What They Saw

Easter Sermon, April 17, 2022

Pastor Jack Davidson

Mary Magdalene has the high honor of being not only the first person to see the risen Jesus, but the first person in history to proclaim, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).  The early disciples believed in the resurrection because of what they SAW. Look at chapter 20. Look at verse 1, Mary “saw the stone had been taken away from the tomb (John 20:1)” Look at what John says about himself in verse 5 “And stooping to look in, he saw the linen clothes lying there.” And then again in verse 6 the same is said about Peter “He saw … and then look at verse 8 as John describes himself, he says that “he saw and believed.” And then look down to verse 20 – “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.” And look down to verse 25 and their witness together to Thomas, “We have seen the Lord.” And what is Thomas’ response?  “Unless I see…”  So, John is ending his gospel just as he begins it! From the very beginning of his gospel, he emphasizes the importance of the early disciples’ eyewitness accounts. What they saw. Go back to beginning of his gospel, when he first speaks about Jesus in John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, …”   We saw His glory.

But it obviously took more than seeing, because they had to be led by God to understand what they saw. And that is why we are looking at these verses about Mary’s experience that morning.  And her experience makes it clear to us that it is more than that she was, or the disciples were, eyewitnesses, but that she was, and they were, eyewitnesses to something so unthinkable and so unimaginable   and it was beyond and defied all human explanation and effort to comprehend.  And they could not really understand and we cannot really understand Jesus, without Jesus Himself making it known to us. In these verses we just how DEVOTED Mary was, and we see how DETERMINED she was. But in these verses, we also see ourselves and how can I put it, how DIM, I was going to say DUMB, she was. I don’t want to sound unkind to Mary. I really just want to say something about all of us that we learn from her example.  And that is that only when Jesus, Himself, awakens her does she finally understand.

She is devoted. Look at verse 11, “Mary stood outside the tomb and as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb.” We know of her devotion to Jesus already, don’t we? In John 12:3 she takes expensive perfume and she “…anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.” And in John 20:1 she shows up first at the tomb, early, while it is still dark, and discovers the stone has been moved and it says that she ran back to get Peter and John.  And now here she is crying and weeping outside the tomb when she discovers the stone has been moved. No one could doubt Mary’s devotion to Jesus.

She is determined.  Look at verses 13 and 15.  In the discovery that Jesus’ body is not there, she shows real determination, doesn’t she?   She is going to find his corpse.  What does she say to this man she thinks is the gardener? “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take Him away.” No one could doubt Mary’s determination.

She is dim. Look at verse 14, it says that “she turned around and saw Jesus standing but did not know that it was Jesus.” There is something mysterious about Jesus after His resurrection. He is recognizable and yet not recognizable by His closest friends. He must now reveal Himself to them. Mary does not know that Jesus is Jesus. How devoted and determined any of us might be  and yet even with the facts staring us right in the face, we are like Mary. We are dim!

Do Not Hold Onto Me by He Qi

The facts cannot lead me to Him.  Being an eyewitness such as Mary, having the facts right in front of her, it is not enough for her, it is not enough for us.  We need His interpretation of the facts, too. Look back at John 20:9. “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead.” They did not understand and we do not understand unless Jesus reveals it to us. Even when Jesus says Mary’s name, what does she call Him? Rabboni or “TEACHER” – You would think He might deserve a little more than that title by now, wouldn’t you?  The world is glad to give Him that title.   “He is a great teacher among the great teachers of religion, blah, blah, blah.”  Mary’s response here is like Peter’s at the Transfiguration, which must have certainly been a magnificent and majestic scene, even comparable to the resurrection- to see the Lord Jesus transfigured and glorified before his very eyes and in the company of Moses and Elijah. And do you remember Peter’s response? “ Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (He did not know what to say …)”. Mark 9:5-6

My senses and feelings alone cannot lead me to Him. Look at verses 17-18 and what happens to Mary in the next moment.  It would seem that she tried to embrace Him or reached out to Him in some way. “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to My Father.”  She longs to take hold of Him – but He stops her, doesn’t He?  What He means I think by “Do not hold on to me …” is “Don’t treat me now as if according to your senses alone you can know me now as I am. /// Jesus is, in effect saying, you cannot simply understand me according to your senses alone anymore. The old relationship with Me is over, you must not think of Me in the same way. We’re not picking up where we left off.” The resurrection was more than a return to old life. Mary sees His body but has not yet seen beyond His body.  His resurrection to her seems like what happened with Lazarus. /// She was acting as if what she is seeing, exhausted the extent of her master’s victory over death. But so much more had happened! What had happened?   The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 1:3 “He had provided purification for sins.” In Hebrews 10:14 it says “By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” The disciples are eyewitnesses, they wrote down not only what they saw but thank God that by His grace and Spirit they wrote down exactly what it all meant.

I need Jesus to help me to know Him as He truly is. At opening of his gospel, John 1:18, John says something that underlines how absolutely dependent the disciples were and we must be on Jesus for the explanation of everything about Him. John says this: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him know.” You could argue that John 1:18 is the important verse in the Bible, maybe the most important words in all the world. There is no philosophy, there no philosopher, there is no science, there is no scientist, there is no religion, there is no teacher of religion, there is no school of thought or education, there is no educator, there is no one who can show God to you. None of them can take you into the unknown world. There is no one who possesses the true knowledge of God.  Only Jesus! And the only way you can ever know God is to put yourself in touch with these facts but not without putting yourself in touch WITH JESUS Himself.  If you have not before, come to Him now if you have never done so before, confess to Him how dim and dumb and lost you are! Whatever you have heard or been taught before by the world, /ask Him to show you who HE REALLY IS: The Son of God risen up with healing in His wings for all who look to Him and believe in Him!

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