The passage from John 20:1-18 is the key point of our faith because it is about the Resurrection. Christ’s resurrection is the basis of our faith. Without it:
- The Gospel would be meaningless.
- Forgiveness of sins would be hopeless.
- Present life would be joyless.
- Godly living would be fruitless.
- Future life would be worthless.
The resurrection of Jesus is like the quiet dawning of a new day heralding the defeat of the night. Our Saviour meets us personally and intimately at unexpected times and places. When we meet Him, our grief and doubt are overcome. We are flooded with joy and peace as we move from sight to faith.
Early on that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary expected to find death, but instead she found new life. We also expect to find death. We know what it means to expect death but find new life. We know what it feels like to follow on Good Friday only to be confronted with Easter Sunday. We have stood there looking into the empty tomb experiencing the impossible. We don’t go looking for resurrection. It finds us.
Jesus’ resurrection is about God loving us so much that He is willing to go to any length to find us in all the wrong places. Like Mary, we go looking for God in the familiar, in the places where we expect to find God. In Jesus’ resurrection God finds us when we are down and out, when we are at the end of our rope, when we have lost hope. God rolls back the stones that bind and confine us. He stands waiting with a familiar voice that calls us to new life and to “go and tell.”
Jesus opened up a new relationship for us through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. No longer do we have to go through a high priest to seek atonement for our sins. Jesus became the final sacrifice for our sins. He has given us free access to God the Father, to whom we can come in times of need.
There is something about a living testimony that gives us courage. Once we see someone else emerging from life’s dark tunnels we realize that we, too, can overcome. In the eyes of humanity, death was still the black veil that separated them from joy. There was no victory over this enemy. It invaded every human, convincing us that life was only meant to end abruptly and senselessly.
Jesus revealed the true nature of death. It was on the Cross that the showdown occurred. Jesus was tired of seeing humanity fooled by death. He entered the dark tunnel of death to prove that there was an exit. As the world darkened. creation held its breath. Jesus emerged from death’s tunnel, lifted a triumphant fist toward the sky and freed us from the fear of death. Even though demons, darkness and death have been defeated, they continue to fight against everything God has created. We don’t have to worry though. Jesus is alive with a new kind of life that He wants to give to all believers.
Two different ways of seeing are depicted in verses 5-8. Both John and Peter viewed the facts-the tomb was empty, with the burial cloths lying there. But the text implies that John saw at a deeper level; he believed. Today, the tomb still stands empty, and people still can “see” the evidence. But not everyone believes that Jesus has, in fact, overcome death and provided the only way to eternal life.
John saw the empty tomb and folded grave clothes and believed that Jesus was alive. Love brought him to faith. Later, Jesus explained the Scriptures that testified to His resurrection-teachings the disciples didn’t understand during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Many of us came to faith in the same way. We believed in a God whom we knew only in a small part, and we recognized that our faith was incomplete. As we grew older, our faith deepened and our ability to talk about it grew but looking back we understand that there was something wonderful even about our immature faith.
Jesus appeared to Mary to comfort all who have become penitent believers after leading lives of sin. It was meant to show them and us that no matter how far we and they have fallen, we and they are raised to complete peace with God if we and they believe the Gospel.
Why did Jesus tell Mary not to hold on to Him? There are three possible answers:
- Having accomplished the sacrifice, He was on His way to present the sacred blood in heaven. Between meeting Mary and another meeting referred to in Matthew 28:9, He had ascended to heaven and returned.
- Mary was to become His messenger-the messenger of the Resurrection.
- He merely meant, “Do no detain me now; I am not yet ascended. You will see me again; run to my brethren.”
Jesus told Mary, “Do not cling to me,” because He had not yet ascended to the Father. Exactly what He meant is not certain, but He did have an assignment for Mary: “Go to my brethren and tell them the Good News.” Jesus commanded His followers not only to pray but to go out and serve and witness. Christians are the conduits of His love to others. Just as Jesus told Mary not to hold on to Him, He tells us not to hold on to the things we cherish. We must go and tell people about the Good News. Rather than allowing her to cling to Him, Jesus sends her on a mission to tell the others what she has seen and heard. Like Mary, we are sent forth to announce that Jesus’ body is not in the tomb. He is with the Father in resurrected glory.
In His resurrection, Jesus broke the bonds of sin and death and the limitation of space, time and the weaknesses of earthly existence. By the power of God He has brought forth a new creation, a new order. He is now returning to His Father. Mary is to cling to Him when this journey is completed and He is in perfect union with the Father. Through the Holy Spirit, she will then live with Christ and “cling” to Him as her permanent place of abiding.
Part of proclaiming the Good News includes telling people that God is their heavenly Father. He isn’t a tyrant who blesses us when we are good and curses us when we are bad. He is a loving Father who loves us unconditionally.
We do not worship a dead god but a living Lord. We worship a God who has placed all our burdens on Himself. We don’t have to find Him because He never loses us. He promises that if we see, Him, we will find Him as He comes to us. We are never lost from His sight. We may not see Him but He is always there, even sometimes from behind.
God does lead us from behind at times and we can feel that we have lost Him. But like Mary, when Jesus calls our name even from behind, we will recognize His voice. We must remember to keep seeking Him and desiring to be with Him even if He seems to be missing. We have not lost Him because He can never lose us.
So how do we get close to God and keep close to Him? First, we do so by prayer. The person who keeps close to God is the one who is always talking to God. Second, we do it by constant study of the Scriptures. God’s word is alive with meaning, and when we read it, something will happen to us. Third, we do it by sharing with others. Nothing is ours if we do not share it. When we share, the things go deeper inside us. We have to share what God is doing, both with our fellow Christians and with non-Christians also. In the four Gospels, half of the references to people running occur in the Resurrection stories. Their urgency was due to excitement. Jesus’ disciples today should retell the story with the same excitement.
All Jesus wants from us is our hearts. He longs for our lives. In return, He will be with us everywhere and all the time. He will be with us in the good times and in the tough times. He doesn’t promise that we will be immune from the problems of this life. He does promise that He will go ahead of us. He meets us along the way of life’s journey. Sometimes the harsh realities of life are so overwhelming that we forget Jesus is alive. He has conquered death, and our future is safe in His hands.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1477-1478)
- The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
- Fredrikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 269-275).
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; p. 1498)
- Steven Davey, “Then Comes the Good Part.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- “What Jesus Most Longs For.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor David J. Risendal, “Christ is Risen.” Retrieved from StPLC.org
- Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for John 20:1-18.” Retrieved from lectionary.org
- Pastor David McGee, “Out of the Mire.” Retrieved from crossthebridge.com
- “Whom Are You Seeking?” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Pastor Jim Collins, “Father God: Protector and Provider.” Retrieved from BeyondPopsitiveThinking.org
- “Jesus Lives.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Charles R. Swindoll, “Not to Worry…He’s Risen!” Retrieved from insightforliving.ca
- The Reverend Deon K. Johnson, “Practice Resurrection, Easter (C)-2016.” Retrieved from episcopaldigitalnetwork.com
- Pastor Greg Laurie, “A New Relationship.” Retrieved from harvest.org