Found By Much More Than We’re Looking For
John 20:11-18

Dr. William S. Epps, Senior Pastor

Sunday, April 17, 2022
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.  
John 20:11-18

Easter changes the way we look at death and consider reality. No event is as heralded as the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. No incident has generated as much discussion about the consideration that life overcomes death. No occurrence has aroused as much reflection as to the possibility that life continues beyond what we know as the end of existence. Jesus did much with His life to expose us to what we would otherwise have missed. He offered us understanding, insight and light, without which we would be meandering in confusion, sadly disillusioned. He offered us salvation and the way to achieve what we could not acquire on our own. With His death, burial, resurrection and ascension, Jesus has, as Paul says in II Timothy 1:10, “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
We gather somewhere between March 22 and April 25 to celebrate Easter. The date is determined by the first Sunday following the first full moon following the first day of spring. Given the issues that Easter addresses, it is fitting that the observance is associated with and connected to, spring. Easter comes at a time of the year when life buds and blooms and grows and looms defying the notion that existence is doomed to a destiny of gloom. Now, that is the stuff of Easter.  
We gather year after year to celebrate a discovery that has altered our lives immeasurably. Even though we know the story well because we have heard it so many times before, there is still something about repeating it that captures our fancy with new insight and seizes our spirit with fresh understanding. This is one of those special days where “familiarity does not breed contempt,” but rather deepens appreciation as it excites joyful celebration. There are those moments that always ignite the possibility of new insight that brings added light to dispel doubt's night.  The more we review what we have come to believe, the more priceless and precious the joy we receive. The more we reflect on what we have come to know, the more we discover we still have more room to grow. So each year we come as we have in the past, always delighted by the truth that lasts. Life continues to mount resistance to all that threatens its existence. Just when you think it has come to an end, it picks up and starts over again. “Christ destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy1:10). 
Consider what it means that Jesus conquered death, hell and the grave.  
Monday, April 18, 2022
Return to that time in the great long ago where you catch a glimpse of reality that defies fatality, pointing us in the direction of immortality. Relive the moment, permitting the experience of Mary Magdalene to focus your attention.  
Mary Magdalene is one of the women from Galilee along with Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward and Susanna, who gave financial help and domestic service to Jesus and his disciples. She has been set free from what controlled her and she was now in charge of making decisions for her life (Luke 8:1-3). Sharing her resources for Jesus’ ministry and being available to go with him where He went says something about the abundance of her affection, depth of her devotion and the length of her love. She was present at the crucifixion along with Mary, the mother of James and Salome (Mark 15:40). She observed the burial of Jesus (Luke 23:55-56). The fourth gospel, which focuses our attention, gives Mary Magdalene pride of place as the first witness of the resurrection of Jesus.
Something dreadful took place that devastated Mary and the acquaintances of Jesus. One in whom they have put their trust and on whom they have depended was falsely accused and cruelly murdered. Two short verses described the incident with graphic poignancy.
“A crowd had gathered to see the terrible sight.
Then after they had seen it, they felt brokenhearted and went home.
49 All of Jesus’ close friends
and the women who had come with him from Galilee
stood at a distance and watched.” Luke 23:48-49 (CEV)
The lives of those who were adversely affected were at a loss for what to do. All they could do is stand and watch. We are told that all the disciples fled except John who was at the cross with Jesus’ mother, Mary, the wife of Cleophas and Mary Magdalene. The women who followed Him, watched what happened. What courage it takes to watch what you would rather not see. They did not run in fear.  They did what they could, they showed up and watched. They did not hide in terror. They showed up and watched. Sometimes all you can do is show up and watch.
Following this horrific death, Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate and begged for the body of Jesus. Then, along with Nicodemus, he brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes and wound the body of Jesus in linen clothes with the spices, as was their custom. Then, they put Jesus in a new sepulchre in which no one has ever been laid. 
“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee
followed Joseph and watched how Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb.
56Then they went to prepare some sweet-smelling spices for his burial.
But on the Sabbath they rested, as the Law of Moses commands.”
 Luke 23:55-56 (CEV)
The women began on what was left of Friday to prepare spices and ointments to put on the body of Jesus. Preparation suggests that the time will come for you to perform what you prepared to do. When the time came it was the first day of the week.  
Consider what it means to prepare to do what you can to have closure,
when something catastrophic has changed your life.  
Tuesday, April 19, 2022
What better way to signal the start of something new than at its beginning? It is fitting that on the first day of the week a one-of-a-kind, life-changing event occurs and a discovery is made. Events are dated by the measurement of time so that we can identify when something has happened. The first day of the week is an appropriate place to start again. That’s what makes this day so special. It does not end something as the last day but it begins something as the first day. Sunday is recognized as the first day of the week and on the first day of the week there was a magnificent first.
The language used to depict the mood captures our attention with its clarity of expression. Early, before, and while, capture the essence of the moment. It was early in the morning, before dawn, while it was still dark. It was early, before the sun appeared summoning the dawn, annihilating the darkness and dissolving the night.  It was early before the purple mist that filled the atmosphere with its nocturnal hue would be dissipated by the light of day. There are times when we find ourselves compelled by some unction, moved by some stirring, pushed by some instinct and prompted by some motive to do some things. We are drawn to do some things early, before, and while.  
Well, as the story unfolds, Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb and seeing the stone rolled away she runs to Simon Peter and Jesus’ favorite disciple, presumably John, saying,
