Do you remember the first story you wrote as a child? At the start, we learn that stories should have a good beginning, middle and an end. Normally kids stories start “once upon a time” finish with “and they all lived happily ever after.” We learn to love fairy tales and Disney. Then we realise that life doesn’t tend t run like that. People don’t live happily ever after. So the bleakness of life is confirmed by daily diet of East Enders and Jeremy Kyle. Or we continue to escape into fairy tale land, longing for our happily ever after.
Then we come to the Resurrection accounts and we might be left thinking “It’s just another fairy story. Dead bodies don’t come back to life.” So, if that’s you I want to give you an invitation this Easter to take another look at the story.
Come and See
An invitation to investigate the evidence (v1-10)
Mary finds the tomb with the stone move, thinks the body is stolen and in her distress goes and gets Peter and John. They run to the tomb It’s empty but the grave clothes are there, neatly folded. At this, John starts to believe.
Now for sceptics, here are a couple of things worthy of note. First of all, there’s the honest realism of Scripture. Women are chosen as the first witnesses even though in that day and age if you wanted to put forward witnesses you used men. Women were treated as second class. So if you wanted to invent a story you wouldn’t start with them
The account includes those little incidental details that you get with real life biography. There’s John as quicker and outrunning Peter but Peter is more impetuous and runs straight into the tomb without caution. Then you’ve got all three people at different stages and levels of belief , it’s untidy. John is believing something though at this stage it’s unc;lear what, Peter is wondering and Mary is still weeping.
Secondly, note the expectations and responses of the witnesses. We tend to assume that these were primitive people who were likely to clutch at straws like the idea of someone coming back to life but the reality is the opposite. Culturally they are not expecting a one off resurrection. So The evidence is that they look for other possible explanations such as that the story is incomplete.
So for us today, there’s an invitation to investigate for ourselves. We can use our minds to enquire and think about the Gospel claims. If you want tos tart investigating, why not give our First Look or Rooted courses a try. Other god starting points include books like Tim Keller’s The Reason for God and CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity.
But this is an incomplete account so far. Yes, the tomb is empty, yes the grave clothes suggest it wasn’t robbers. We also know the Romans had done a thorough job of killing Jesus, resuscitation in the grave is unlikely. These things move them towards belief
But, Peter is still wondering and Mary is still weeping
An invitation to meet with the risen Jesus (v11-13)
Mary returns to the tomb still weeping. Not even angels can get through to her. Here’s a little side point. Mary doesn’t just respond to the appearance of angels. You know. We can always fin ways to explain away the weird and wonderful. The Bible doesn’t think we can be fobbed off by a few conjuring tricks and so if your expectation is that Christians will try and convince you with a few healing rallies and such like, then that’s not God’s way.
Something deeper, something greater happens. She meets with Jesus. He calls her by name This is the incredible thing about he Gospel –we are not talking about some theory, it’s not evidence just to prove a historical event one way or the other. It’s a meeting with a real person. Objectively, these people met a real, physical, breathing, eating, talking man. They were convinced of his resurrection. They were so convinced that they too were willing to die for this message.
The risen Jesus is someone you can know. Meeting him changes lives.
He brings forgiveness
He brings healing
He brings hope
Go and Tell v 14-18
Jesus tells Mary “Don’t cling onto me” The sense is that you don’t need to and you can’t. You can’t because he is not controllable. You don’t need to because he won’t desert you, fail you, leave you on your own.
Instead, she is told to “Go and tell the others – “my brothers.” Go and tell starts with encouraging the immediate disciples with the good news but will soon ripple out to the whole world This is not good news to keep to ourselves Jesus commissions his followers to tell others
Have you come and seen –have you met Jesus?
Will you go and tell?