Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. John 20:1
Imagine her surprise, friends. This is a woman who loved Jesus. A woman whom Jesus had saved from seven demons. A woman who followed Jesus as closely as the disciples, who trusted in him as her Savior. A woman who stayed at the hill of Calvary while nearly everyone else fled from the horror of the sight as he died. As the skies turned black and the earth shook. They fled. But she stayed. And he died.
And then on Sunday morning, early in the darkness, she simply wants to visit his burial site.
We all understand this.
It took me six months before I was ready to visit my mom's grave again. But when I finally did, the tears flowed and the words poured from my mouth - telling her everything she had missed in the last six months and how my heart ached for her. I told her about baby Griffin whom she had never met.
We know the importance of that place and that moment.
But when Mary got there he was gone. His body, gone. His tomb, empty.
Imagine her anguish. She didn't understand. She thought someone had come and stolen his body.
A mean, horrid, cruel joke and an utter mockery of his claim to resurrect.
She wept. She ran and got Peter and John. She was in desperation.
Imagine, going to the cemetary to find your loved one's burial site mocked. Graffiti, perhaps. The headstone stolen, maybe. Perhaps, even, as cruel as someone digging up their coffin.
Cruel. Disgusting. Horrifying.
That's what Mary is experiencing at this point.
Two angels ask her why she is crying, and she answers them, probably not realizing that they were angels.
I don't claim to know what those angels looked like, but I guarantee you it wasn't like the Precious Moments angels we all picture in our minds. They may have looked strikingly mighty, or they may have looked strikingly unassuming.
Then she sees Jesus. But she doesn't know it's him.
I mean, imagine. She just watched him die. She was at the cross the whole time.
Darkness. Earthquakes. Anguish. Spears. Blood. Cries. She saw it all.
How on earth could that be Jesus standing there?
She may have even had to do a double take when she saw this man, and then shook off the notion that it might be Jesus, and in a split second, convinced herself it was the gardner instead.
Jesus just died. How could it be him?
I bet you've done it. I've done it many times in the last 22 months. I see a woman from a distance or even up close and for a split second I think, "Mom!" And then in a split second the moment is over and I remember, "Oh wait..."
It happens in such a flash that we almost don't even notice.
Maybe that happened to Mary.
But then he says her name.
And she knows. It must be in the way her personal, loving, Savior says her name. When our name is spoken by the one who loves us most, it sounds different.
He calls you by name too, you know.
"I have called you by name, you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1)
And Mary knows. And all she can do is worship.
And then he sends her. Go. Go. Go. Go. Tell everyone that I'm alive.
So she goes. The gospel accounts tell us she goes trembling with fear but also with great joy.
This beautiful woman. The first person on the planet to go with the message that He is alive.
And for 2,000 years Christ-followers have worshiped him for this greatest reality of all realities.
And for 2,000 year skeptics have tried to disprove this reality, but only in vain. No success.
Because he really is alive. And that tomb really is empty. The greatest reality of all realities.
Alive, my friends.
Alive to save us.
Alive to know us.
Alive to call you by name.
Alive to answer prayer.
Alive to love us.
Alive to forgive us.
Alive to show us grace and mercy.
Alive so that we might know God himself.
Alive so that we might be really alive.
Alive so that we know that the sting of death, though terrible on earth, really is temporary.
Alive so that the shadow of death really is only a shadow.
And shadows pass when they come into full light. And we will one day be in full light in His kingdom.
And death will no longer have a sting. And there will be no more shadows of death.
Because he is alive, friends.
Alive. Alive. Alive.
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:“Death is swallowed up in victory.”