Here are the notes for my 2021 Easter sermon on John 20:11-18 at our church in Naperville, Cross of Christ Fellowship. You can find the audio under ‘stand alone sermons’ here (near bottom of the page). [If you listen, you will hear the birds chirping because this was preached outside!]
Easter 2021 “Believing with Mary Magdalene” (John 20:11-18)
Intro: EASTER SUNDAY is the day that we as Christians celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus died on the cross for our sins and on the 3rd day he really rose again and really is alive now! This is amazing and worth celebrating.
Maybe you ask, ‘How do we know Jesus really rose from the dead?’ One way is through eye-witnesses testimony. Today we consider the testimony of the VERY FIRST person to see the risen Christ: Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene was a follower of Jesus during his earthly ministry. The gospel writers tell us that Jesus had delivered her from seven demons and that she became part of a group of women who accompanied Jesus during his earthly ministry. She loved Jesus, believed his teaching and sought to be a faithful disciple.
Mary was with Jesus during the last week of his life. She was at the cross when Jesus was crucified. She was there when the sky turned dark and Jesus cried out ‘It is finished’ and he died. She was there when he was buried and saw the location of his tomb. And early on the 3rd day she returned to the tomb, with some other women to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices and give him an honorable burial, but to her amazement, the stone that blocked the entrance was taken away!
The Gospel of John tells us that she ran back to the disciples and told them “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). Now she has returned to tomb again and she is weeping over the fact that she believes Jesus is dead and someone has stolen his body.
This leads us to our passage: John 20:11-18. Here we learn about how Mary met the resurrected Jesus and learns the amazing truth that Jesus really rose from the dead.
We see that for Mary to realize this was a process:
1st: She was ignorant that Jesus rose from the dead. 2nd. She was aware that Jesus rose from the dead. 3rd. She became a witness of the fact that Jesus rose from the dad. This is a process similar for all of us learning a new truth:
THE deliciousness that is PORTILLOS: MOVED TO ILLINOIS: Ignorant, Aware, Witness.
Let’s hear the eye-witness testimony of Mary Magdalene together and consider the amazing truth that Jesus really rose from the dead. In considering this, let’s note Mary went from being ignorant to being aware to being a witness of the resurrection of Jesus and how this is very similar to how anyone comes to learn the truth about God.
STAGE 1. IGNORANT of Jesus’ Resurrection (20:11-15)
In the first stage of this account we see that Mary Magdalene was IGNORANT of Jesus’ resurrection. She believes that Jesus was still dead and that someone had stolen his dead body.
-Mary weeps but looks into the tomb (11)
-She is overcome with grief that Jesus is dead, and she believes that his body has been stolen away
-Mary Encounters two angels but still remains ignorant of Jesus’ resurrection (12-13)
-Upon looking into the tomb, there are TWO ANGELS there.
-The angels ask her a question: “Woman, why are you weeping?”
-DA Carson calls this a “gentle reproof,”
-They are saying in a sense, ‘Why are you crying? This is a moment of celebration!’
-Mary’s expresses her ignorance of Jesus’ resurrection (13b): ““They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.””
-Mary SEES Jesus, but still remains IGNORANT about his resurrection (14)
-Possibly does not recognize him because his appearance is somewhat different than bloodied state of cross
-Bible speaks of both continuity and discontinuity of Jesus’ resurrected body. Others don’t recognize at first either
-Jesus speaks to Mary but still Mary does not know TRUTH (15a) “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”
-This also is a gentle rebuke, rather than an inquiry.
-Mary remains ignorant of Jesus’ resurrection and believes he is a gardener (15b)
Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
-Though she was ignorant of the truth, note her sincere devotion to Jesus.
IGNORANCE OF GOD BECAUSE OF SIN:
SIN: We have all sinned against God, and this sin has ruined our thinking. It has led us to rebel against God’s in our hearts and minds. It has kept us back from the truth. Rom 1:18 says things are so bad, we actually suppress the truth about God.
We think LOW thoughts of God: God is unimportant, irrelevant, boring, Judge of no one, inconvenience.
