Israel, brought life to the dry bones, and delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego from the fiery furnace accomplished; ALL Promised from the time of Abraham

A new nation of faith will be created when Jesus is risen, and the Holy Spirit fills all of God’s faithful. You can’t cling to the past, you must move on with the gift of that which is new!


No clinging to the past, the past is gone, let it go, and allow the Cross of Christ proclaim to you that you are forgiven, free, and made new to be the Light of God to a world so desperately in need of redemption. There is no reason to cling to the past. No reason to cling to that which is dead. Now is the time to believe to a Risen Lord and Savior, one who can raise you to new life and hope through faith.


Now, don't just stand here, he fed and then go and tell all of God’s people that they are forgiven, reconciled and loved by God beyond all understanding. Amen.



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