John 20:1-18
Why Are You Crying?

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

Mary Stood Outside The Tomb Crying

1.  While it was still dark, very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, that is on Sunday, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb [of Jesus].  According to the other gospels, it looks like she hadn't gone [there] by herself, but that there were others traveling with her.  They went to the grave to anoint the corpse of Jesus with perfumed oil.  That was the least bit act of love they could do for him.  They wanted to love Jesus in some way so much, but the death of Jesus was an indisputable fact.  They could do nothing against that reality.  All they could do was mourn his death with their tears once more and anoint him with fragrance.

2.  But then, when they arrived at the tomb, even his corpse had vanished.  Mary turned back hurriedly and reported it to Peter and another disciple.  "The Lord has been taken from his tomb.  We don't know where they have put him."  Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb.  When they arrived, the linen that they had wrapped around the corpse was situated inside the tomb.  The situation was depicted in detail.  The text intentionally says, "the covering that they had wrapped around the head of Jesus was not placed in the same place as the linen, but had been rolled up in a separate spot."

3.  This detailed picture meant one thing for sure, that Mary was dead wrong.  Mary said, "The Lord has been taken from his tomb."  She thought somebody made off with [his corpse].  But then no, his linen was still there.  If somebody had carried him off, you wouldn't expect there to be linen.  That's why Mary was so wrong.  She still doesn't realize its import, which will be clear to her later.

4.  Since she doesn't realize [its significance], she continues crying.  The text says, still crying when she bent over and looked inside the tomb, she saw two angels.  How did they actually look to her?  Why wasn't she surprised?  I don't get this.  But, the important thing is their message which has been recorded in our text.  They said, "Woman, why are you crying?," which also meant that Mary had no real need to be crying.

5.  But, she kept crying.  While she continues to cry she tells them the same thing she said before.  "My Lord has been taken away.  I don't know where they have put him."  The text reads that while she was saying this she turned back and then saw Jesus standing there.  But, she didn't realize that it was Jesus.  Even though Jesus was near her, Mary didn't perceive it.  Therefore, she turns her back on Jesus again and keeps crying.

6.  So as we read this passage, it really looks like the fact that Mary "was crying" was emphasized deliberately.  Her tears comprise this scene.  There we have her as a person who can't do anything except cry.  When Jesus was going to the cross, she was helpless.  When Jesus was arrested, she couldn't do a thing.  When Jesus was suffering on the cross, she couldn't do a thing.  When Jesus was about to take his last breath, she couldn't do anything.  When Jesus died and was entombed, she couldn't do anything regarding his death.  Even when the morning of the third day came and she went to his tomb, she could only do but anoint oil on Jesus' corpse.  However, even his corpse was gone at that.  [Again] now she couldn't do anything.  She could only cry.

7.  We understand in a sense how badly Mary felt; because even we have times when all we can do is cry.  We know it.  There are times when a person can't do anything except cry.  This extremist of scenes, like we see here, is a time a person was face to face with the death of a loved one.  Obviously, for human beings the biggest problem and the final enemy is "death."  We are utterly powerless against this thing called "death."

Woman, Why Are You Crying?

8.  But, her coming to the point of only being able to cry is, in a certain sense, an important thing for us, too.  Tears fogged up her eyes.  But, at the hour when she couldn't see anything right then, there was a voice which first became audible to her.  What did Mary Magdalene hear at the very depths of her sadness and powerlessness?!  It was the voice of Jesus.

9.  Jesus said to the still crying Mary, "Woman, why are you crying?  Who are you searching for?  The same question we read earlier is repeated.  Jesus also asked her [like the angels did], "Why are you crying?"  Because it was no longer necessary for Mary to cry.  Jesus' question to her was a statement to Mary that "You can stop crying now."  Why was there no need to cry?  It goes without saying.  Because Jesus was there.  Mary just hadn't noticed.  Mary had been dead wrong.  Christ hadn't been taken away.  Mary thought Jesus was still under the realm of death.  So she kept crying.  But Jesus wasn't under death's control.  Christ was victorious over death and was resurrected back to life.  While Mary was unaware of it, a decisive event had already taken place.  Christ had already defeated the greatest problem among human beings, the last enemy: death.

10.  But, Mary still hadn't realized it.  Supposing he was the gardener, she replied still sobbing, "If you moved him away, please tell me where you put him?  I will take over [things for him]."  Then, Jesus lifted his voice with just one word only, [and said] "Mary."  "Mary" -- it was the voice she heard so many times in her life.  It was the calling voice of Jesus she had listened to on countless occasions.  His voice did it.  Mary knew it.  She knew by his voice.  She turned to the Lord and exclaimed, "Rabboni," that is, "my teacher."  Just like she always used to do, she called Jesus her "rabbi," or her "master."

11.  "Why are you crying?"  --That's right, you can stop crying now.  Her tears stopped and a smile returned.  Her sadness left and her joy returned.  Was it because Mary became strong?  No, that's not why.  Mary was as impotent as ever.  She didn't change anything herself.  But, that's good.  Even though she might have been powerless and she only cried, she's not now.  Because the Christ who defeated death was with her.  Not only that, but from the time she was in despair and since the hour she was heartbroken and suffering with grief, and she had shed her [first] tear, the risen Christ had already been with her, only Mary hadn't sensed it.  Mary knew all this now.

Please Don't Hold Onto Me

12.  Let's go back to the next part of the story.  After Mary turned around, Jesus said to her this next thing, "Please don't hold onto me.  Because I haven't gone up to the Father yet.  Go to my brothers and say this, 'I am going up to the One who is my father and who is your father, and to the One who is my God and who is your God,'" (verse seventeen).

13.  Christ said, "Please quit holding onto me."  Strictly speaking, this doesn't mean "Don't touch me."  His words were "please quit holding onto me."  He meant you can't cling to a Christ that has appeared in visible form for ever.  Why?  Christ says, "Because I haven't gone up to the Father yet."  After Christ goes to the Father he will become imperceptible to our eyes.  Christ will no longer be visible to the eye or tangible to the hand.  Mary needed to accept that as okay; for, the reason she was asked "Why are you crying?" and the reason she didn't need to cry any more was not simply because Jesus was alive whom she had thought was dead.  It wasn't because the fellowship that was lost when the Lord was murdered had come back to its previous state.  I am repeating myself but the reason she no longer needed to cry was that Christ had already won the victory over death.  It was because the powerful one was with her.

14.  We cannot meet with Christ [Jesus] as a person visible to the eye.  And that's okay.  Christ isn't a member of the world we can see with our eyes or touch with our hands any more.  But, that's fine.  The Christ who defeated death is alive right now.  And while in this place where the break is broken and the cup is shared, where the gospel of the Lord is proclaimed, it is made clear to us that we are no longer people who only cry, we are not a people who can only just cry powerless though we be.  The Lord lives!  Shouldn't we celebrate the Lord's resurrection with joy in our hearts?  Hallelujah!

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