Why Are You Weeping?

Text:  John 20:1-18

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

There at the grave Mary Magdalene stood.  She stood in one spot neither pacing back and forth nor bobbing up and down.  She just stood there, gushing tears. 

Jesus had done so much for her.  She was a wreck of a woman, but Jesus cleaned her up, and made her whole again.  Indeed, Jesus had done so much for Mary and now it was all over.  They crucified her Lord.  He was bloodied, beaten, crushed, and scorned, without the smallest concern for Mary. 

The lifeless corpse of Jesus was laid in a tomb.  A rock was placed over the entrance.  Not only did the religious leaders of Israel laugh and mock Jesus as He died, but death itself seemed to laugh in victory when the stone was rolled over the tomb’s entrance.  For Mary Magdalene and the disciples though, there was no laughing.  There was no mocking, no celebration.  Just fear, tears, and doubt.

Jesus had actually conducted a valiant fight.  He faced the deep distress of the soul in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He had looked into the eyes of Pontius Pilate and professed truth.  He stood before Caiaphas and the High Priests and confessed that He was and is the Son of God.  He faced His accusers and did not flinch or back down.  “But in the end, they closed in on Him.  Jesus had defied them, and they got Him in the end.”[1]  Nails were driven; darkness came; blood and water flowed from His side; the body was placed in a tomb. 

And so, Mary stood outside the tomb and wept.  She most likely had a strange mixture of love, fear, anger, and confusion.  To complicate things even more for Mary, the stone had been rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone.  From her understanding, someone had taken the body of Jesus away and she did not know where they had laid him.  Whether this was a cruel trick or another game of the religious leaders, Mary did know.  Regardless though, she could not stop weeping, her Lord had been crucified.   

This is the way that it is for us humans.  No matter the circumstances, when death confronts us, sorrow and a sense of loss and a sense of confusion may overcome us.  Shock can set in, combined with tears.    

This morning, you may be able to empathize with Mary Magdalene.  You may have had that feeling as if your body is frozen in time and space and the only thing you can do is cry in the face of death.  Sin, pain, suffering, and death all have a way of making us feel trapped and out of control.  They can come at us without any warning, leaving us petrified.  The cold breath of death especially tends to stop us in our boots.    

There are some in our society though that would instruct us to welcome death!  Yes, some would instruct us not to cry or be sad with death, but to welcome it.  They tell us that death is the release of the soul from its bondage to the body.  They tell us that death is the end of life in this body and that once death happens the person’s soul is really free – free from the limitations of the body![2]  Therefore, we should welcome death and possibly even celebrate it.    

We all know that this way of thinking is ludicrous.  We all know that death is not our friend, even if we try our best to have it all together at the death of a loved one. 

Let us all be honest for a moment.  We are all afraid of death.  We do not like hospitals.  We do not like funerals.  We do not like to think about retirement homes and we do not consider death our friend.  Even talking about it right here in this church service makes us wiggle in our pews.    

Death, my friends, is our enemy.  It is not our friend.  Therefore, it makes sense to cry and grieve and cringe and recoil at death – just like Mary did. 

Beside the grief and tears, for Mary it did not make complete sense.  Jesus was not supposed to die.  If Jesus is God in the flesh, He is supposed to have a lot of power.  That is to say, He walked on water, He gave eyesight to the blind, He brought dead people back to life, and He made demons scurry away in fear like cockroaches in the light – Jesus is not supposed to die. 

Yet, He did.  He did die.  He did give Himself to death.   He did this to bear sin, to conquer death, and satisfy God’s wrath.  Death did not overtake Him, but rather Jesus went to death and gave up His spirit. 

Today though is not Good Friday, but Easter Sunday.  In other words, while we embrace the profound message of Good Friday – the great message of everything being finished on Christ’s cross – we also must hear the message of Easter.  We must hear the Easter message that comes to us from the Angels in the tomb.  That message to Mary was this,  

          Why are you weeping?

Yes, why is Mary weeping?  Why is she afraid?  Why does she mourn?   She has not let go of the dead Christ; therefore, she needs the message of Easter, which is, “Mary, why are you crying?  Jesus is not here, He is risen.”

The Angels' and Jesus' question to Mary of, “Why are you still crying?” is a question that embraces the obvious.  And what is so obvious that is not obvious to Mary?  The answer is that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.  Death could not keep Him.  Jesus swallowed up death forever, He broke the jaws of sin, He tap danced on the face of the Devil, He will remove every sign of disgrace, and will wipe away tears from all faces.  Mary, He is risen, why are you crying? 

The words of the Angels and the words of Jesus picked Mary up out of her tears and sorrow and pain and set her within life.  This is true for you, as well.  The message of Easter – the Easter word that Jesus has risen – is not some myth that belongs in the midst of a pink bunny and chocolate covered eggs.  No, by no means!  The word of Easter is that Christ is risen from the dead – these words pull on you and confess to you that death does not have the final say.  The deaths of your Christian friends, Christian parents, Christian spouse, Christian children, as well as your very own death, are not the final say.  Jesus meets you under the pail of doom hanging over your heads and say, “Peace be with you.  Why are you weeping?  Do not be afraid. Be glad.  Rejoice.” 

But you may say, are we to not feel sad about losing our loved ones?   Should we not grieve them?  No, we do grieve them, we do mourn the loss of our loved ones; however, we do not carry on like pagans who have nothing to look forward to, as if the grave were the last word.  Since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus.  Thus, we grieve with hope![3] 

Baptized Saints, because Christ is risen, there is now no more fear of living and no more fear of dying.  As Christ’s beloved, that is where you are now placed.  That is where you live.  There is now nothing in the entire world that you can be surer of than Jesus crucified for you and Jesus risen for you.  As they say, ‘Ain’t no grave gonna hold this body down.’[4]

As you leave this sanctuary today and go back into your vocations though, you will be tempted to despair.  You may even think at times that God has quit on you, that He does not care about you; that all of life is meaningless.  You may even find yourself tempted to forget Jesus and treat Him as dead.  If this is the case, well then… you are back in the prison of sin and death – you are essentially buried in your grave already. 

To combat this temptation, hear the message of Easter personally this morning.  Yes, you who hear this message right now, let the word of Easter cling to you.  Let it grab ahold of your mind and your soul.  Let it permeate you.  Let it encase you. Hear the message of Easter… That message is this: between you and your despair, stands the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen for you.  Before sin, death, and the devil can destroy you, before the jaws of death and hell can take you, they have to destroy and take Jesus first, and they have already done their worst.[5]  They have done their worst to Jesus and today we hear that their worst was not good enough, for Christ is risen – Christ is alive! 

Dear Baptized Saints, sin puts you into the grave, but your baptism into Christ puts you into Jesus’ grave – a grave that is now empty today, a grave that leads to life.  You, yes each and every one of you, do not belong to sin, death, or the devil, but to Jesus.  You belong to life.    

Do not weep, do not fear; be glad and rejoice, Christ is risen this day – for you and for me.  Death has been trampled upon. 

Come awake dear Christian and confess this day,

Oh death! Where is your sting?
Oh hell! Where is your victory?
We are alive with Christ today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

In the name of the risen and victorious Jesus Christ: Amen.

[1] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2004), 119.

[2] What is described in this paragraph is the ideology of Platonism.  This description is from Norman Melchert’s book, The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy – Sixth Edition (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 144.

[3] Loose paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15.

[4] Norman Nagel, Selected Sermons of Norman Nagel: From Valparaiso to St. Louis, 120.

[5] Ibid.

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