Over the past few years, our family has done a mystery jig-saw puzzle. When completed the puzzle is supposed to provide clues to help you solve the mystery. The box, however, does not have a picture of what the completed puzzle is supposed to look like. The result is that when you dump out the pieces of these puzzles, what you have is a pile of 500 pieces you know is supposed to go together in a way that makes sense, but you can’t begin to see how.
Early that morning, likely between 3 and 6 o’clock, Mary went to the tomb. At the tomb, Mary saw that “the stone had been removed from the entrance.” The opening of Jesus’ grave was covered by a large, round flat stone which would fit into a groove in the ground and could be rolled away to get into the tomb. John points out that the stone was not just rolled to the side but lifted up completely and removed. On seeing this, verse 2 says that Mary ran back to tell Peter and John. But her conclusion from what she saw at the tomb was, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” Just when she thought things couldn’t get any worse, someone – maybe the Jewish leaders or perhaps grave robbers – came along and took Jesus’ body. Now not only is Jesus dead, but the body of their dear Jesus is now also gone. But John does something here that gives a hint of the hope to come. Up to this point, John has used the term “the Lord” only a few times to describe Jesus directly but here Mary called Jesus “the Lord.” In fact, now the phrase “the Lord” is used 7 times in chapters 20-21. From now on Jesus is not just a teacher, but now is the resurrected Lord. So John is saying that even though Mary couldn’t see it at that point, Jesus is Lord.
II. Now let’s look at Simon Peter and his response to what he sees in verses 3-7.
Mary tells Peter and John and immediately both run to the tomb. John arrives first and bends over to look in the tomb where he could see the linen cloths laying there, but he seems to be too afraid to go inside at this point. Then Peter catches up with him and characteristically, rushes right past John into the tomb to see firsthand what has happened. He too sees the linen cloths and the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head lying there neatly by itself. The point is that the scene inside the tomb is neat and orderly. John’s point in writing this is that no one took the body of Jesus. If it had been grave robbers, they would have thrown the cloths around or more likely just taken the body, cloths and all. Rather, the picture is one of calm in which Jesus arose and calmly and carefully laid aside the cloths that were wrapped around him.
III. Finally there is John, the beloved in verses 8-9.
After Peter went into the tomb, John also went in and saw... and believed. John somehow believed that Jesus was alive. Now it wasn’t faith based on full and complete understanding. Only later on, John says in verse 9, would they fully understand that this was what was supposed to happen all along. After the resurrection, they read the Old Testament Scriptures with opened eyes. They may have read Psalm 16:10 - “Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” They could see now that this pointed to how the Messiah would die and rise again.
IV. And so what is our response to all of this? Our response is to believe.
We see the evidence in the stories of the resurrection and we must believe. Believing means that we not only know it is true, but we entrust our lives completely to Jesus as a result. Believing in the resurrection means that not only are our sins paid for on the cross, but that we have resurrected eternal life as well. John says that the goal is to believe and by believing have life. Look at verse 31: “These things are written “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The resurrection has so many implications for us.
Finally, Jesus’ resurrection means we can live in joy and confidence right now. Think again of Mary, Peter and John at the tomb. At first, there was confusion, pain and overwhelming grief. In the end there was joy in the knowledge that Jesus was alive. The resurrection of Christ puts our lives into perspective. There is much more to life than what we see and experience right now. There is eternal life that is coming for all who believe. There is the assurance that Jesus’ resurrection brings to us that no matter what may happen in this life, Jesus is the risen Lord today.
Today you may feel as though you are surrounded by things that are threatening you. Remember that Jesus is alive and he is the Lord. And Romans 10:9 says simply, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you believe in Him, you have nothing to fear!