No More Fears or Tears
No More Fears or Tears
Text: John 20:1-18
Sometimes it’s just hard to know what to make of life, isn’t it? All kinds of religious rights laws being thrown around and even more opinions about what exactly they might mean for Christians. Unstable economies. Natural disasters that are unstoppable and unpredictable. Sicknesses. Diseases. Pandemic outbreaks. Wars all over the place. Nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons. Illegal weapons. Protests and race riots.
It’s a scary world out there. What exactly are we supposed to make of it? Any day could bring a disaster. Any day could bring an attack. And really any day could be our last. It’s hard not to live in fear and terror.
It’s a sad world out there too. What exactly are we supposed to make of it? Every day brings a new disappointment. Every day brings more trouble. Every day brings more heartache and heartbreak. Sometimes the tears flow like a leaky faucet that can’t be fixed. It’s hard not to live in sadness and sorrow.
Why does life have to be like that? Why do bad things happen?
That difficult question is an easy one to answer. Bad things happen in this world because sin is in this world. This isn’t paradise anymore. Part of the curse of sin is pain and sorrow and suffering. So there will be instability and sickness and disasters. And with imperfect people living in an imperfect world, there’s going to be plenty of sin on top of the natural problems, things like theft, violence, bloodshed, and more. Bad things happen because of sin and because of sinners.
But how I handle those bad things—that’s the key. Why am I often left with fears or tears about what happens in this life? Most often, it’s because of a confused and clouded understanding of Jesus. If I don’t understand the big picture of who Jesus is and what he came to do, if I don’t understand the big picture of what Jesus offers me, then I will probably have fears and tears in this life.
Today we have a good case study with three different people illustrating that very point. Go back in time to that early Easter morning and there we see Mary Magdalene. There are lots of different Marys in the New Testament. Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary the sister of Martha, Mary the wife of Clopas, and then this Mary, Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene loved Jesus so much. Earlier in his ministry Jesus had cast seven demons out of Mary. Just think how different her life was with Jesus! She loved him so much that she was one of the few there at the cross watching him die. Now she seems to be the first at the tomb with spices to anoint his dead body. Jesus meant a lot to her because her life had been changed so much by him.
But for as much as she loved her dear Teacher, she didn’t quite “get it” all. We’re told how Mary went to the tomb early in the morning and saw the tomb rolled away. Immediately she ran back to Peter and John and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Rather than connecting the dots by faith and understanding what Jesus had taught her, her first assumption was that his body was stolen.
Peter and John had to see for themselves so they started out running. Apparently John was a bit younger and quicker as he arrived there first. He stopped at the entrance and looked inside to see the burial cloths. But typical Peter, as soon as he arrived he burst right inside and saw all the cloths lying there. But look at what verses 8 and 9 say: “Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)”
John just believed in the resurrection now? The words also give the impression that Peter didn’t quite believe that Jesus had risen yet. And then it says that even though John believed and perhaps Peter was a bit iffy, they still didn’t understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead! How could that be? How many times did Jesus teach them that he must suffer and die and on the third day rise again? How many times did he show them that he was the promised Messiah of God? How could they not connect the dots either and see that this was all part of God’s plan of salvation?
Then Peter and John left and Mary was there again at the tomb. We see this tender moment of Mary weeping and wailing outside of the tomb. She was probably confused, afraid, sad. Then two angels appear and ask her why she is crying. She repeats her confused answer, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.” Hello?! Mary! You’re talking to two angels! But she still didn’t get it.
Then Jesus himself appeared. She thought it was the gardener though. “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” She was so caught up in her fears and tears that she didn’t even recognize Jesus!
But when he said “Mary,” she recognized her teacher. We imagine her turning to Jesus and embracing him and grabbing his robes tightly, holding on for dear life as if to say, “Don’t ever leave me again.” But she still didn’t get it. Verse 17: “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary didn’t understand that Jesus needed to return to heaven because his work of salvation was done.
So now we ask this question: If Mary, Peter, and John truly understood by faith who Jesus was and what he came to do and what he had to offer—would they have had any of those fears or tears?
