Sermon: Hope: John 20:11-16

Old Testament Reading: Psalm 33

“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord. By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” (Psalm 33, ESV)

New Testament Reading: John 20:11-16

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They 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.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” (John 20:11–16, ESV)


Brothers and sisters, in the sermon last week we considered some “proofs” for the resurrection of Christ. Actually, I sought to demonstrate that the resurrection of Christ cannot really be proven. To prove something is to demonstrate it beyond all doubt. And the truth of the matter is that people often continue in unbelief after reading the scriptures, and hearing the testimony of the people of God concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is better, then, to refer to these testimonies presented in scripture, not as proofs, but as evidences.

Last week we looked at verses 1-10 of John 20 where we are told of Mary’s discovery of the empty tomb, and of Peter and John’s investigation of the empty tomb. We saw how the evidence pointed, not to a grave robbery, as Mary supposed, but to the resurrection. The things that Peter and John experienced directed their minds to the possibility of the resurrection, but it was not until they understood the scriptures that the Christ must rise from the dead, that they believed.

It was the testimony of God’s inspired, inerrant, and authoritative word which made everything click for the disciples. Their experience could only take them so far; the empirical evidence could only do so much for them. It was only when the Holy Spirit (to borrow the language of Luke 42:45) “opened their minds to understand the scriptures” that these men believed that Christ had risen.

Two things are very significant: One, notice that the Spirit must move upon the hearts of men if the evidences concerning Christ’s resurrection presented within the scriptures are going to have the force of proof. Two, notice that the scriptures – God’s special revelation concerning himself – have supreme authority in dictating what it is that the people of God are to believe, and how they are to live. I know this is review (and I do not typically offer this much review in the introduction to my sermons) but I think this is such an important principle. It was the testimony of scripture which prompted the disciples of Christ to believe.

This emphasis upon the supreme authority of scripture was presented to us early in John’s Gospel. Do you remember how, in John 2:19, Jesus said to the Jews,

“‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.” (John 2:19–22, ESV)

If the disciples of Christ were to believe something it needed to first be demonstrated by the scriptures.  This also was the practice of the early church. In Acts 17:10 we are told of the “noble minded” Jews who lived in Berea who, upon hearing the preaching of Paul and Silas, “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, ESV) If it is true that the disciples of Christ themselves had the scriptures as their supreme authority for truth, and if it is true that the early church also looked to the scriptures to know what to believe and what to reject, then should we not also have the same practice? Indeed we should.

I made the argument last week that it was the testimony of the Old Testament scriptures concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Christ which made the empirical evidence that the disciples of Christ were encountering exceedingly strong. To say it another way, the evidence for the resurrection is strong, in and of itself. The tomb was found empty. Christ was seen, not by one or two brothers, but by many men and women over a period of forty days. And the followers of Christ who claimed to see Jesus in his resurrection had noting gain from it, and everything to loose – many of them died on account of their faith in the risen Lord. The evidence is strong in and of itself. But it becomes exceedingly strong when we recognize that these events were foretold. They were predetermined in the mind of God, and revealed by God to man through many prophesies and promises, types and shadows, found throughout the Old Testament, written long before the Christ was born.

As I took my seat last week after the sermon, and after the Lord’s Supper, an illustration came to mind. Why the illustration did not come to mind sooner, I do not know.

Imagine serving as juror on a murder trail. And listening to one witness after another – dozens of them – being brought before the court to testify. These are eyewitness – people who saw the crime. Imagine them coming forward one after another to say, “I saw it. This man committed the crime.” That would be strong evidence, would it not? Of course the defense is sly and cunning (no offense to defense attorneys)  and they seek to discredit the witnesses. They attacks the character of some. They call into question the motive of others. They suggests that that perhaps some of them have misperceived.

As a juror you are left with dozens of eyewitness. They have each testified, and they have each been attacked in one way or another by the defense. But tell me, is the evidence strong? I would say that it is indeed strong, given the multitude of eyewitness.

