Death And Beyond–Sunrise 2014


John 20:1-18, NLT

Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved. She said, “They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed— for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then they went home.

11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”). 17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.

First of all Mary went to the tomb to find a body, not an empty grave. When she found the tomb empty, she was very disturbed. She was already in deep grief and now everything is made worse because the body is missing. Her first conclusion is that someone has illegally taken the body and thus her Mission is to find the body. June and I are watching a Sunday night soap opera called “Crisis” where the bad guys stay at least one step ahead of the good guys. Jesus, the good guy, was several steps ahead of His followers. The reason Mary found an empty tomb was that Jesus was alive and walking around. He simply borrowed the tomb for three nights but  time was up and He no longer needs a tomb but that does not dawn on the disciples are the women, not at first. Their first reaction was, “Someone has taken the body and moved it.”

Jesus had the infinite ability to see through things and see beyond the present crisis. When he looked at the cross, He saw the agony but He also saw beyond the cross and He could see the joy awaiting Him after the cross was history. Things that depress us did not bother Him because He could see through them. We operate in a cloud, a fog called the present. We can see the present but we cannot see the future. Oh yes we can dream but we cannot predict, not accurately. I picked up a book at the Associational office; they were there for the taking due to the passing of one of our pastors. It is a book written and published in 1962 by Wayne Dehoney.  Chapter one was on the rise of communism as a threat to our existence. I was 13 years old when this book was published and I do remember the cold war and the threat of communism. I remember Khrushchev’s lifted fist and words, “We will bury you.” He made that statement while on American soil. He said, “I prophecy that your children [my generation] and your grandchildren [Joe David’s generation] will live under communism.” Khrushchev could not prophecy because he could not see through. He could see the present but he could not see the future and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Wayne Dehoney was a good man but practically everything he predicted did not materialize, why? Because we see but we do not see through. We can see present problems and we have some idea of where these things are going but the bottom line is that we can only guess about the future. Communism may still be a threat but Islam seems to be the biggest threat and the major difference is that our leadership in Washington sees nothing wrong with Islam and they did recognize that communism was a threat.

Mary saw an empty tomb but she didn’t see through, in time she did but only after Jesus showed Himself to her. David said, “Sorrow may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” We have to see through the darkness, the gloom and the only way to do this is to take Jesus at His word. Jesus predicted His death and His resurrection. The disciples did not have or need the infinite ability to see through, all they had to do was believe what Jesus said but they did not listen nor believe.

Most of us have never had a day go as bad as Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus and all the other women who followed and supported Jesus. Their world was set on Jesus; a part from Him, they had no life–He was their life. They saw the life crushed out of HIM and it devastated them. The only thing they had left was a memory and that was connected to a grave. When they found the empty tomb, it intensified their grief. I hope you and I never see the horror they saw at Calvary. I hope we never feel the lost of hope they felt but even in our difficult and dark situations we need to cling to Jesus promise that we have a future in the Father’s house. Whether you see that house clearly is not important, the important thing is that you trust Jesus because He is the way to the Father’s house and yes, the way leads through a tomb but the tomb is actually a door. You may say, “Well, it looks like a grave to me and dead people look dead,” I know, the grave looks the same to all and yes death looks like the end but Jesus says it is the beginning not the end. You have to decide, are you going to trust your senses or in His word? If you can’t see through death, trust Jesus: He has been there and back and now beyond.