It would appear that all of their fears and tears were related to earthly things. Mary was so sad that her dear teacher had died and was gone that she concocted these fears of people having stolen Jesus’ body. Then when she finally saw Jesus alive she held on to him for dear life like she wanted Jesus to be her friend forever here on earth.
Peter and John were filled with confusion. They were afraid what Mary told them was true and that someone did take his body. They were confused that Jesus was missing. Then when they began to grasp that he had risen, they were confused about why he had to do so. It’s as if they were so caught up in the last three wonderful years of being around Jesus and seeing his miracles and listening to his preaching that they were blinded to the real reason Jesus had come in the first place.
If only Mary, Peter, and John had fully understood, they wouldn’t have been so afraid or sad. Jesus came for the sole purpose of living and dying for us. He died to pay for our sins. He rose to life to prove his victory and to prove that one day we will rise to a better life in heaven. If Mary, Peter, and John fully understood all that, the fears and tears would have gone away.
Don’t you think the same is true for us? So many of our fears and tears have to do with life in this world. We are afraid for our safety. We are afraid for our health. We are afraid about money. We are afraid for our families. We are sad about worldly troubles. We are sad about worldly loss. We are afraid and sad about death.
When our sinful hearts cloud our minds with confusion, we quickly fail to connect the dots and understand who Jesus is and what he came to do and what he has to offer us. And when we fail to understand Jesus, that is when the fears and tears flow fast and fierce.
Run to the tomb with Peter and John this morning. See that it’s empty. Turn around with Mary this morning and see that Jesus is living. Listen to his words and connect the dots of Scripture. See who Jesus is and what he came to do.
This world is imperfect and filled with sin. We are imperfect and filled with sin. And we needed a Savior from that. We needed someone to rescue us from the doom of death and hell. That is the one reason Jesus came here. He came to save us from our sins.
That means that Jesus needed to die. He had to offer himself as a holy and blameless sacrifice to pay for what we have done. He had to offer himself to be our substitute, suffering hell so that we wouldn’t have to.
That means that Jesus needed to rise too. He had to prove that it worked. He had to prove that he did defeat death and the devil. He had to prove that his payment was complete. He had to prove that we would rise from death to life as well.
That means that Jesus needed to return to heaven too. As Jesus told Mary, he had to return to his Father. His work here was done. He didn’t come to stay on earth and set up an earthly paradise. He came to win us an eternal paradise, and he had to go back and prepare a place for us in heaven.
Join Mary, Peter, and John to shake the clouds from your eyes of faith and understand who Jesus is, what he came to do, and what that means for you. He is your Savior from sin. He came to win you forgiveness and a life with God forever in heaven. And that means that this life is not the be all and end all and the most important or best thing we will ever experience. Heaven is.
That understanding is what will change our perspective and will quickly take away the shallow fears and tears of this life. Because Jesus is risen, does that mean he’s going to work on world peace and a cure for cancer and putting a stop to all earthquakes and hurricanes? No. Our proper perspective helps us understand that this sinful world will always remain imperfect and will remain filled with imperfect sinners. But our proper focus does help us to understand that I won’t be living here too much longer. Maybe a few decades, but I have an eternity in paradise waiting.
So financial hardship can come and property loss and damage might happen. But I don’t really need those things and I can’t take them with me to heaven anyways. And I might get really sick and I might get cancer. But soon I’ll have a glorious resurrected body like Jesus, so that’s OK. And I will die, and so will all of my loved ones. It’s going to happen to all of us. But that’s even better because I’ll be in heaven that much sooner. And that is better by far!
On Easter morning the lightbulb goes on. We see Jesus risen and we finally get it. We understand now! Jesus came for me. Jesus died for me. Jesus rose for me. I’m forgiven. I will rise. I will be in heaven. It’s all mine and his resurrection proves it. This world may bring fears and tears, but Jesus’ resurrection quickly takes fears and dries the tears. Soon, I’ll be with him forever where forever there will be no fears and no tears. All because Christ is risen, he is risen indeed. Alleluia!