Stick It Out

An Easter sermon on John 20: 1-18

The whole story today is a bit like a big cosmic game of “Where’s Jesus?”  From the time Mary Magdalene and the other women arrived at the tomb that morning and found it empty, the whole cast of characters (angels exempted, of course) were asking the question, “Where’s Jesus?”

Through the whole story Mary is running back and forth from the house where the disciples are staying to the tomb. She’s heartbroken, confused, exhausted and the best she gets is men — Peter and the other disciple, who think she’s crazy and insensitive angels. I mean really, their first question is “Why are you weeping?” Why am I not weeping at this point we’d likely wonder.

She’s either too numb to even notice their thoughtless question or there’s an eyeroll as she says, “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”  Come on guys, this is urgent.  If you’ve got any answers, bring it on, because I am decidedly losing in this whole game of Where’s Jesus?  I haven’t got a clue and I’m losing hope fast.

But she has stuck it out – and suddenly he is there, Jesus himself.  Not that she realizes it at first.  Many people talk about how that must mean Jesus looked different after the resurrection – people were always not recognizing him on first glance.  And that may well be true. 

But I think he could have looked just like the Jesus Mary knew and loved and she still would have mistook him for the gardener.  With eyes full of tears, who can see clearly – one face is like any other.  And in this case it was only the gardener she could have even been hoping for as an answer to her cry to the angels. “They heard, they answered!  God sent to me the one man who can clear all this up – where’s Jesus?”

But, of course, it wasn’t the gardener.  “Mary!” he called.  And she knew she had found what she had been looking for all along.  What she hadn’t even dreamed of naming as the real hope of her visit to the tomb that morning – a Jesus who was alive and well and with her still.  What an amazing ending to the game for her.

Except that it wasn’t over!  She runs back with new energy to the disciples – “I have seen the Lord!”  I have won the game.  I know where Jesus is!  And you can too!  Stick it out to the end.  Go through the tears and the sorrow; the unbelief and the hardly daring to believe.  In the pain and the sorrow, the joy and relief, the love and the hate, the fear and the wonder – Where is Jesus? There is Jesus!

So now I ask you with boldness this Easter morning — Where’s Jesus?  Will you stick it out through it all to find out?  Can you walk through the heartache of Holy Week, the apprehension of the pre-dawn darkness, the looking and not finding, the looks of doubt in your friends’ eyes?  Can you stick it out no matter how hard this crazy faith thing gets?  I hope so – because if there’s one thing this Easter story tells us, it’s that Jesus Christ is worth the wait!

To watch the whole sermon, click here.