In January, Kathryn and I went to Washington DC. It was not our first trip to our nation’s capital. We had a short list of things we wanted to see. On that list was Arlington National Cemetery. My father-in-law, who I barely knew, John Trojan is there. He is in the columbarium, located in the southeast section approximately one mile from the Memorial Gate. The cemetery personnel drove us there, but they didn’t stay as we visited his plague. Instead of waiting for a ride to return, we decided to walk back. There is no other way to say it. It was moving walking by those countless graves. There are approximately 400,000 graves in Arlington. The words between us were few, but they were meaningful. That evening we had dinner at a restaurant near the National Archives building. It was full of people having a good time. Arlington was moving, but the restaurant was fun. Let me state the obvious. It is more fun to be with the living than the dead. May we never forget we serve a risen Savior. Jesus is alive and well!
We find ourselves today in the twentieth chapter of John. Each one of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, have their own account of the resurrection of Jesus. The details vary, but the main point remains the same. Jesus is resurrected! This is John’s version. Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb early on Sunday morning. It is so early; it is still dark. It was the first time the law permitted anyone to touch the dead. Corpses could not be touched on the Sabbath. When she arrives, she discovers that the stone in front of the entrance had been rolled away. She is shocked by this discovery and assumes the worst. Someone had taken Jesus body! The abuse Jesus had endured on Friday was not enough. Now they had taken his body to continue the cruelty. She wants to find Jesus, so she enlists some help. There is no other way to say it. They lost Jesus! (Don’t you hate when you lose a corpse?) She ran to tell two disciples that Jesus is missing. The first is Peter. The second is described the one that Jesus loved. That is John’s way of describing himself. Instantly, the two run to the tomb and it is at this point the scripture comes to life for us.
The story is familiar because we have looked at it countless times. It is hard to preach the resurrection of Jesus Christ annually and be original. John’s account of the resurrection is unique. It illustrates for us the three responses to the resurrection. They are not unique to John. They are not unique to John’s time. They are the same ways people respond to the resurrection today. The question you must answer is, how do you respond the resurrection? Are you skeptical about the resurrection of Jesus? Are you curious about the resurrection of Jesus? Or, do you believe, in your heart of hearts, Jesus was resurrected?
Peter plays the role of the skeptic. Look at the text with me. It says when Peter got to the Jesus’ tomb he went in and saw all the clothes of clothes scattered. Verse ten says he does something that he must have regretted the rest of his life. What does that verse say? It says after he saw clothes scattered on the tomb’s floor, he went home. He missed the whole thing because he went home. It made logical sense to go home. The problem is the resurrection is not logical. It is a miracle that cannot be explained by science.
Do you know any skeptics? Our world is filled with skeptics. Our world has always been filled with skeptics. The story of the resurrection has always been surrounded by skeptics. Do you know how many theories exist trying to disregard the resurrection of Jesus? One theory says someone got to the tomb ahead of Mary Magdalene and stole Jesus’ body. One theory says Mary Magdalene got confused and went to the wrong tomb. (You know how women are with directions.) One theory says the women confused Jesus with someone else. After all, if you have seen one Jew then you have seen them all. One theory says Jesus never died on the cross. Instead, he was drugged and once his head had cleared, he simply walked out unnoticed on Saturday. Do I have to go on? We live in a skeptical world because many believe science is the final word. Miracles are dismissed because they cannot be proven. The resurrection is a miracle, so it must not have happened. There is only one problem with this line of thought.
The final word is not science; the final word is God. God is not frustrated by scientific law. God does, what God desires. Part of God’s plan of salvation for the world was to resurrect Jesus.
Mary Magdalene plays the role of the seeker. What does the text say? She followed Jesus to his tomb. She was going to treat his body. She thought it would be her last loving act for Jesus, but she was wrong. What does the text say? It says that after Peter and John examined the scene they went home. What did Mary Magdalene do? We are told that she stayed at the tomb. She knew something had happened, but she didn’t know what. She had been part of the great story of the resurrection, but she didn’t exactly know what happened. She waited outside of the tomb crying trying to comprehend what had happened. In other words, she had a few questions.
Does anyone here have a question about the resurrection? In your mind you understand that Jesus came back to life! However, that fact has not yet penetrated your heart. You are just like Mary Magdalene? You know something happened, but you can’t comprehend the true meaning of the resurrection. Ask all the questions you want because it is the best way to learn. Do you have any questions? Do you know anyone who is a seeker? Could it be you are a seeker? It is fine to be a seeker. I have a few questions myself.
John plays the role of the saved. The text says when he got to the tomb, he didn’t go in. Peter went into the tomb first. John stayed outside. There may be several reasons. Maybe he was resting? After all, he had just been running. Or maybe he was afraid that Mary Magdalene was wrong. He didn’t want to see Jesus’ mangled body. Or maybe he did not go in because he was just afraid? Roman guards could be waiting inside to arrest any Jesus supporters. He didn’t go in until Peter went in first. When he went in, he discovered Mary Magdalene’s account was accurate. Verse eight gives us one more piece of vital information. It says that after John examined the tomb he believed. He remembered everything Jesus had said about his own death and resurrection. John remembered those things and believed. His belief in the resurrected Jesus saved his very soul. Do you remember what Romans 10:9 says? That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is the question of the day.
What is your response to the resurrection of Jesus? I hope you are not a skeptic about the resurrection. No, science is not the final answer. The final answer is God! I hope you are not a seeker, just curious about the resurrection. It is the one thing you cannot question. I hope you believe that you are one of the saved. The resurrection changed everything. It changed the way you look at death, itself. It changed your final destination. May we never forget we serve a risen Savior. John Ortberg (born 1957) is the Senior Pastor of the Menlo Church in Menlo, California. He once said, “At the very heart of the Christian faith is the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection”If you believe in the resurrection, then, like John, you are saved!