Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 April 1, 2018
“Do We See?”
Text: John 20:1-9
What a glad confession we make today: Jesus is risen; He is risen indeed. We focus today on this fundamental fact both of history and of our faith. Let us read one of the Holy Spirit’s account of Jesus’ resurrection—and that through the Spirit-led pen of an eyewitness, the Apostle John. We’ll treat the first half of our text today—and, God willing, we’ll treat the second half next week. Let us now give ear to this portion of God’s inspired, inerrant Word.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We note in our text today three “seeings”—or three different views, and viewers, of the same scene. First, let’s note what Mary Magdalene sees. She arrives to the tomb, made available by Joseph of Arimathea for Jesus, very early in the morning—likely beginning her journey in the pre-dawn. She arrives at the tomb in low, though increasing, light—and from her viewpoint outside the tomb she sees the stone moved away. Moreover, it is not explicit that Mary actually saw inside the empty tomb.
After Mary Magdalene sees the little she sees, she runs to Peter and John with her conjecture, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have taken Him.” They refers perhaps to hostile Jews or to robbers who, in Mary’s mind, took Jesus from the tomb. We refers likely to other ladies mentioned by the other Evangelists—such as Mary the mother of James (likely Jesus’ mother), Joanna, and Salome—whom John does not mention here.
Second, let’s note what Peter sees. On receipt of Mary Magdalene’s report, he runs with John—who refers to himself in his Gospel, characteristically, as the disciple whom Jesus loved—to the tomb. John arrives first—and though he arrives first, he does not enter the tomb, but stoops to look inside it. Peter arrives at the tomb a bit later—and, in perfect concert with his personality, bursts right in on arrival. Peter takes a longer, closer look than did Mary Magdalene.
Peter sees a scene not typical of a grave robbery. Grave-clothes may well be absent with the body in a robbery, yet the grave-clothes used for Jesus’ burial remain in the tomb—and very nearly in place at that. They were not turned back as if He just got out of bed. Nor were they strewn everywhere as if He fled in haste. The position of the grave-clothes—absent Jesus’ body, of course—suggests that they fell straight down from where they covered Jesus, as if He went incorporeal and simply disappeared. Peter, evidently, sees more than Mary Magdalene, and—as Luke narrates—he wonders to himself what happened (Luke 24:12).
Third, let’s note what John sees. He, though apparently faster than Peter (or knowledgeable of a short-cut), is less bold than he. Yet John enters the empty tomb after Peter—and sees all that Peter sees. John does not wonder what happened, as Peter does. Rather, John sees, and—through the God-given eyes of faith—he believes. He believes not because He understands from Scripture the necessity of Jesus’ resurrection—John himself makes clear that, at this instance remembered long ago, neither Peter nor he understand from Scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. John believes merely on the basis of the empirical evidence his eyes perceive. John sees much more than Mary Magdalene, and he sees more even than Peter. He sees unto belief in Jesus’ resurrection through the God-given eyes and lenses of faith.
Do we see as Mary Magdalene first did—at not much more than a glance and with wild conjecture based upon than glance? Or do we see as Peter, who noted the empirical evidence and yet wondered what happened? Or do we see, by God’s grace, as John saw? He considered what he saw, and he believed that Jesus rose—simply and unshakably. Do we see, by God’s grace, through the Spirit’s empowerment, the inescapable, glorious truth that Jesus both rose from the dead and lives forevermore?
Do we further see that Jesus’ death atones for the sin of everyone who believes in Him? His death certainly was no waste to no purpose. He lay down His life to atone for the sin of every soul that the Father ever gives to Him. If you believe this, then you are one of those souls for whom Jesus died.
You also, if you believe this, are one of the souls for whom Jesus arose. Do we see that Jesus’ resurrection is the guarantee of abundant, eternal life for everyone who believes on Him? Remember that life with Jesus is abundant (John 10:10). There is a richness, a quality, a supernatural dimension to life utterly impossible without Him—but this abundance is your new-birthright in Christ. Remember also that life with Jesus is forever. Just as the grave cannot hold Jesus, it also cannot hold you, dear Christian believer. Our bodies age, break, creak, grow infirm, and die. Yet what the world calls death is but the portal to eternal bliss with your three-in-one God, with the heavenly host, and with your fellow redeemed souls in Christ. More than this, at Jesus’ glorious return, the resting places of our bodies—the grave, the deep, the mausoleum, the columbarium, or wherever—will yield their contents as the Lord resurrects our very bodies to be rejoined to our souls in a selfsame glorified body, to dwell in the new heavens and the new earth forever.
Do you now see? Indeed, may the Lord give us eyes to see the risen, glorified Christ. May He give us inner beings that will adore Him to the depth of those beings. Finally, may He give us wills to receive and embrace Him as Savior and Lord—either initially or ongoing. May He bless you with these, and so much more, this glorious Resurrection Day.