Who Are You Looking For?
“Who are you looking for?”
It’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
Maybe someone has asked you that while you scan the stage to see where your child is standing for the concert or scan the court or field looking for her.
Maybe someone has asked you that question when you walked into an office you have never been in, looking for a particular doctor or loan officer or the like.
Maybe you have been asked that as you are scanning the crowd of people coming through security at the airport, excitedly trying to find the person you love who is coming home.
There may even have been a time when you were asked that by a clerk at a store or a theme park or zoo as they saw you panicked and searching for your child who wandered off.
There are lots of different times we find ourselves searching for someone—maybe we are searching for love or searching for a good friend. Perhaps we are searching for a new contractor or a new dentist.
Those can all be good and necessary pursuits—there is nothing necessarily wrong with any of those things.
However, as we look at the resurrection account this morning, we find Jesus asking that same question: “Who are you seeking?”
I want to ask you that same question this morning. In light of the events of Easter, I want to challenge you to seek the risen Savior most of all.
As we look through John’s account of the day Jesus rose from the dead, we are going to see at least three different groups of people who demonstrated that they were seeking Jesus.
Their example will help us see what it looks like to seek after Jesus.
We are picking up at the end of John 19:38-42, which puts us right after the events we concluded with on Friday night.
Jesus had been put on a cross to die. He declared that he had finished the work necessary to pay for our sins, and then he died.
We didn’t read this Friday night, but they confirmed that he was dead by putting a spear in his side.
With Jesus now dead, it seemed like everything was over for the disciples and those who had hoped in Christ.
Yet, even in these verses, we find people seeking the Savior who would rise.
Read through them with me...
As we look at Joseph and Nicodemus, we are challenged to seek the Savior even...
1) When it is costly.
1) When it is costly.
This really is a beautiful passage of Scripture.
Jesus is dead, and in those days, the family and friends would have been responsible for the burial.
As we said Friday night, Mary was likely a widower and Jesus didn’t have any real money to his name, so they were likely fairly poor.
A man named Joseph of Arimathea comes forward to offer his tomb for Jesus’s burial.
John tells us he was a secret disciple of Jesus, meaning he followed Jesus but didn’t want anyone else to know.
That was important because, when you put together everything the other gospel writers say about this man, you find that he was a wealthy member of the Jewish council—you know, the group that just had Jesus put to death.
If he had publicly outed himself as a disciple, he risked his reputation, his influence, and possibly even his life.
Yet, now that he has watched Jesus die, he cannot stay secret anymore.
He offers his own tomb as the place where they can lay Jesus’s body to rest.
What Joseph couldn’t have fully understood was that Jesus only needed to borrow that tomb for a few days; he wouldn’t be in there long.
However, Joseph sought to honor Jesus, even when it was costly.
It would cost him his reputation, it would cost him his influence, he became ceremonially unclean because he touched a dead body, and it even cost him financially to give up this fresh-cut tomb.
Yet, for Joseph, it was worth it.
This may be the first John had mentioned Joseph, but it isn’t the first time he mentioned his friend Nicodemus.
In fact, this is the third time we have seen Nicodemus in the book of John.
He too is a member of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin.
In John 3, he is sneaking up to Jesus by the light of a fire, asking questions at night that he was too afraid to be seen asking Jesus.
It is the conversation with Nicodemus where Jesus explains that he will be lifted up, just like he was on the cross.
It was the conversation with Nicodemus that gave us the most familiar verse in the Bible:
For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
We see Nicodemus in John 7. This time, he still isn’t willing to own that he is a follower of Jesus, but he is at least defending him.
However, just like Joseph, what Nicodemus has seen and heard has convinced him that Jesus is the Messiah God had promised to send to his people.
He can’t stay silent anymore, so he brings a large amount of spices to use for Jesus’s burial.
We don’t know what the process looked like for Joseph to come to Christ, and we only know a little bit of Nicodemus’s story, but here’s what we do see: when the time came, they were willing to seek Jesus no matter what it cost them.
