It’s been a couple of thousand years since the first Easter. It’s been a long time since the stone was rolled and Jesus walked out of an empty tomb. We have celebrated thousands of Easter mornings and probably hundreds of thousands if not millions of church services together to focus on and worship the only person to ever hold the distinct position of being fully God and man. Many people have died for you, a few have been recorded as risen from the dead, but Jesus is the only one who paid the price for your sins by dying a sacrificial death and conquering that death by rising again. Most of the population doesn’t have a problem with Jesus as savior; the problem is in serving him past Easter. Jesus taught, built faith, healed, and resurrected people before the cross, but what he did and the visits he made after the resurrection are the barrier breakers of today’s faith. Jesus not only conquered the grave, he also shattered ceilings, broke down barriers, and connected great divides.
One of those post-Easter visits is recorded in the book of John chapter 20. The first thing mentioned is not about his disciples. John and Peter are not first to be spoken of. However, that distinction goes to a woman. In verses 1 through 6 we find that Mary Magdalene was the first at the tomb on Easter morning. She was up before daylight, and, when she approached the tomb, she noticed that something had happened. The stone was removed that sealed the entrance, and Jesus was gone. She then ran to the disciples, and Peter and John bolted to the tomb. Their personalities in this setting tell a lot about these three followers of Christ. John was cautious. He was a thinker, and he calmly evaluated each move and counter-move as he reached the tomb first, yet he stopped short at the entrance. Peter, however, was either out of shape or simply the slower runner, but his personality was that he acted upon his emotions, hot-headed at times yet powerful in persuasion. He was the classic fire-ready-aim kind of guy. He of course didn’t stop at the entrance to ponder or calculate, he charged in without reservation or care. And then there was Mary. Her personality was 100 percent passion for Jesus. Yes a woman became the first to view the empty tomb. A woman became the first to proclaim the risen Jesus. She became the first person to speak with the angels. She was the first to see Jesus risen and the first to speak with him post resurrection.
In verse 10, the men saw the emptiness, but Mary experienced the fulfillment. The disciples viewed the discarded grave clothes and the face cloth folded. They assessed the situation, and all they knew was Jesus was gone, and, if they stuck around, they would be next. So they fled and quarantined themselves from the world outside. But one person threw caution to the wind and stayed. Mary allowed her passion for Jesus to supersede her fear of arrest and possible death. Mary was the one to whom much was given and forgiven. In Mark’s account, she is mentioned as being the first to see Jesus but also mentioned that Jesus had earlier delivered her of seven evil spirits. In verse 2, she ran. In verse 11, she wept; verse 14, she saw; verse 16, she heard and her eyes were opened. Then, in verse 18, she spread the gospel of the risen king! Her words were simple and direct - “I have seen the Lord!”
Our personality can have a great impact on how we view our post- Easter experience. Are we approaching the tomb with caution, carelessness, or with passion? Most of the disciples’ identities were fishermen/preacher. They were husbands, fathers, and businessmen on top of the juggling act of being disciples of Christ. But Mary only had one identity, and that was Jesus. It’s very fitting that Jesus would appear to her first because there was no dilution in her. Her heart was the purest of them all. She was a woman with a questionable past that was given the certainty of a future through one encounter with Jesus.
Our passion will determine our position. Our position will open the doors for our encounter. Our encounter is what changes the heart.
Jesus broke gender barriers through Mary because of her passion and position. Whether you like it or not, she will forever be the first gospel preacher, and she’s not a man. Now you may argue that in Luke’s gospel, recorded in chapter 24 and verse 10 that Mary had others with her when they ran to the disciple, but they, too, were all women, so pick one and the result is still the same - the first preacher of the resurrected Christ was a woman. How’s that for breaking down barriers and shattering ceilings?
Let’s pour as much emphasis and effort into following Jesus after Easter as we did on Easter. Passion plus position equals encounter. I’ll save a seat for you at Christpoint Church. Be like Mary and bring someone with you and let’s meet this Sunday at “The Point” on the square, in Sparta. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.