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50 Days — The 7 Post-resurrection Sayings of Jesus: Who are you looking for?

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In Christ’s first post-resurrection appearance to Mary, we find the Gospel story in microcosm. We learn here that faith rests in truth, comes by grace, and works through love.

Notes & Transcripts
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Who are you looking for?
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Theme: In Christ’s first post-resurrection appearance to Mary, we find the Gospel story in microcosm. We learn here that faith rests in truth, comes by grace, and works through love.
Theme: In Christ’s first post-resurrection appearance to Mary, we find the Gospel story in microcosm. We learn here that faith rests in truth, comes by grace, and works through love.
Last Sunday we celebrated what is rightly called the Festival of the Resurrection. It commemorates what Christians believe is the most momentous event in the history of the world. Jesus, who is God incarnate, rose from the dead after accomplishing God’s redemptive work by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners condemned unclean. Then, 3-days later, rising from the dead.
Last Sunday we celebrated what is rightly called the Festival of the Resurrection. It commemorates what Christians believe is the most momentous event in the history of the world. Jesus, who is God incarnate, rose from the dead after accomplishing God’s redemptive work by dying on the cross as a substitute for sinners condemned unclean. Then, 3-days later, rising from the dead.
In my 40 years of ministry I have used the Lenten Season to preach on the great themes surrounding the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. The “seven sayings from the cross” have frequently been center-stage in that preaching. There is always much anticipation leading up to Good Friday, and Easter. It arrives and we celebrate with a renewed spiritual intensity. And rightly so. Then, like most churches, we quickly move on to other themes after the celebration of Easter Sunday. This year, as I re-read the story of Christ’s Passion, I came under the conviction that I needed to look at, and preach about, the post-resurrection sayings of Jesus.
In the first 40 days after the resurrection Jesus appeared to both individuals, and groups of individuals — large and small. He spoke words that we need to hear, and to think about. Then, those 40 days were followed by 10 days of waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples at Pentecost, an event which birthed the church.
It occurs to me, that as Christians, we spend lots of time looking at the week of our Lord’s Passion. We are particularly familiar with the events surrounding his Triumphal Entry and crucifixion. We know the seven sayings from the cross. How many Christians, however, know the seven post-resurrection sayings of Christ? How many Christians have studied that 50 day period after the resurrection? With that in mind were going to take a short break from our trip through the book of Revelation to look at the post-resurrection sayings of our Christ.
We will disc ver that they can be mapped to one of five appearances. The first two sayings correspond to Mary Magdalene, and most likely Mary, the mother of James, and are found here in chapter 20 of John’s Gospel.
Read the text: .
Read the text: .
I. THE RESURRECTION IS RATIONAL
I. THE RESURRECTION IS RATIONAL
ILLUS. Suppose one day next week you go to your mail box and find an envelope from
some law firm. It’s very official looking, and it tells you of a distant relative who has died, and left you a one million dollar inheritance. You check the return address and note that the letter is not from Nigeria. You’re probably going to have two feelings simultaneously. The first is great joy at the possibility of your newfound fortune. And, secondly, skepticism — is this real? Let’s face it we live in a day of fraudulent schemes, and scammers are getting extremely sophisticated in the way they bilk money out of innocent people.
But my guess is that you would check it out. You just wouldn’t throw that letter away. Why? Because the offer is just to astounding for you not to check it out.
1. the resurrection of Christ is just like that
a. you might be skeptical about it, but it behooves you to check out
b. because the offer — if it is true — is just too great to pass on
2. let’s face it — it’s a fantastic story ...
a. a man dies a horrible death, and is pronounced dead by competent authorities
b. he is embalmed, and laid in a sepulcher that is then sealed and guarded
c. a few days later he is reported by a number of eyewitnesses to be alive, whole, and
talking to friends
1) I’ve been to a fair number of funerals, and I’ve stood at many a grave side —
death seems pretty final
3. but in Christ we learn that, though death may have its “sting” that with death comes
victory for the believer
a. the resurrection does not offer believers some kind of vague afterlife experience
1) it offers you a new and perfected body
2) it offers you life in a renewed perfect world
3) it offers you the eternal presence of the living God
4) it offers you the fellowship of the saints — many of them loved ones and friends
4. like the letter promising you a $1 million inheritance from somebody you never have
met it sounds almost too good to be true
A. THE EMPTY TOMB IS AN ASTOUNDING STORY
1. early, on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene makes her
way to the tomb of Jesus only to find the stone removed from the entrance
a. she immediately hurries back to Jerusalem to find Peter, and “the other disciple”
(who is the apostle John) and breathlessly tells them “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
2. stunned, Peter and John both go running toward the tomb, and John out runs him
a. getting their first, John peers into the tomb and sees the linens that wrapped the
Lord’s body lying on the slab
b. Peter arrives, and quickly enters the tomb
1) he also sees the shroud and the face covering neatly folded to one side
3. when the Bible says in that Peter saw the strips of linen lying on the slab,
it’s not the normal word for seeing something
a. it’s a word from which we get our word theorize
1) it means to observe something intently, looking for an explanation
2) it’s the process of trying to find a rational explanation for an event
b. you’re looking at something, and you’re thinking, you’re rationalizing, you’re
investigating
1) Peter is thinking—“How do I explain this?”
