Sweetwater Presbyterian

Small in size, Big in Faith and Love

Jesus Appears to Mary

Jesus Appears to Mary


Each Sunday during worship - and I hope you do this every day - we say the Apostle’s Creed together. It is a brief way for us to continually remind ourselves of who we are - we are God’s people - and to remind ourselves what is important for us to understand about who we are. We always need to remember, however, that this is a summary and not a comprehensive account of what we need to know about our faith. This time of year is a case in point, for we are in the portion of the church year we know as the season of Easter. This season of the church year goes from Easter - the celebration of the Resurrection until the Day of the Ascension - which is a period of 40 days.
in the Apostles Creed as we say the paragraph about Jesus, we remind ourselves of the crucial events that we just observed - Jesus was crucified and died, he descended into hell (which by the way is just a way of emphasizing that Jesus was truly dead), he rose again on the third day - the resurrection and the next phrase says ‘and he ascended into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father’. So if we take this at face value, our understanding is that upon his resurrection, Jesus then goes straight to heaven. But that is not the case. According to the Biblical account of Jesus after the resurrection, he spent 40 days on earth before his ascension to heaven. For 40 days after the resurrection, Jesus remained on the earth appearing to various disciples and followers to sort of give them that last little bit of instruction, of teaching, and of just proof that he truly had come back from the dead.
These 40 days when Jesus remains on earth, are what we recognize as the Season of Easter. And to reinforce this 40 day time between resurrection and ascension, we spend this season recalling some of the appearances Jesus made to his followers - and understanding what Jesus is trying to teach us in these appearances.
We also do things in the sanctuary, which help us remember that during these 40 days Jesus is still present. White is our color - white is always a symbol of the presence of the Christ. We have our special Christ Candle which burns - which again is that symbol of the presence of Jesus with us - and we will leave our flowered cross during this season - just another reminder of the presence of the one who brings beauty to our lives.
Today we look at the first appearance Jesus makes after his resurrection. Remember, no one actually witnessed the resurrection - even though we know it happened, it is still a mystery. When the women first went to the tomb, soon followed by Jesus’ disciples - the only indication they had of the resurrection was the fact that the tomb was empty. The women had some corroboration by a couple angels that told them that Jesus was raised from the dead - but the disciples assumed that someone had stolen Jesus’ body and told the women they had seen an hallucination. And the women thought maybe the men were right…..
Mary Magdelene then goes back to the empty tomb in grief. She sits outside the tomb and weeps. And even though angels had told her that Jesus was resurrected, she didn’t see how that would be possible and so she assumed that someone had stolen the body and that Jesus was still dead and she was devastated at the loss of her friend.
Mary grew up on the shore of the Sea of Galilee – in the town of Magdala. We don’t know what her life was like before she met Jesus except for one thing – her life was miserable. The Gospel of Luke tells us that she was filled with seven demons and that Jesus delivered her from them all. She then became one of Jesus’ closest followers and supporters. She and a number of other women traveled with Jesus and his disciples and helped to provide for him during his ministry.
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb with the weight of the world and her sorrows bearing her down on her. She is in that place many of us have found ourselves - we have lost someone who means everything to us; someone who was an important part of our lives; someone that we loved so much that they were a part of who we are. And when we lose them, we are overcome with pain - emotional

pain and even physical pain. We are just like Mary sitting outside that tomb feeling like her whole life was over. Weeping over her loss….
Death is never an easy thing to talk about. Death is not a topic we like to think about - much less talk about. But we cannot truly understand resurrection unless we talk about death. Death is one thing we all have in common. We have all experienced death of someone close to us - we will all die. We can’t get around that. It is a fact of life. We can’t cheat death and we can’t ignore it.
And it is as devastating for us to lose someone just as it was for Mary that day as she sat outside the tomb. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you need to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’ - that you have to be ‘strong’ - that weeping over the death of someone close to us is a ‘sin’. It hurts to lose someone; there is going to be a void in our lives as long as we live on this earth. We all have that time when all we feel like doing is to just sit and weep - often that sobbing with our whole body when for a moment - we feel like our life is over.
That is how Jesus found Mary. She was unable to believe anything except Jesus was gone forever and now she was alone and it hurt, badly.
When Mary senses this person standing beside her. He speaks softly to her and inquires why she is weeping. She, not even looking up, states simply that someone has stolen Jesus’ body and all she wants is to be able to find the body so she can pay her last respects to her friend by doing the proper burial ritual - that is her last chance to honor the person who had been so important to her in her life.
She then hears the voice of the person beside her say, “Mary” - obviously in a way she had heard before because she turns to this person and realizes that standing beside of her is Jesus!
Mary had to be filled with an abundant of different emotions - shock, disbelief which turns to understanding. Jesus had tried to tell this followers over and over this was going to happen and they didn’t believe him - and here what he had said had come to pass….. Jesus had rose from the dead! He was alive!
And that is our promise as well. It is a promise - a guarantee - a done deal. Because Jesus was resurrected, the same thing will happen to us - the same thing will happen to those we love; those we care about; those who we have lost who have been such an important part of who we are. Because we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection - we can celebrate the resurrection of our loved ones.
You know in our faith we don’t call funerals - funerals. We call them Celebrations of the Resurrection! A big part of our faith is our understanding of death - it is not the end - in many ways it is a beginning. A beginning of a new life with Jesus forever - where we are guaranteed eternal life filled with joy.
What we learn from this appearance of Jesus after his resurrection is that weeping and pain and grief are a part of death - we grieve, and that is a normal part of experiencing that death, but if we truly have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are assured, guaranteed, that resurrection is the next step after that death - whether ours or the person we love.
Belief in the resurrection is one of the things that makes us different that the world around us. We still experience death in our life; we still don’t understand death - the whys or the hows or the whens - we will still experience the pain of missing someone - but we can get past that because we have faith in the promises of a resurrected savior who comforts us in our grief and gives us the promise that what pulls us out of that sorrow into the knowledge that because Jesus was resurrected we know - without a shadow of a doubt - that our grief can turn into the joy of knowing that death simply leads to the wonder of living in the presence of God forever.
That is what Jesus taught Mary that day. We can’t become so overcome by our grief that we forget the promise - we can’t become so overcome in our lack of understanding of the whys that we forget Jesus rose and showed himself so that we could believe - that we could trust in resurrection. Her weeping turned into joy of the knowledge of resurrection - and she ran off to tell others of this wonderful news! Amen!