Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we do not know where they have put Him.” 3 So Peter and the other disciple left, and they were going to the tomb. 4 The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead, faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first; 5 and he stooped to look in, and saw the linen wrappings lying there; however he did not go in. 6 So Simon Peter also came, following him, and he entered the tomb; and he looked at the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings but folded up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb also entered then, and he saw and believed. 9 For they did not yet understand the Scripture, that He must rise from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. 11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb, weeping; so as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they put Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and yet she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Thinking that He was the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
I love to hear testimonies of how people came to Christ; how they became a believer. Some share stories of dramatic life-altering transformations. While others quietly find their faith under the influence of a Sunday school teacher, close relative or friend. What’s important is that you’ve had the experience. I want to introduce you to a young man from India. Won’t share his name for safety issues. He was a Hindu who found Jason Loyash’s O Morning Star Ministries on the internet. He watched our worship service last Sunday. Jason sent this voice recording to me that evening. The young man has come to Christ. Today’s resurrection passage is not a typical account of someone coming to Christ.
But it does have qualities consistent with most conversions. I want to point them out this morning because recognizing them is useful for helping others come to Christ. Think of it like this. Someone’s coming to your home for the first time and they call you for directions. You start by finding out where they are, what’s their starting point. That’s pivotal for helping people come to Christ. Not everyone starts at the exact same place, spiritually, or emotionally. But there are four fairly common points for people coming to Christ.
- The Confusion
- The Questions
- The Clarity
- The Commission
The Confusion (1-10)
The disciples’ early morning encounter with the empty tomb swirled in confusion. They were disoriented. They were hit with too much new information all at once. It didn’t make sense. Nothing they saw fit their expectations. Peter and John were so overcome that they had to go home. We can understand their reaction. They’d just been through the trauma of losing the man they’d staked their lives on; a man they loved and pledged their devotion too. This is how most journey’s to conversion begin.
- In confusion
People are confused about Jesus because what they know of Him is new information that doesn’t orient with their expectations.
- Less than 50% of Americans attend church (47%)
Perhaps the trauma of their life compels them to look for hope in an empty tomb.
- Stories of a resurrected Savior
But it doesn’t make sense. The humanistic culture they constantly absorb creates an internal environment perfectly suited for confusion in matters of faith. Their social classroom of relativism reserves these passages about a resurrected Savior to the fiction section in the local government library. At the same time there is something, a truth to it that draws them in. How can something so confusing be the least bit attractive? Maybe that’s the attraction.
- Confusion breads curiosity
Is this what kept Mary close to the tomb when Peter and John leave? She was also confused by what she saw, but her curiosity overrides her confusion. Believer, we must be sensitive to those who are curiously confused about coming to Christ. It may be the most critical post in the journey to conversion. Because if we are not careful, we can lead them off the path. Either by taking them to Christ too quickly, too slowly, or not at all. One mistake often made by Christians who are eager to see others come to Christ is to bring them along too fast. In the enthusiasm of their own faith, they want that curiously confused person to come to Christ-now. What they’re actually doing is getting out in front of the Holy Spirit. He is the convertor, we’re just the conversers. If the Holy Spirit hasn’t prepared a person’s heart to receive Christ, that approach will only add to their confusion.
If we move too slowly to help the curiously confused person come closer to Christ, the affairs of life will overtake them once again and the window of opportunity is closed. And if we never speak to those who are curiously confused about the resurrected Christ, that’s just sinful. Willful disobedience.
The Questions (11-15)
But Mary was standing outside the tomb, weeping; so, as she wept, she stooped to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they put Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and yet she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Thinking that He was the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will take Him away.”
The bridge to help someone move from their confusion about Christ to clarity is asking good questions. This is what the two angels and Jesus do for Mary.
- Why are you weeping?
- Whom are you seeking?
Certainly, the angels and our risen Savior knew the answers. Their asking was a conduit for Mary to process what had happened. They we’re drawing out her faulty conclusions in preparation for the truth. She wrongly determined that Jesus was still dead. That His body had been stolen. And the person talking to her was the gardener. Her assumptions clouded her vision. The most effective place to start helping someone understand the truth about Jesus, is to ask them what they believe…what they think about Him.