2) He’s thinking to himself,
a) “We didn’t take the body. And if we didn’t take the body who did?”
b) “If the Jewish leaders took the body, what did they do with it? And why would
they take it?”
c) “If grave robbers took the body, why would they take time to neatly fold the
grave clothes?”
c. he is reasoning, and so to is John
4. why do I point this out?
a. there are many people today who think that, just because you’re Christian, you have
suspended your reasoning process
1) your lost family members or your lost friends just assume that at some point you
decided to simply believe and throw reality to the wind
2) thinking people often think “How can any rational person believe this story as
literally true?”
3) what’s really sad is when professing Christians don’t believe it
ILLUS. In 2016, Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the diocesan bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of Washington, made headline news when she publically denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus. She bloged: “To say that resurrection is essential doesn’t mean that if someone were to discover a tomb with Jesus’ remains in it that the entire enterprise would come crashing down. The truth is that we don’t know what happened to Jesus after his death, anymore than we can know what will happen to us.”
A few years ago a poll was taken among Anglian clergy in England. A third of Church of England clergy don’t believe in the physical Resurrection. A quarter of people who describe themselves as Christians in Great Britain do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus. When your pastor doesn’t believe it, I suppose you can’t really expect the congregation to believe it either.
5. the Christian faith is not faith sans reasoning
a. if you’re a Christian you need to think about your faith, and you need to think about
this story that your faith is based on
b. if you don’t think deeply about your faith from time to time, your faith will never last
the ups and downs of this world
c. the Christian faith obviously involves more than just reasoning, but does not involve
less
B. THE RESURRECTION IS A REASONABLE EXPLANATION FOR THE EMPTY TOMB
1. there is lots of evidence in the Gospels that point to the resurrection being true—or at
the very least—a reasonable explanation for the empty tomb
a. let me give you the two that are found here in the text
2. 1st, is Mary Magdalene
a. women were the first witnesses of the resurrection, and the first to report the good
news
1) none here this morning would doubt the veracity of Mary Magdalene’s report
2) that was not so in that day
ILLUS. Celsus was an early Greek philosopher and historian who hated Christianity
and regularly wrote against it. One of his main attacks against Christianity was that women were the first and primary witnesses of the resurrection. He wrote, “How can anyone expect rational men to listen to the testimony of a hysterical female?”
b. Celsus lived in an age of patriarchy when the status of women was very, very low
1) in both Roman and Jewish culture women could not serve as witnesses during
court proceedings because their testimony was considered unreliable
a) why is this important?
b) because all four Gospels tell us that the first witnesses of the resurrection
were women
c. at the time this was considered the Achilles’ heel of Christianity
1) if women were the first and primary witnesses of the resurrection event it cannot
be true because we cannot trust their testimony
2) even the Apostles did not believe Mary and the other women’s initial report
“But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (, NIV84)
d. but rationally, this means that the story must be true
1) if the apostles are inventing a new religion, as so many secular historians now
believe, there is no way that women would’ve been part of the story
e. the only rational explanation—the only reasonable explanation—as to why women
figure so prominently in the story is because the story is true
3. 2nd, is changed lives of the apostles
a. their radical commitment to the Christ and his gospel is a reasonable explanation
for the empty tomb
ILLUS. In the years both preceding and following the life of Jesus we know that there
were any number of messianic pretenders among the Jewish people. The Book of Acts speaks to this. When the Jewish leaders were trying to decide how to deal with the burgeoning movement called The Way, one of their leaders cautioned patience. “Some time ago Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men rallied to him. He was killed, all his followers were dispersed, and it all came to nothing. 37 After him, Judas the Galilean appeared in the days of the census and led a band of people in revolt. He too was killed, and all his followers were scattered.” (, NIV84). These were men who appeared making great claims and promising relief from the Roman yoke of oppression. Most of them found ready followers. Perhaps the most famous would be Messiah after Jesus was Simon bar Kokhba. He also gathered an army, led Israel to revolt, but was killed along with most of his followers. I n every situation these would-be Messiahs rose to power, raised armies, were defeated, and that was the end of it. The moment every one of those pretenders died their followers melted away, and everyone said “Nope, not him.”