“they have taken the Lord from the tomb!
 We don’t know where they have put him.” 
John 20:2 (CEV)
Without investigating she runs for help presuming what she considered to be a reasonable conclusion. Those, to whom she goes, run to the tomb to verify her statement. Here she is seeking help and those to whom she goes are consumed with their own interest as it relates to her concern. Isn’t that the way life is?  No matter what you share, the basic regard others have for the experience is how it relates to them. 
Consider what it means to be persistent about doing what you can when
you are prevented from doing what you wanted to do. 
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
Driven by the intensity of adoring love and the enormity of abounding grief, she hurried to the place where the body of Jesus was laid. Anxiously anticipating affirming her allegiance, devotion, loyalty and love, she made her way to the tomb.  It is not clear whether the women thought that Nicodemus and Joseph did not do a thorough job on Friday. However, it is clear that they wanted to do their part. Mary made her way. She arrives and does not find what she was looking for. What she discovers prevents her from doing what she wants to do. That is just like life. We are disrupted by what we discover; we are prevented from doing what we intend; we cannot find what we are looking for. 
She was looking for closure to an all too abrupt ending. She was looking to further declare her devotion to a departed friend. She was looking to add what she could to what had already been done. And she could not find what she was looking for to do what she had planned. There are times when we just cannot find what we are looking for.  
Consider what you do when you can’t find what you are
looking for to do what you intend. 
Thursday, April 21, 2022
Now, as she was looking, she was found by more than she was looking for. Wow! She did not find what she was looking for, but she was found by so much more. That is one of the major features of this story that clamors for our attention. We are found by much more than what we are looking for. 
We are found by heightened awareness that alleviates our anxiety. 
Mary was lingering at the place where she had been prevented from performing what she had prepared to do. With tear-stained eyes due to grief deepened and magnified by a sense of failure to accomplish one last deed, she cries in disgust with herself and her situation. While she succumbs to her helplessness, she hears a question which is directed at her, “Woman, why do you weep?” She responds intent on finding what she is looking for. “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” Again, she hears the question, “Woman, why do you weep?” She sees a figure that she cannot quite make out. She says, again intent on finding what she is looking for, “Sir, if you have taken him somewhere, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Then, she hears what heightens her awareness. She heard her named called by the One who could call it like no other.  At that moment, she became aware that she was found by more than what she was looking for. 
Easter’s surprise is a heightened awareness that settles our confusion and conflict. We too can hear what we need to settle our doubt and calm our fear. Death is potent but not omnipotent. There are some things that death cannot do. Death cannot cancel the contribution that a person makes in a lifetime nor limit the length of the legacy that a loved one leaves behind. Death cannot erase the experiences we hold dear nor mar the memories that we keep near.  
Consider what it means to be found by awareness that
alleviates our anxiety about life and death. 
Friday, April 22, 2022
We are found by a helpful admonition that allays our agony.   
Mary was told not to hold on to what she was looking for. You are looking for the wrong thing. “Do not hold me, I have not yet ascended to my Father.” She was clinging to what she had to let go. Do not hold on to this. It fades of necessity. Do not hold on to it. Let it go. You see in a few days I have to leave this place. I am going to catch a cloud and ascend beyond time into eternity. I have to go, to vouchsafe what I have secured for you. I have got to go. My Father is waiting for me to return and assumed my place on the right side as a victor. I have to go. Let me go.
Hear the admonition that informs our understanding with what we need to let go. When we exit this ephemeral reality and move to that bourn from whose shore no traveler returns, our bodies undergo a molecular decomposition and return from whence they came. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. Life does not exist in a corpse. 
Let it go. “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7). Let it go. 
Our hearts still cling to the body because it is difficult but not impossible to dissociate it from the loved one who dwelt in and animated it for us. Let what decays go. Death is not the end but the beginning. We can now experience the presence of the Lord differently through the power of the Spirit. We can experience the meaning of our loved ones lives like never before. 
Consider what it means to be found by an admonition that
allays our agony about life's awful occurrences. 
Saturday, April 23, 2022
We are found by an affirmation that assuages our anguish.  
“Go tell my disciples.” Mary now has a sacred/consecrated aim that will direct her beyond what she was looking for. Now she has a testimony that will more than suffice for her life. “I have seen the Lord,” she tells the disciples. She now discovers that death, rather than discontinuing Jesus’ life, expanded his existence to be more encompassing of reality in all of its fullness without any barriers, hindrances or obstacles. 
The affirmation that dissolves our anguish is that we have something to do. We have been commanded and commissioned to tell what God has done for us in Christ. Relate the meaning of your loved one to others. The best way to honor those we love is to live fully beyond life’s worst as a testimony that their life has invaluable worth. Our focus is redirected into meaningful activity. We have something purposeful to do. We have something to share that will make a difference about the life we view.         
God alleviates our agony with assurance that this is not all there is. There is something more. There is more to life than we can see and still more of life that is yet to be. 
Consider what it means to be found by an affirmation that
assuages our anguish about life’s adversities.  
We are found by much more than we are looking for. 
Found by courage amid fear. 
Found by hope in spite of despair. 
Found by joy in the midst of sorrow.
Found by light even in the darkest night.
Found by love when hate has done its worst. 
Found by life even in death.
Found by more than we’re looking for. 
Rejoice with words of the composer, who says,  
“Death where is your sting? Sting where is your grave? Grave where is your victory? He got up. God raise him up. He got up with all power in his hand.”   

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