George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre--Joh 20:1
Failure to Believe Christ for the Present
Although Jesus had been teaching His disciples with increasing clearness that He would rise from the dead, none of them had grasped the full meaning of His words. The company of Jesus had been so sweet to them that they had refused to let their minds dwell upon His death, and the hints of death and of His resurrection were so vitally connected in the teaching of Jesus that to ignore the one fact was to reject the other. When Jesus told Martha that her brother would rise again, Martha answered that she knew he would rise at the last day. So, doubtless, when Jesus spoke darkly of His own resurrection, the disciples would dream of some far distant hour. Long ages after Elijah had been carried heavenward, some of them had seen him on the Mount of Transfiguration. So it might be that when the centuries had run, they would meet in glory the Lord they loved so well. They could believe for some far distant day. Their point of failure was not the future but the present. The day would come, no doubt, when Christ would rise. The incredible thing was that He was risen now. Are we not all tempted to an unbelief like that? Is it not easy to believe that God will work, but very hard to believe that God is working? Strong faith not only deals with the far past and with the years that are still hidden behind the veil, it is radiant for the present hour and sees the hand of God at work today.
Mary Magdalene's Mission to the Tomb
Early in the morning, then, of the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala steals out into the garden. She had been there before when they were burying Jesus, and she had marked the spot where they had laid her Lord. Now it was dark; the sun had not yet risen; the children in Jerusalem were dreaming happy dreams. But the Sabbath had been one of misery for Mary, and little sleep had visited her that night. And what was it that drew her to the garden? It was not curiosity; it was love. It was love with a passion for service at the heart of it--there was still something she could do for Jesus. Joseph and Nicodemus had embalmed the body. But it had been hastily done, for the Sabbath was at hand. Mary was going to complete the embalming, and she would have the quiet hour of dawn for her sad task. But who would help her to roll away the stone? That thought had been troubling her all the weary night. Her heart was full of it as she lifted the latch of her lodging and stepped out into the chill morning air. As she entered the garden, the sky was reddening. The dawn was flushing up out of the East. And she looked and saw at a glance that something strange had happened--the stone, that she had been vexing herself about all night, was gone! Now often, when one trouble is removed, there comes a greater trouble in its place. We looked for peace when the thing that vexed us vanished, and instead of peace we were plunged in deeper sorrow. So Mary, instead of rejoicing at what she saw, was launched out upon a wider sea of agony. It flashed on her in a twinkling that the body was stolen. Under cover of night her Lord had been taken away. She dropped the spices and ointments she was carrying. There were other women there; Mary forgot them. She hurried back through the streets of the wakening city. Breathlessly she told Peter and John what she had seen. And then we read how Peter and John ran out and how Peter impetuously pushed on into the tomb. And there were the graveclothes lying on the stone slab; and on the stone pillow, raised a little above them, the napkin, still coiled in a circle as when it bound His head. The linen clothes, weighted with spices, had sunk flat; but the empty napkin kept the form of the Savior's brow.
The Risen Christ Appeared to Mary First
Then follows the appearance of the risen Lord to Mary. It was not to Peter that Jesus first appeared. It was not even to John, "whom Jesus loved." It was to Mary out of whose heart Jesus had cast seven devils; it was to Mary who loved much because much had been forgiven her. After discovering that the grave was empty, the disciples had gone away home again (Joh 20:10). But Mary, whose home had been the heart of Jesus, could not tear herself away from the garden and the grave. It was desolation to think that Christ was lost. Not even the white robed angels could console her. We are never so sure of the depth of Mary's love as when we see her weeping by the tomb. A great scholar, in studies of the resurrection, points out the different features emphasized in the accounts of the four evangelists. Matthew dwells chiefly on the majesty and glory of the resurrection. Mark insists upon it as a fact. Luke treats it as a spiritual necessity; and John, as a touchstone of character. And when we see Mary weeping in the garden, overwhelmed with her unutterable loss, we feel that here is the touchstone of her character. In the depth of her loss we find the depth of her love, and she loved much because she was forgiven much. So Mary stood in her sorrow beside the grave, thinking perhaps that Jesus was far away; and Jesus was never nearer to her than in that moment when she thought Him lost. She turned round; there was someone behind her. It was Jesus, but she thought it was the gardener. Some mysterious change had come on the Lord she loved, and it was dawn, and her eyes were dim with tears. Then Jesus said, "Mary," and she knew the voice. What a glorious joy must have taken her poor heart! She cried, "Rabboni!" She would have clung to Him. She would have held Him in the old grasp of human tenderness. And Jesus had to say to her, "Cling not to Me; hereafter, Mary, you shall walk by faith and not by sight." Then Mary received Christ's message for the disciples; and with a new heart, and in a world that was all new, hastened to tell them that she had seen the Lord.
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