1) no Jews at the time believed that the resurrection of one person ahead of
everybody else was possible
2) nor did any Jew believe that any human being could be God
b. but when you read the Book of Acts you discover something amazing
1) within weeks and months of the reported resurrection of Jesus Christ you have
hundreds if not thousands of Jewish people believing both
2) their worldview is radically changed
a) they began to worship a man as God—a man they believed had been
resurrected from the dead
c. what happened? Evidence—eyewitness evidence
4. The Resurrection Is Intensely Rational—It’s a Reasonable Explanation of the Empty
Tomb
II. THE RESURRECTION IS MERCIFUL
1. because of the resurrection, Jesus is merciful to sinners
ILLUS. What do you know about Mary Magdalene? You probably know that she was a
devoted follower of Jesus. You know that she was one of the few disciples to be present at the crucifixion. From this morning’s text you know that she is the first of the disciples to come to the tomb of Jesus. We know that she was among a group of women disciples who were patrons of his ministry, and followed him throughout his ministry. Most importantly, Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus cast seven demons out of her.
Mary was a demon-possessed sinner, whom Jesus healed, and she responded by becoming a devoted follower. She saw the miracles, and heard his teachings.
2. now, with her background in mind, look at how Jesus interacts with Mary Magdalene
a. do you see how gentle he is?
3. he begins asking her questions: “Why are you crying?” “Who are you looking for?”
a. the conversation reveals an interesting dynamic between her and the Savior
b. as much as Mary loves Jesus, her thoughts about Jesus are too small
1) she’s looking for a dead Jesus
2) she’s looking for a wonderful rabbi, a gifted teacher, the miracle worker who
changed her life
4. her thinking about Jesus is too small, and so Jesus needs to fully reveal himself to her
a. how does he do that?
1) he simply calls her by her name
b. it’s an incredible part of the story
1) she looks at him, thinks he’s the gardener, challenges him, and doesn’t
understand who he is, but he breaks through and says, “Mary”
5. The Resurrection Allows Jesus to Be Merciful to People Broken by Sin
III. THE RESURRECTION IS PERSONAL
1. Jesus doesn’t merely save us from our sins
a. he saves us and then gives himself to us
2. he shows the world how he relates to us by how he relates to Mary
a. of all the people in the world, of all the people Jesus could have appeared to, he
called her
1) she was the first one to hear
2) she was the first one to see
3) for one brief shining moment Mary Magdalene was the whole church
a) she’s the church’s first evangelist, the church’s first missionary, the only
person who knew the truth
3. when he calls her woman she doesn’t recognize the voice, but when he calls her Mary
she suddenly knows who it is
a. Jesus doesn’t blurt out, “It’s me! Don’t you recognize who I am?”
b. Jesus doesn’t demean her by saying “Stupid woman, how could you not recognize
me?”
c. Jesus simply calls her by name, “Mary”
4. Jesus loved her—he loved her personally, he loved her expensively, and he loved
her eternally
IV. APPLICATION
A. SAVING FAITH IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT AN EMPTY TOMB
1. the Apostle Paul is very clear about this
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (, NIV84)
1. those who don’t believe in the resurrection, will be forced to believe that what did
happen to the disciples was some other amazing event, different in kind, yet of equal force to its electrifying intensity
a. something must’ve happened to them
1) on the Saturday after the resurrection the disciples are hiding from the authorities
thinking that their own crucifixion is eminent
2) fifty days later those same disciples are boldly proclaiming a crucified, but risen
Savior in the streets of Jerusalem
b. how do you explain that if the resurrection is not true
1) if you doubt the resurrection you’re going to have to come up with some
explanation as to the changed lives of the Christians
2. if you don’t believe in the resurrected Christ, you’ll be forced to cling to something else
for meaning in life
a. but nothing else will bring meaning to your life as will a resurrected Savior
B. SAVING FAITH IS IMPOSSIBLE WITHOUT REVELATION
1. I don’t mean to demean Mary Magdalene, but Mary kept missing all the signs of the
resurrection
a. remember, she’s been with Jesus as long as any of the Apostles—she knows
Jesus, and she knows his teachings—including his repeated warning that he must go to Jerusalem, be rejected by the Jewish chief priests and elders, be killed, but rise from the dead after three days
b. Mary heard him over and over and over and over again say, "I'm going to rise from
the dead," but at the moment that has all been forgotten
1) she sees an open tomb, but doesn’t embrace the truth
2) she peers inside the tomb and sees angels, but doesn’t embrace the truth
3) she sees Jesus outside the tomb, mistakes him for the gardener, and doesn’t
embrace the truth
2. it takes the risen Christ revealing himself to Mary, before Mary has the spiritual “ah ha”
moment, and embraces the truth—Jesus is a Risen Savior, not a Dead Rabbi
a. Mary sees all the evidence ... does she say, "He’s done it"?