We are faced with that same question this morning: Am I willing to seek Jesus, even when it is costly?
Let me promise you this: truly following Christ will cost you. It costs you the right to your own time, your right to your own possessions and finances, your right to your talents and abilities—all of those things are gifts from God, and seeking Christ is going to cost you.
It may cost you friends, it may cost you money, and it may cost you any number of things.
Are you willing, like Nicodemus and Joseph and countless others in the last 2,000 years, to seek Jesus when it is costly?
Who are you seeking this morning? It is someone to validate you, someone to make your life easier, or is it the risen Savior who sacrificed himself for you and calls you to seek him?
Now, we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet. By the end of chapter 19 Jesus is still dead.
Let’s pick up in chapter 20:1-10 and see that we need to seek Jesus...
2) When it is surprising.
2) When it is surprising.
Everything about this story is surprising.
The morning hasn’t even hardly gotten underway, and the ladies are already en route to the tomb to properly prepare Jesus’s body to be laid to rest.
However, when they arrive, Mary Magdalene finds the stone rolled away.
She runs and finds Peter and “the other disciple”—again, likely John— and tells them that someone has stolen Jesus’s body.
What happens next is kinda funny.
Peter and John take off running, but tradition tells us that Peter was one of the older disciples and John was the youngest.
So, John takes off and gets their first.
He stops at the door and looks in and sees the linen cloths lying on the floor of the tomb.
So, not only did someone steal the body, they unwrapped it first?
You can almost picture him as he is sitting there, trying to make sense of it all, when Peter catches up.
He isn’t content to stand there and look, he barrels past John and goes into the tomb to see for himself.
I love the eyewitness detail in verse 7...
When Jesus rose from the dead, the linen cloths that wrapped his body seems to have fallen off, but the one covering his head got folded up neatly to the side.
We can barely wrap our minds about what happened that day, but isn’t it cool to think about either Jesus or one of the angels folding that and laying it aside?
Jesus has risen, and he is never going to need that stained cloth again!
However, this isn’t a rush job where they had to hurry and hide. Instead, it is folded neatly and laid aside.
Now, look at verse 8...
John steps into the tomb, takes it all in, and the Bible says he believes.
Verse 9 indicates that they didn’t fully understand what Jesus had said he would do, or what the Old Testament taught about the Messiah’s resurrection.
However, at that moment, it seems that John began to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead.
He may not have understood it all, but in the middle of the surprise of the empty tomb, John believed.
This story may be incredibly familiar to you, so some of the surprise and shock has worn off.
However, if you are here this morning or listening online and this story is new to you, I hope you are surprised by what you hear.
So often, Christianity is presented as a list of behaviors you should and shouldn’t do, and it is reduced down to a political party or a checklist of issues.
However, here’s the core of what Christianity is all about: you and I have done things God told us not to do and not done things God told us to do. The Bible calls that sin.
Because of our sin, we have built up a debt to God that literally kills our souls, and there is no way for us to fix that on our own.
God knew that, and he loved us so much that he would send his own Son, Jesus, as God in the flesh, to take the penalty for your sin and mine by dying on the cross.
When he rose from the dead and came out of that tomb before Mary and Peter and John and the others arrived, he showed that he had conquered death, having paid for my sin and yours.
Now, in exchange for your death, he offers you his life. We already said that following Christ is costly, but it pales in comparison to what it cost him.
We are saved, made alive, made right with God, not because we do good things but because Jesus has paid our debt and made us alive.
Now, we do good things to honor him and live like he created us to live, not to earn what we don’t have.
That’s the surprising truth of Easter—the tomb was empty because Jesus overcame death itself, not because someone simply stole the body away.
In light of that surprise, let me again challenge you to seek the risen Savior.
We may not have the physical tomb in front of us, but we have the accounts of the men and women who were there, and we believe Jesus has truly been raised.