These aren’t “gotcha” questions. They’re meant to meet that curiously confused person where they are. Jesus met Mary where she was, in the midst of her curiosity and misguided conclusions. When we ask what someone believes about Jesus, and their impressions don’t align with Scripture, we should be ready to offer them a sound biblical response-direction. Right, if someone’s new to your community and they ask how to get to the nearest pharmacy, would you give them the most direct route or meandering instructions that could have them wondering all around town? Sure…they might stumble across it, but risks them staying lost. Also see that Mary enquired something of the supposed gardener.
- “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you put Him, and I will take Him away.”
There was an exchange outside the tomb. The most important conversation of Mary’s life. Because it led her to clarity about Christ. I’ll talk more about this in a moment. Right now, I want to nudge you to ask a question of yourself. When was the last time you had a conversation about coming to Christ with someone who is confused about Him? If it’s been a while, please understand, and I’ve said this before, the Holy Spirit always does the heavy spiritual lifting when someone comes to Jesus for salvation.
True conversions are always God-led; Spirit inspired transactions. If He’s not in the middle of the exchange, it’s a counterfeit conversion. Counterfeit conversions are one of the most damaging injuries to the Body of Christ. Church membership roles are packed with people who had counterfeit conversions. We know this, the evidence is overwhelming, because no one who’s authentically saved by Jesus wants nothing to do with His church. Hears another gentle nudge before we move on. Easter is one of two holy days of the year when people that usually have little or nothing to do with their church; show up. If you fit that description, I want you to hear what I have to say.
I’m pleading with you to have a gut check of your relationship with Jesus. Are you truly saved?
1 John 5:13, reads, These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.
These things…what things?
Verse 11-12, And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
Notice the emphatic knowability of having eternal life…
- … so that you may know that you have eternal life.
The question this morning is, “Do I know I have eternal life?” If your answer is “yes” but I’ve wondered away from the Body of Christ, come back! If your answer is “no” I don’t know, why not be like the young many from India and ask Jesus to be your Savior?
[The Confusion; The Questions]
The Clarity (16)
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
With one word from Jesus, Mary has her moment of clarity. She recognizes Him as He truly is the resurrected Christ. There’s a seismic shift in her perception. Everything Jesus said about His death, burial and resurrection is true. He’s not dead, He was, but He’s not. I don’t imagine her weeping stopped right then. Her tears of sorrow likely intensified with blubbering joy. She had staked her life, faith and love on this man who claimed to be the Son of God. All she had believed about Jesus was verified, now she has an overwhelming clarity about coming to Christ.
We live at a time when clarity about most things is illusive. Two plus two may not equal four and biology doesn’t determine gender. Perception determines gender. Clarity is branded as judgementalism while ambiguity is virtuous. Fluidity over facts. Truth is relative, and saying otherwise could get you canceled by friends and family. This culture of uncertainty fosters an environment that questions if anything can truly be known, or trusted. Finding clarity about Christ is all the more challenging.
This is why the church must raise its voice of biblical clarity. With the moorings of moral absolutes eroding on all sides, this is not the time for the Bride of Christ to recoil into a place of comfortable hiding.
Romans 14:22a, “The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.”
Paul’s message is to know what you believe and believe what you know. If we genuinely believe Jesus rose from the dead that Sunday morning, then we should be willing to stand for all the truths of Scripture. Even the unpopular truths.
[The Confusions, Questions, Clarity]
The Commission (17-18)
Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
With Mary’s clarity about Jesus’ resurrection firmly established, Jesus commissions her as His first missionary. He tells her to “go.” Lesser, false gods demand their followers stay. Bring me an offering and stay. Stay and worship my stone statue, burn incense to my graven image. The longer you stay the more devoted you appear and the more favor you may receive. Our Lord says “go.” Go tell your brothers in your community Jesus is risen.
Ladies and gentlemen, we need to live more like missionaries and less like church members. Church members tend to stay, while missionaries go. I think that’s God’s message to the church coming out of the pandemic. For far too long we’ve stayed. Stayed in our buildings, our traditions, our sacred silos, and our denominational demarcations. It’s time to go; go and tell your brothers that Jesus is risen, He is Lord, He is Savior. Go, so that others may come to Christ. You must go because there is great confusion about who Jesus is. Your brothers have questions and Jesus has given you the answers. Go with the clarity of your convictions Know what you believe and believe what you know. Just go. This is our commission.