1) instead she says, "They took it."
2) what’s the point?
b. Jesus in the garden with Mary is a microcosm of the gospel of grace
1) Mary Magdalene never would have found him if he had not come to find her, and
reveal his true identity to her
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”” (, NIV84)
2) do you see? Jesus came to seek us, because we’re not seeking him
3) lost men are not seeking after Jesus, but Jesus is seeking them
“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (, NIV84)
3. saving faith is possible only when Jesus comes and opens your eyes
a. Jesus needs to reveal himself to us because our hearts and minds are too closed
and too small and too sinful to comprehend the Gospel of Grace
b. Jesus saves by grace; which is the message of the Bible
1) Mary is the first person in the world to believe upon the risen Christ
2) Mary is the first person in the world told to go and tell others about the risen
Christ
c. it’s a remarkable story
4. Mary has faith, not because she has found Jesus, but because Jesus has come to her
and revealed himself to her
a. that’s how it was with me, and that’s how it was with you, and that’s how it is for all
who come to faith in the risen Christ
C. SAVING FAITH IS IMPOSSIBLE IF WE CLING TO THE JESUS WE WANT AND NOT
THE JESUS WE NEED
1. the most interesting verse in this passage is
“Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”” (, NIV84)
a. literally, Jesus tells Mary to stop clinging to me
1) according to Matthew’s Gospel she has fallen at his feet, and tightly clenched
her arms around his ankles as if she’s never going to let him go
2) do you blame her?
a) she had just witnessed her Savior tortured and crucified and now he was alive
b) Mary must have thought, "Lord, I lost You once, I don't ever want to lose You
again. I will never let You go!"
3) but here is the problem ...
b. Mary is intent on clinging to the Jesus she wants—the wonderful rabbi, a gifted
teacher, the miracle worker who changed her life
c. but what Mary needs is a Risen Savior who will forgive her sin, ascend into heaven,
and send the Holy Spirit to indwell not only her life, but all who call upon his name
2. like Mary, too many people cling to the Jesus the want rather than the Jesus they need
a. some people want Jesus, the Cuddly Baby of the nativity stories
1) this is a Jesus who is sweet, and smiles, and coos affectionately, and doesn’t
make any demands on our lives—like take up your cross daily and follow me
b. some people want Jesus, the Moral Teacher
1) this is a Jesus who makes the rules, and we’d better abide by the rules or else,
and if I obey the rules better than you do, well ... I’m the better Christian
c. some people want Jesus, the Prince of Peace
1) this is a Jesus who gives you the warm euphoric feeling of inner serenity
d. some people want Jesus, the Goodie-Giver
1) this is a Jesus who gives you the desires of your heart, all you need to do is
visualize it, speak it, and wait for Jesus to deliver
e. some people want Jesus, the Righteous Judge
1) this is a Jesus who makes a whip and delivers judgment to all those horrible
sinners around you
3. the point is, you can’t pick and choose the kind of Jesus you want and cling only to
that part of his character you like
a. you need to take the whole Jesus and that is part of what I think Jesus is telling
Mary
4. and the Jesus you need most is the crucified/risen Savior who will save you from
your sin
CON. Most of you are familiar with the hymn In the Garden. What you may not know is that the hymn is based on Mary Magdalene’s experience at the tomb of Jesus. C. Austin Miles is the hymn’s author. Listen to his description of how the idea for the hymn came to him. “As I read that day, I seemed to be part of the scene. I became a silent witness to that dramatic moment in Mary's life, when she knelt before her Lord, and cried, "Rabboni!" Under the inspiration of this vision I wrote as quickly as the words could be formed. The poem is exactly as it came to me.” Later that evening he composed the musical score. The song was published that same year and became a theme song of the Billy Sunday evangelistic crusades. The chorus tells us almost everything we need to know about Jesus ...
... He walks with me, and He talks with me,
... He tells me I am His own,
... the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.
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