************ Sermon on John 20:15 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on April 4, 2021

John 20:1-18
John 20:15a
"Why Are You Crying?"
Easter 2021

"Woman, why are you crying?" The angels asked Mary this question (vs 13). Jesus asked this question too (vs 15). "Woman, why are you crying?"

Why do people cry? People cry when they are in pain. People cry when someone says hurtful things to them. People cry when a relationship is broken. People cry when they are starving and have hunger pains. People cry when they have suffered a great loss. People cry when they are scared. People cry when a loved one turns away from the Lord. People cry when they sin. People cry when there is death. Why is Mary crying?

I want to look at three points this Easter morning: first, Mary is crying; second, Mary doesn't need to cry; third, Mary stops crying.

I Mary is Crying
A "Woman, why are you crying?" Mary is crying. Mary was a common and popular name in Israel because its Hebrew form was the name of the sister of Moses. So we need to make sure we know which Mary we are talking about. The New Testament mentions six different women with the name Mary.

The best-known Mary, of course, is Mary the mother of Jesus. She was the virgin chosen by God to bear His Son, the Savior of the world.

A second Mary is Mary of Bethany. This Mary was the sister of Lazarus and Martha.

A third Mary is Mary the mother of James the younger, the mother of Joses, and the wife of Clopas. She watched the crucifixion of Christ, saw the place where Jesus was buried, and was one of the women who brought spices to anoint Jesus’ body Easter morning.

A fourth Mary is Mary the mother of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark.

A fifth Mary is a member of the church at Rome. Paul includes her as one of the many people to greet at the end of his letter and describes her as one "who worked very hard" on behalf of the church (Romans 16:6).

The last Mary, the Mary of our Bible reading, is Mary Magdalene. She came from Magdala, a city by the Sea of Galilee. The first time we meet her, in Luke 8, we are told Jesus had cast seven demons from her. Over the years people have explained her demon possession as the result of sin; more specifically, she has been identified as a prostitute -- I heard this again this past week on a bike ride. There is nothing in the Bible to support this; obviously, though, she was a sinful woman so that demons felt at home within her. Because of her deliverance from demon-possession she was dedicated to and loved the Lord Jesus.

B Why is Mary crying? Mary is crying because she is mourning Jesus' death. And, to make matters worse, Mary is unable to anoint Jesus' body for burial because His body is missing. "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him" (Jn 20:13). She said this three times: to Peter and John, to the angels, to Jesus Himself. Who did Mary think took Jesus' body? She uses the word "they" twice -- maybe grave robbers, maybe Jesus' enemies; she says "you" to Jesus thinking He was the gardener. "They have taken my Lord away." "Sir, if you have carried him away ..."

Mary is crying. Mary’s weeping was the loud lamentation so characteristic of Jewish people when they express their sorrow (Jn 11:31, 33). There is certainly nothing wrong with sorrow, because it is a God-given emotion; and weeping is good therapy for broken hearts. The sorrow of the Christian, however, is different from the hopeless sorrow of the world (1 Thess 4:13-18), because we have "a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Pet 1:3). We weep -- not because our believing loved ones have gone to heaven -- but because they have left us and we miss them.

II Mary Doesn't Need to Cry
A "Woman, why are you crying?" Jesus and the angels don't say this because they don't know why Mary is crying. Jesus and the angels say this because Mary should not be crying. Mary should not be crying because Jesus is not dead. Mary should not be crying because Jesus' body does not need anointing. Mary should not be crying because Jesus has risen, He has risen indeed. Mary has no reason to cry because Jesus is alive.

"Woman, why are you crying?" Recognize this as the voice of disapproval. Recognize this as the voice of astonishment. Recognize this even as the voice of admonishment. Mary has no reason to cry.

B "Woman, why are you crying?" If the world had its way Mary would still be crying. Same with the Jews. Because none of them are willing to accept Easter's resurrection. They are not willing to accept the greatest event in history. Instead, they explain it away.

Remember what the Jews said? The disciples stole His body. The disciples faked a resurrection. The disciples perpetrated a hoax on the world.

A favorite explanation from the eighteenth century is still around today: the swoon theory. Jesus didn't die on the cross. It only looked like He died. He fainted. He went into a kind of semi-coma. The cool air of the tomb revived Him. However, this denies the fact that the Roman soldiers knew what they were doing. They didn't make mistakes about whether or not someone was still alive. They knew if someone was dead. And, if there was any doubt, they broke their legs and stabbed them in the side.

Another popular theory is the hallucination theory. According to this theory, the followers and disciples so desperately wanted Jesus to be alive that they imagined a resurrection. Jesus arose, they say, in the faith of the disciples but He did not rise physically.