We think HARD thoughts of God: God does not care about us; God is harsh; God is unfair
We may have some knowledge of Jesus—as Mary did (angels, teaching, seeing Jesus)—but we remain ignorant.
**This was the case for me before I became a Christian**
STAGE 2. AWARE of Jesus’ Resurrection (20:16)
Here, Mary goes from being IGNORANT of Jesus’ resurrection to AWARE of it. This is the BEAUTIFUL moment where she beholds the truth, Jesus is alive! It is beautiful when anyone comes to behold the truth of who Jesus really is.
-Jesus speaks her name (16a): 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
-This was certainly not a gardener, it was Jesus!-Mary beholds the truth: Jesus really is alive (16b): She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
-She recognized Jesus! Her heart was filled with joy as she beheld Christ and worshipped him, and clung to him
NOTE: It was by Jesus’ initiative—calling her by her name—that she came into the truth
-This is a key aspect of the gospel. God comes to us in His grace, not because we are good or clever.
—-John 10:27-28: His sheep hear his voice and Jesus gives them eternal life.
GOSPEL: -Jesus died on the cross for our sins, and rose again conquering sin and death.
-All who repent and believe in Jesus are saved from their sins and brought back to God
BEAUTY OF BECOMING AWARE OF THE TRUTH OF GOD:
-AWARE OF GOD’S GREATNESS: God is king; He is glorious, Our hearts were made to enjoy God, God is holy
-AWARE OF GOD’S LOVE AND GRACE: God sent Jesus to save us; God cares for us; God grants us eternal life.
STAGE 3: WITNESS of Jesus’ Resurrection (20:17-18)
Mary began IGNORANT of Jesus’ resurrection, then became AWARE of it, and now she becomes a WITNESS to it.
-Jesus’ words to her (17)
1. Jesus reassures: -Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father;
-Apparently, she was clinging to him, maybe desperately hoping that Jesus would not disappear
-Jesus assures here that is not yet time for his ascension to the Father “ascended to the Father”
-This is will happen, but not yet. First Mary has a task.
2. Jesus instructs: but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
-Mary is to be a witness to the other Christians that Jesus has risen, and will ascend soon (40 days later)
–“my brothers”: If you are a Christian, Jesus is not only your lord and God, but also your “brother,”
–“ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
-The Father is the Father to Jesus in a unique and special way (eternally)
-God the Father becomes our Father when we become Christians
-God the Father is God to Jesus. (Note in Heb 1:8, the Father calls Jesus God)
-Jesus brings us back to the one true God, that we know and love Him.
-Mary Magdalene has become a WITNESS to the RESURRECTION (18) –Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”– – and that he had said these things to her.
-Mary was faithful to the task. She went and WITNESSED to the disciples, and told them what Jesus said.
-Apparently, they struggled to believe her (Mark 16:14). Which can be comfort for us when we witness.
WHAT SHOULD WE DO THIS WITH THIS FIRST EYE-WITNESS OF THE RESURRECTED JESUS?
1. HEAR FROM MARY’S WITNESS: Jesus really rose from the dead. He really is alive. His ministry was successful and he defeated sin and death. All who believe in Jesus really receive eternal life.
-BELIEVE! Trust in Jesus. Behold that fact that Jesus REALLY ROSE AGAIN.
-Dead people don’t rise again, but that is the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. He did rise again, and
He has brought in a victory over sin and death for all who believe in him.
2. LEARN FROM MARY’S WITNESS: Mary was to tell others about Jesus’ resurrection. And so are all Christians (Matt 28:18-20).
-LET’S TELL OTHERS ABOUT JESUS!
STORY FROM YESTERDAY: Yesterday I was in downtown Naperville giving out copies of the Gospel of John, and most people politely declined or ignored me, but about 10% took a copy of gospel of John. And one woman came up and told me that someone had given her a copy of the gospel of John in 1981, and after reading it she was converted! And she was still faithfully following Jesus. This person went from being ignorant of God, to aware of the truth about God, to being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection. She is a sheep who heard the voice of the Good Shepherd.
Jesus really rose again, let’s believe this and share this truth with others!