Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

03/27/16 Sermon - Which One Are You?

“Which One Are You?”

John 20:1-18

John’s gospel gives us the more personal description of the resurrection story in comparison to the other gospel writers.

I invite each of you to take this story personally.

As we go through what John has written I would like you to pay close attention to the characters portrayed in this drama. When we are done with the depiction of what occurred on that first Easter morning, I have some specific questions for you to answer.

I think it is safe to say that today was NOT the first time you have heard this particular story of Mary of Magdala, Simon Peter and the beloved disciple’s visit to the empty tomb. For many of you, I would venture to say that you have heard it so many times, you could tell it with your eyes closed, were you not to fall asleep first.

That being agreed upon, the challenge here, is for you to listen in such a way, that you discover something new, or at the least, something so significant that it is worth hearing again.

I am going to break this drama down into two scenes.

Scene 1 begins with Mary of Magdala, coming to the tomb, while it was still dark. Darkness and light stand out as important themes for John in his gospel. You may recall Nicodemus paid a visit to Jesus, at night, to hear Jesus claim ‘He is the light of the world.’

Why Mary chooses to come to the tomb while it was still dark is not known, perhaps she couldn’t sleep and couldn’t wait for dawn to arrive. There is nothing in the text that tells us that she may have been on a mission to anoint His body or to do something ceremonial. We do know that she knew He was dead, because we are told in the chapter before this, in John 19, that she had been there when He died. At this point, all we know is she had to go to the tomb.

Well, when she gets to the tomb, she immediately notices the stone has been rolled away.

Note, she doesn’t immediately scream, “He Is Risen!”

The idea of a resurrection does not enter her mind.

Instead, she runs to tell Simon Peter and the other disciple, “the one whom Jesus loved,” what she has seen.

No sooner had Mary said something than the two men are in a foot race to the grave, “the other disciple” gets there first. He looks into the tomb, but doesn’t enter. In my reading this week, I came across an interesting discovery with which I am inclined to agree. Although the majority of Biblical scholars have depicted John to be the “Beloved Disciple” there are other scholars who feel “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was Lazarus, he is described this way in John 11:3. After reading this statement of the Beloved Disciple stopping at the opening to the tomb and not going in, it would make sense that a man who had been dead for four days in a tomb, would hesitate and react in this manner. 

While the Beloved Disciple was leaning against the opening, Peter comes up, panting a little bit, and without batting an eyelash, goes right in. At this point, the gospel goes into great detail as to the discovery of Jesus’ grave cloths. Curious details for John to record, unless of course, the details help to solve a mystery. You see, the Jewish leaders had presented the story that Jesus’ body had been stolen as their logical response for why the body was gone. However, if anyone had removed the body, why would they have removed the strips of linen from around His body first and left them on the ground?

And then, not only had the burial cloth that had been around his face been removed,  it was seen neatly folded and placed away from the strips of linen?

The only other description of a man coming out from the grave was of Lazarus and we are told he came out with his face wrapped in a cloth.

Would someone have taken the time to remove what Jesus was wearing and carried the body away bare naked?

There Simon Peter stood, looking at the empty tomb, but gave no response. We are then told, finally, the other disciple who had arrived first, came into the tomb, and “he saw and believed”. 

Both men returned home and as far as we know, at this point, it seems, that neither of them tell anyone.

Thus the end of Scene One.

Scene Two:

It is interesting to note, that John is the only gospel writer who has a scene two. We find Mary of Magdala has returned and is found weeping alone outside the tomb.  Although Mary is the only person at the empty tomb in all four gospels, we find little connection between this scene and scene one. It is likely that John has pulled together, from several sources to describe this part of the story. Regardless, when Mary looks into the tomb, she sees angels, sitting where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and one at the foot. They strike up a conversation with her, asking her why she is crying. She doesn’t seem to be fazed, but rather answers their question by expressing her allegiance to Jesus, as her Lord, and confessing she believes someone has taken away the body and she does not know where it is. At this point, she turned and saw Jesus, but confuses Him with being the gardener.

Is she wrong in her thinking?

Didn’t Jesus teach a lesson on gardening, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain: but if it dies, it bears much fruit?” (John 12:24)

Now the gardener has come again.

Mary has a similar discussion with Jesus of how she was looking for Jesus’ body, there was not even a hint of her comprehension of a resurrection.


Jesus says her name, “Mary.”

This reminds us of something else Jesus said before, “The shepherd calls his own sheep by name….they know his voice.” (John 10:3,4) Upon hearing him say her name, something clicks, and Mary cried out, “Rabbouni!” or teacher! And attempts to hug Him.

Jesus explained that she could not hold on to Him. 

How often do we try to “hold on” to Jesus, with our creeds and confessions, or our denominations and doctrines, when what we should be doing is what Jesus told Mary,

“Go and Tell” Jesus told her.

The words Jesus spoke are also for us, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

As Believers, we too are granted the same relationship with God as Jesus has!

We have come full circle from what John wrote in the first chapter of his gospel, in verse 12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

Scene two ends with Mary going to the other disciples and telling them that she had seen the Lord.

She was the first resurrection preacher.

So there we have it,

Three disciples.

-       One sees the grave clothes neatly folded and believes.

-       One sees the same thing and there is no indication that he believes anything.

-       One is surprised into believing by hearing the sound of her name.

Which one are you?

Are you one who needs evidence? You need to see the grave clothes to believe?

Are you someone who has the evidence, right in front of you, you have seen it with your own eyes, but at this point, you are not prepared to make a decision?

Or, are you someone, that God has spoken to you directly, and that is an experience that only you and God have shared, and that has cemented your connection with God forever?

I believe that in our spiritual journeys our faith can be demonstrated in one, two or all three of these ways.

Today, just like our three characters in our story, each of us has come to the empty tomb. We have seen the linen wrappings lying there and we will leave, either

   -       Seeing and believing

-       Seeing and leaving uncertain, or

-       Seeing and needing to hear our own name.

Which one are you?


Let’s pray.

Today I have challenged you to look at yourself and decide what type of believer you are.

I want to leave you with a song and video that explains what God sees when He looks at you, through the eyes of the cross.