Greetings, dear readers! I’m so glad you’ve stopped by. 🙂
The beginning of chapter 20 in the gospel of John relates how Mary Magdalene discovers Jesus’s empty tomb, then tells Peter and John, who run to the tomb to investigate. Both Peter and John see the burial cloths of Jesus, lying where the body had been. “Then the other disciple [John], who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he [Jesus] must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb…” (John 20:8-11, ESV).
Peter and John investigate the situation, then leave the tomb. They see the empty burial cloths and although “as yet they did not understand the Scripture,” they seem to suspect that something besides a grave robbery has occurred—after all, John “saw and believed.”
But something is different for Mary. She stays at the tomb, weeping. She had gone to the tomb that morning to anoint Jesus’s body with spices (see Mark 16:1, Luke 23:54-24:1). I get the feeling that finishing the proper burial rites for Jesus’s body was Mary’s way of serving Jesus as long as she could. When we lose a loved one, especially traumatically, the loss can be too much to process all at once. So we try to find ways to hold onto our loved one, even though they’re no longer with us. I think being close to Jesus’s body, the only thing left of Him, was Mary’s way of trying to hold onto Him—and now even that body had been taken from her.
While she’s crying, Mary looks into the tomb, and she sees two angels. When they ask why she’s weeping, she cries out, “‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him'” (John 20:13). Then she turns around and sees the risen Jesus, although she doesn’t realize it’s Him. Jesus asks her the question again: “‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?'” (John 20:15). Mary replies by asking Him to tell her where the body is, if He knows, so that she can go and get it. In other words: “Please, please just give me back my Lord.”
Jesus’s response is simply to speak her name, and then she recognizes Him for who He is (see John 20:16). She suddenly understands the reality of the resurrection, and she turns away from the empty tomb, her gaze completely consumed with beholding her risen Lord.
There are times in my life when I sense Jesus asking me, very gently, the same question He asked Mary: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Whether I am physically crying or simply worried over a situation, God knows when I am troubled. At those times, He invites us to tell Him why we are troubled, but His question also comes with unspoken, gentle conviction: “Why are you weeping over this situation when I’m standing right behind you, ready to take your problem into my hands?” (Note: There is a difference between weeping in justified sorrow—see John 11:33-35—and weeping because we have not surrendered a situation to God, and therefore only see the problem that is paining us.)
You see, Mary looked for Jesus in a place of death. She stared into the depths of the tomb and wept there because, as she gazed into the pit of her pain and her problem, she did not see her Lord there. Nothing in life is more terrifying than facing death (whether literal death or simply any circumstance that threatens to destroy us) and finding that Jesus is nowhere in sight.
Here’s Mary’s problem: She was looking in the wrong place. When we stare deep into the seemingly bottomless pit of our trouble, we become unable to see Jesus because He does not dwell in a place of death. He is risen! Like Mary, we have to turn around when our Lord calls us.
And what do we gain when we turn? We no longer behold our problem, but we behold the risen Christ, sovereign even over death. We behold Jesus as He appeared to John many years later, declaring, “‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades'” (Revelation 1:17-18).
Jesus did not die on the cross and rise again only to forgive us of our sins. He came to bring resurrection to every situation in our life that is a place of death for us. He turns the curse on its head by redeeming everything that Death claimed for its own. Jesus takes what has been dead and makes it more gloriously alive than it could have been if it had never died (see Romans 6:5, 8). God’s victory is won not through simple destruction, but through recreation. This is the power that He exerts in your life, if you have accepted Him as your Lord (see John 5:24). This is the power that He works through you, if you have received His Holy Spirit (see John 14:12).
By the grace God has given you, turn from staring into the empty tomb and behold your risen Lord. He stands before you, glorious, victorious, saying, “I died, but behold, I am ALIVE! This is the power I work through you; this is the power I bring to every situation of death in your life. I take death and turn it on its head; I redeem by turning the things that were not into the things that are. I reverse destiny from death to life, not just for your eternal destination but for every situation that death rules in your life. BECAUSE I LIVE, YOU ALSO WILL LIVE!” (see Revelation 1:17-18, Romans 8:11, Romans 4:17, John 14:19).
I’m not saying that Jesus instantly fixes everything. I know that many of us are staring into desperate situations right now, and maybe despite all our prayers, God hasn’t resolved those situations for us. At those times, God doesn’t ask us to pretend it’s okay. But what He does promise is that, if we look to Him in the midst of the situation and trust Him with it, He will bring life where there is death. Maybe we won’t see it today. But someday, we will see that God has made that tomb into a place of resurrection life. After all, that is what He came to do (see John 10:10).
We were not made to dwell among tombs, to stare into them until all we see is darkness. We were made to be made alive: “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).