What’s up with that – A man comes back from the dead?
(Why celebrate Easter video 2:33) Easter is the single greatest event in all human history. Jesus’ birth was the Incarnation – God became flesh! His life was a Revelation, a light, for all to see! His death brought, bought, purchased our Salvation completely - His resurrection is our Restoration! His life means death has been defeated! We too can have life!
“Well Greg, when you say “life” just what do you mean? Because I haven’t been experiencing “life” lately as I thought I would be! My life recently has been stress filled, confusing, more happy less than happiness and truthfully depressing!” You aren’t the only one! Turn in your Bibles today to John 20: verse 1. Do you need a Bible? Today would be a perfect day to get a Bible because they’re FREE! I had to get a new Bible! The Word of God will never fade away, but the binding can come apart! Today I break in my new Bible. This is the NIV-New International Version. The NIV is a translation! A translation does not rewrite the Bible. A translation enables a person to read the Bible in a language you understand – that being English for me! So let’s read. John 20: verse 1! Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene (Mary score card-6[i]) went to the tomb…
Ever visit a grave site or cemetery? My wife and I were walking a trail and came across a cemetery. I took a picture of of one of the headstones. It simply read – “Uncle Fred.” Here are a few more. In a cemetery in Hartscombe, England: On the 22nd of June, Jonathan Fiddle Went out of tune. A lawyer's epitaph in England: Sir John Strange. Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange. In a Uniontown, Pennsylvania cemetery: Here lies the body of Jonathan Blake. Stepped on the gas, Instead of the brake.
I think those are funny, but death isn’t funny! Mary Magdalene is not laughing. Sometimes life is NOT good despite the t-shirt slogans and the bumper stickers. Jesus is dead. She’s going to the place of the dead. Let’s keep reading. Read verses 1-2! Jesus is MIA! Actually he’s just M! Jesus is missing! She’s expecting a body to anoint, but there is no body to anoint. Mary does not believe Jesus resurrected. She thinks someone took Jesus away. Peter and John can’t believe what she’s saying. They have to find out for themselves. Find verse 3. (Read 3-6.) Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. Peter is there, but Jesus is not! I’ll say it! A man comes back from the dead! What’s up with that? Are rational people supposed to believe that a dead man can come back to life? John did! So did Peter. John does something at this point and with the rest of chapter 20! Chapter 20 has four bold or italicized headings. Do you see them? The Empty Tomb above vs. 1. Look above verses 11, 19 and 24. Jesus appears to people. Some of those people are Mary, Peter, John & Thomas.
And Mary, Peter, John and Thomas are eyewitnesses. An eyewitness has seen something personally and then reports on what he or she has seen. I personally know the 1968 Ohio State National Championship MVP. I’ve never seen him play but countless others have! His name is Mark Stier. Our very own Mark Stier. One of my best friends in the world actually played football for Ohio State! I have five of his autographed cards – who wants one? Does the name Millvina Dean ring any bells? “She died on May 31, 2009 at the age of 97! Millvina was the last living survivor of the Titanic. She was just 10 weeks old when she was lowered to a lifeboat in a canvas mailbag.”[ii] The Titanic sunk at 2:20 am on April 15, 1912 - 100 years ago next Sunday. Now that Millvina is gone does that mean the Titanic really didn’t sink? With the evidence we have - you’d be out of your mind to think that!
