Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
– John 20:15 +INPFSS+
Our Lord asked these two questions of Mary Magdalene, on this very morning, 1986 years ago.
Woman, Why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?
And today, the Lord is asking us the same question.
St. Paul tells us in Ephesians that as a Church, we are the bride of Christ. His beloved spouse.
And so appropriately, we too can be addressed as “Woman”.
Woman, why are you weeping?
The question implies the statement: Stop weeping! You have no need to weep!
And Jesus asserts the same to us this morning:
Christ was killed. But he is not now dead. He is alive! Hallelujah, he's alive!
He has been raised from the dead.
We do not need to be sad about his death. Nor ashamed of the torturous shape of the cross.
No, what was once a cause of sadness, has become a source for joy!
We do not need to weep for what Jesus suffered. And in fact we do not need to weep at all!
But before digging into this truth, look at our Lord's love.
Look at his compassion as he talks with Mary. The same Jesus who was meek and lowly of heart in his mortal life, is meek and lowly of heart in his now immortal life.
He has just come back from the grave, after trampling down hell and satan under his feet. He is the supreme conqueror of the cosmos, worthy of all accolade. But he's not hung up on himself at all. He comes to Mary. And asks with all pastoral care: Why are you weeping?
While he is gently instructing her that there is no need for tears, he is also genuinely concerned for her. He genuinely wants to comfort her in her pain. As psalm 56 says about our Lord: He collects all our tears in his bottle.
And he has real comfort to offer! Jesus is not just a consoling friend, passive on the side-lines of our lives.
He has himself plunged into combat with the source of all that causes our tears: Death. Sin. Brokenness. & Disease. In going to the cross, and in going down into Hades, he grabbed all these things by the throat and crushed them with his nail-scarred hands.
Emerging as a victorious champion from the grave, his body became transformed into a spiritual, immortal body, and he was crowned with all the glory from the Father.
And in this he is the first-born of a new kind of thing. He has become the original, which God plans to make many copies of. See, what God the Father did for Jesus, he will do to all those who trust in him and have been baptized in his name.
One day, when it is determined that the world as we know it will come to a close, and the whole cosmos will be brought before the Judgment of God. On that day, WE – us Christians – will be raised from the dead into immortal, glorious bodies like the body that Jesus has.
And with Jesus we will worship God the Father forever in the new Heaven and the New earth.
And THIS is is our hope.
This Easter message is the reason we don't need to weep anymore.
It means that no matter what happens to us during this short life on earth, it's gonna be alright in the end. The suffering of our lives – like Christ's – will be redeemed.
Whether we are Egyptian Christians, being blown up by muslim terrorists. Whether we are Chinese Christians living in fear. Whether we are Alabamians, living with all of the many troubles that life holds, of financial, physical, emotional, and relational distress. One day, because of Jesus, all shall be well. And all manner of thing shall be well. Dawn will come, after even the darkest of nights. And even if we go out weeping, we will come back rejoicing.
And this hope, this knowledge, should rightly dampen our crying. Not that we will never cry. But that we don't need to KEEP crying. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve but for a little while, as those WITH hope. The Hope of healing now, AND eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
Which brings us to the second question Jesus asked Mary. That he asks us this morning:
Whom are you looking for?
It's actually a really important question. Look at the Gospel account.
Mary was looking for a dead body – the corpse of Jesus, crucified two days before.
And because that's what she was looking for, when she came face to face with the RISEN Jesus, she didn't recognize him.
She couldn't see what was right before her eyes, because she was looking for the wrong thing.
Which poses a good challenge for all of us on this Easter morning:
Whom are we looking for?
[[[only use if we have guests: Have we gathered this morning, looking for a nice cultural practice? It is easter after all, and one probably SHOULD go to Church...? Are we seeking to connect with God a little bit, or to get in touch with our spirituality? These are all fine motives, in and of themselves, but they will not bring us to encounter the Risen Lord Jesus.]]]
Are we looking for a God who like a heavenly Santa Claus will give us only good things, as long as we are good? Are we looking for a stern father who we think is fixated on finding me guilty?
Are we looking for a spirit-being who will make us feel good and peaceful all the time?
Whom ARE we looking for?
If we are seeking anyone or anything other than the risen Jesus Christ himself, then we won't find him.
Only if we seek Jesus, will we find Jesus.
And Until we seek Jesus, we won't find any of those other things: peace, blessings, a spiritual life, etc.
But when we seek him, THEN we find those things.
Now, if it were all just up to us, then we'd be terribly lost.
But thankfully it's not just up to us.
What happens next in the Gospel reading?
Jesus calls Mary's name.
It's such a wonderful moment. Of the sheep recognizing the voice of the Shepherd.
When Jesus names her, she instantly gets it. She can see who is right in front of her – the risen Lord himself. Her tears of sorrow instantly turn instead to cries of joy, and she throws herself at her teacher's feet.
And this continues to be true of our Lord.
When we don't get it. When we've come to Church looking for the wrong things. He calls us each by name. With all understanding and compassion in his voice.
Can you hear it? ...In your heart?
Can you hear the silent voice of the Spirit of Christ, speaking to your soul? Letting you know that HE is here, right in front of you.
Inviting you to know him more. Offering to wipe away your tears, and promising eternal joy and sweetness and life forever and ever?