Seek the one who surprised the world by walking out of that tomb.
Having talked about his own experience at the tomb, John returns to Mary’s story.
We want to see one more person who sought Jesus that day, and through her example, we want to seek Jesus...
3) When he calls you.
3) When he calls you.
Now, imagine being Mary for just a minute here.
You came with your friends to do what you could to honor Jesus, and all of a sudden, you find him gone.
She runs off, finds Peter and John, and they beat her in the race back to the tomb.
It appears they left, and Mary is there at the tomb, crying, confused, and hurting.
Pick up in verse 11...
When she looks in, she doesn’t just see the cloths, she sees angels!
From the way she responds, it doesn’t seem that she even catches what is going on.
She certainly doesn’t respond like people typically do when angels appear.
Now, read verse 14-16...
Oh, can you even imagine this?
We don’t know why she didn’t recognize him, but we know that through her tears, Mary doesn’t understand who she is talking to at first.
Here’s our question, isn’t it— “Who are you seeking?”
I mentioned in the introduction, but this is the exact same question Jesus asked in the garden when he was arrested.
However, the context is completely different.
In the garden before the crucifixion, the crowd was seeking Jesus to kill him.
Now, in the garden after his resurrection, Mary is seeking Jesus to honor him.
She just wants to see to it that this man who saved her and meant so much to her got a proper burial.
Do you see Jesus’s response here?
He doesn’t respond with the powerful “I AM” statement he made in the garden that made the soldiers trip over their own feet and fall back.
Instead, he responds simply by calling her by name.
Some of the first words Jesus spoke after he changed the course of history by rising from the dead were to call one of his followers by their name.
For me, this takes me back to John 10, where Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd whose sheep know his voice and follow him.
Remember, he said
My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me.
That’s exactly what we see here. When he has just overcome the effects of sin on the world, reversing the curse it brought on all creation and proving himself to be the God who is in charge over it all, he calls to one of his sheep by name.
He knows Mary. He knows what she has done, he knows what she will do, and he knows that she is his sheep.
What a beautiful picture is this! Out of all the things Jesus could do after rising from the grave, he takes time to comfort one of his sheep.
As Warren Wiersbe points out in his commentary, there isn’t any rebuke in Jesus’s words here. He simply called her by name and let her see that it was him.
Overwhelmed, Mary simply replies and calls him “Teacher,” because that is how she knew him. He was the one who had taught her who God is and now, he is the one who rose from the grave to save her and show that he was unlike anything that had ever been created.
She clings to his feet, and Jesus tells her that he has to go, but he sends her off on a mission.
She goes off and does exactly what Jesus told her to do.
Look at verse 18...
She went and did exactly what Jesus told her to do.
Can you imagine how different this was from the first time she showed up?
In the early morning, she arrives frantic, heartbroken, and in pain because Jesus was missing.
Now, she returns in joy, not because she found Jesus but because he found her!
She was seeking him, but Jesus came and found her, not the other way around.
Listen: this is what happens any time a person gets saved.
God draws us to himself, God pursues us and invites us to follow him.
You and I aren’t likely to hear an audible voice from God calling you by name, but the same God who called Mary by name in the garden is the one who calls you to himself today.
Are you seeking him? Are you living your life to honor the risen Savior who sought you when you were still a sinner and rebelling against him?
If you are here this morning and have never surrendered to Christ, you might be wondering how you can know if he is calling you to himself.
Let me put it this way: if you are here, and you are understanding these things in a way you never have before, that’s something only God can do.
If you are sensing a conviction that is calling you to stop trying to live your way and call out to Jesus for salvation, then you can trust that Jesus is calling you to himself.
Surrender to him today and find the life that only he can give.
It is costly, and it is surprising, but it is worth it to know that you are following the God who called you to himself.
If you have been saved, are you still seeking him, or have you grown cold in your desire to serve him?
Why not let this day when we celebrate Christ’s resurrection be a day of renewed passion and zeal in your heart for Christ.