How about the wrong tomb theory? In their grief the women got mixed up and went to the wrong tomb. They didn't find Jesus there and concluded He has risen.

The worst of today's liberals totally deny Jesus' resurrection. But that doesn't matter they say because what counts is His example of self-sacrifice for a great cause.

"Woman, why are you crying?" The answer of the Jews, the answer of the world: Mary is crying because Jesus is dead, because Jesus has not arisen.

C "Woman, why are you crying?" Her tears are in vain. Her tears are not necessary. Her tears have no reason. Her tears are needless. "Woman, why are you crying?" Why are you crying when Jesus isn't dead? Why are you crying when Jesus has risen? "Woman, why are you crying?" Let's look at the reasons for saying this.

First, Mary don't you see that the tomb is empty? "The stone had been removed from the entrance" (Jn 20:1). The grave clothes and head covering are lying neatly in place -- without the body and head of Jesus (Jn 20:6-7).

Second, Mary don't you pay attention to the testimony "from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead" (Jn 20:9)? What testimony? Paul saw the resurrection in Psalm 2:
(Ac 13:33; NIV84) — 33 [God] has fulfilled ... [what he promised] by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “ ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’
Peter (Acts 2:23-36) saw the resurrection in Psalm 16:
(Ps 16:10–11; NIV84) — 10 ... you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. 11 You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
In Isaiah 53:10, the statement "he will see his offspring and prolong His days" is interpreted as a prediction of Christ’s resurrection. Psalm 22 starts with the word from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" But it ends with the promise of Easter's resurrection: "For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him" (Ps 22:24). Jesus Himself used the Prophet Jonah and his three days in the belly of the whale to illustrate His own death, burial, and resurrection (Mt 12:38-40).

Third, Mary don't you pay attention to the witness of the angels? In Matthew, Mark, and Luke the angels say, "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said" (Mt 28:5; Mk 16:6; Lk 24:6). Now, what has happened to John's angels? How come they don't declare the resurrection of Jesus? How come they don't say, "He is not here; he has risen"? How come all they say is, "Woman, why are you crying?" The angelic announcement is there in John's gospel, but it is not obvious.

Let me explain. Mary bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. Where else in Scripture do you see two angels positioned this way? On the mercy seat or atonement cover of the ark of the covenant. At each end of the atonement cover was a cherub with outspread wings looking down to a space between them. Listen to what God says about this:
(Ex 25:22; NIV84) — 22 There, above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all my commands for the Israelites.
Between the two cherubim God met with His people and spoke to His people. Now, if you were there, what would you see when God met with Aaron and Moses? You would see nothing between the cherubim!

With this in mind, go back to Mary and the two angels, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. What do you see between the two angels, the two angels posed like the cherubim? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because Jesus is not there. Because Jesus is risen. Do you see the analogy? Do you see the similarity?

That's not the only message I hear from those two angels. Those two angels, posed like the cherubim, tell us there is now a new mercy seat! That mercy seat is Jesus. He has paid the price for sin. And, they tell us Jesus is God -- it is in Jesus that God now meets and speaks with His people.

Fourth, Mary don't you see the risen Christ but a few steps away?

Those who object say no one saw the resurrection. No one saw it. And none of the gospel writers describe what actually, physically happened. But let me ask you, if you have the person who was dead do you need to see the resurrection? If you have the person who was dead do you need the details? All you need is Him who was dead. That's all the proof you need.

"Woman, why are you crying?" Obviously, she shouldn't be crying because Jesus is not dead, because Jesus is risen.

III Mary Stops Crying
"Woman, why are you crying?" Mary was crying outside of the tomb. She was crying inside the tomb. She was crying when she went outside the tomb again.

Jesus said one word to her: "Mary." He might even have said the Hebrew version: "Miriam." And she stopped crying.

His voice stopped her crying. His voice. Not His appearance. Remind you of something? Reminds me of what Jesus said in John 10:3 about the Good Shepherd:
(Jn 10:3–4; NIV84) — 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
He calls His sheep by name. The sheep know His voice. They know His voice and follow Him.

Mary knew that voice. Mary loved that voice. She knew the way He said her name. She stopped crying. Now she knew her tears were not necessary. Because He is risen, He is risen indeed.

On this Easter Sunday do you, like Mary, hear the Master's voice? Do you hear Him calling your name? Do you believe He is risen, He is risen indeed?

"Woman, why are you crying?" Why are you crying when there is Easter's resurrection? So, Mary, if you cry, cry about your sins that made Him go to the cross and the grave. But don't cry about Him, because He is not dead; He has risen, as He said.
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