John Chapter 20 references a bunch of people and everyone is different. This room is full of a bunch of people and we’re all different. John wants to present evidence that Jesus is alive! John is literally asking this question, what will it take for you to believe that Jesus isn’t just anyone? – after all he resurrected from the dead! So for the next few minutes let’s look through the eyes of John, Mary and Thomas and see what they saw! John are up first! Go back to verse 6! (Read 6-8) Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. Peter and John are both looking at the same thing! The strips of linen Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used to wrap and seal the ointment to temporarily preserve Jesus’ body! Peter & John are convinced that someone stole Jesus’ body, but the evidence doesn’t match the crime. Most thieves are in a hurry. You don’t tidy up anything. You grab and go. If Jesus’ body had been stolen what shouldn’t be there? The strips of linen. Or worse than that – rip off the linens and pick up a decaying body – which is disgusting not to mention forbidden to a Jew. Peter sees the linens but isn’t convinced. John is another story. Find John 20 verse 8. That’s all it took for John. Once he saw the linens lying where Jesus’ body used to lie he knew no one took Jesus – Jesus just left! But Mary needs more! Go to verse 11. (Read 11-16) Mary needed to hear Jesus’ voice. This wouldn’t have been the first time Mary heard Jesus speak. Look at what Luke said about Mary Magdalene. Read Luke 8:2. The Twelve were with him,  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out… Some things in life are disturbing. A double suicide happened this week in Delaware, OH. 44 year old Roy Weatherford and his 35 year old sister Kara McClenaghan. They placed a note and their driver’s license into a plastic bag and then apparently laid down together on the railroad tracks. The note read, “We are Kara McClenaghan & Roy Weatherford. We are brother and sister. Please call mom. Tell the train guy not to feel bad. He did us a big favor and we wish him peace in life.” [iii] Roy was a rapist and his sister was his victim. This was one messed up couple and Mary was one messed up woman! I mean not one but seven demons possessed her life! How do you think Jesus freed her? Did he touch her shoulder, call down fire from heaven or did he simply speak with authority! “Demons leave her! Mary, you are free!” I don’t know. But what I do know is that once Mary heard Jesus voice she believed. Find verse 18. But the eleven have not seen the Lord. Let’s keep reading! Read verse 19! “I TOLD YOU SO!” That’s what I would have said. Did anyone pick Kentucky to win the tournament? My sweet wife could care less about college basketball, but she not only picked Kentucky but Kansas in the final game. She gives me that sly grin – “I told you so!” I would not blame Jesus if he said, “Geez guys, I only said like six times[iv] that on the third day I would be raised to life!” But that’s not what Jesus said. What did Jesus say? “Peace be with you!” How is it that we can have peace in this world? By believing that Jesus is alive! But, Jesus we have a problem! Thomas was absent that day! John only needed to see the linen cloths. Mary had to hear his voice. Thomas needs more! Find verse 24! (Read 24-28) Thomas now physically and verbally backtracks. He doesn’t actually put his finger in Jesus’ wounds. He’s seen enough and seeing is believing for him! “Greg, that’s what I need!” I went to Israel almost a year ago. Let me show you three pictures. Here’s an olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane. Here’s what many believe was Calvary or Golgotha – the place of the skull. Do you see the eyes? Here’s where many believe is the tomb where Jesus body lay dead 2000 years ago. Here’s another picture. This is one of the massive engines from the Titanic. The boat existed. Jesus existed. He really lived and he really died and he really came back from the dead. But I can’t show you his body because he resurrected. He’s not here anymore! I can’t show you his eyewitnesses because just like the Titanic they’re not here anymore, which is why Jesus said this in verse 29!
Will you become one of those people? If you want to see Jesus’ body then look to his church! If you want to hear his voice then read his word. We are the “those.” We are believers and examples of what God’s forgiveness and grace can do in a person’s life. Can we just cut to the chase! SO WHAT? Jesus came back from the dead! BIG DEAL! Do you want peace? Peace comes to those who believe Jesus resurrected. Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is calmness in the midst of conflict. We have been set free from hostility and can now really live! I did a funeral yesterday for the family of Virginia Foster and funerals are sad. What do you say at a funeral? Either this is it or there’s more to come! Either life ends or just begins! When you crawl into Jesus’ tomb you see this sign on the wall. “He is not here!” On a grave from the 1880s in Nantucket, Massachusetts it says: Under the sod and under the trees, Lies the body of Jonathan Pease. He is not here, there's only the pod. Pease shelled out and went to God. Now that’s what I want to do, but in the meantime let’s really live! John said this in John 20:31! Believing is not only seeing, but believing means life! Choose life! Look at this picture. (WWJD – Jeanna) Now the question is “What are you gonna do?”
[i] Logos Bible Software, ESV, six Mary’s in the Bible
[ii] National Geographic, April 2012, 95
[iii] Columbus Dispatch.com, Randy Ludlow, Double Suicide: Brother, sister die on train tracks, April 4, 2012
[iv] Mark E. Moore, The Chronological Life of Christ, 491