But then the prosecution presents another piece of evidence. They have found letters written by the defendant, both on his computer, and written by hand. And these letters make it clear that the murder was premeditated. They reveal specific plans. They reveal motive. They reveal in detail the the preparations that were made.

The evidence was strong before, but now what you would say about it? I would argue that the written content has made the empirical evidence – the testimony of what the eyewitness experienced and saw – exceedingly strong.

Of course the defense attorney would see to also discredit the written material, claiming that they are inauthentic. But all of it taken together makes for a very strong case.

I hope you can see how this illustration corresponds to the evidence presented in the scriptures concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The faith of the church rests upon the testimony of eyewitness. Our faith rests upon their witness as it is preserved for us in the scriptures. But we have access, not only to the eyewitness account, but also to the scriptures written long before the birth of Christ which reveal that his obedient life, his sacrificial death, and his victorious resurrection were premeditated events. The Father predetermined to send the Son, the Son came in obedience the Father, and the Holy Spirit empowers it all.

These are not proofs, but evidences. And these evidences have the force of proof as the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to illumine the minds of God’s elect as the gospel of Jesus Christ is preached throughout all the world.

I have taken the time to review in this way, one, to strengthen a bit of what was said last week, and two, to pave the way for what we will encounter in John’s Gospel today and in the weeks to come. More evidence will be presented to us. We will be told of one encounter after the next between the risen Lord and the his followers. Each will have it’s own significance. May the Spirit of God strengthen our faith especially as we see that these things have happened in fulfillment to the scriptures.

Mary was the first to the see the empty tomb, and she was also the first to see the risen Lord.

I love this fact. I love it in part because of the way that it demonstrates the significance of women among the disciples of Christ. They were not Apostles. And they do not hold the office of elder or deacon within Christ’s church. But how absurd it is to assume that because a distinction is made between male and female, with different roles assigned to each each within the family and church, that that equates to some sort of degradation or devaluation of women. Brothers and sisters, women played a very significant role within the disciples of Christ. And they have always played a very significant role within the church of God. I’m sure you would all would agree that the same is true of the women of Emmaus Christian Fellowship. God, in mercy and grace, has saved us, male and female, and he uses us in the furtherance of his Kingdom. Praise be to God.

What can we learn from this passage which describes Mary’s encounter with the risen Lord?

It seems to me that this passage begins to reveal to us some of the benefits that come to us because of the resurrection of Christ.

Christ Is Risen, Therefore We Have Hope In This World

Notice one thing for today. The resurrection of Christ from the dead brings us hope. Brothers and sisters, see, and do not forget, that it is because Christ is risen that we have hope in this world.

Verse 11: “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.” (John 20:11, ESV)

Mary wept. Wouldn’t you?

Verses 12-15: “And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They 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.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ 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.’” (John 20:12–15, ESV)

“Mary, why are you weeping?”

This does not forbid weeping. Jesus wept. We should not be ashamed to weep. Suffering and death are unnatural to us. Run to Christ with your sorrow, but do not suppress the sorrow.

Illustration: Suffering in ARBCA.

Weeping is appropriate. But for Mary there really was no reason to weep given the reality of the resurrection.

Verses 15-16: “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ 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.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means Teacher).” (John 20:15–16, ESV)

Mary did not immediately recognize Jesus. Was it too still dark? Were here eyes cloudy with tears? Was it because Jesus was bloody and bruised the last she saw him, and now he was somewhat whole (though the wounds in his hands and feet and side remained)? It’s hard to know.

This is common in the post resurrection appearances of Christ.

The disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize him.

“But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (Luke 24:16, ESV)

Perhaps there is something about the fact that Jesus was glorified.

Mary recognized him when she heard his voice!

“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:14–16, ESV)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27, ESV)

She called him “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Why “teacher”. Really, a very tender term. He had been her teacher. He needed him to teach. It’s as if she said, “please teach me!”

Life is difficult. It begins and ends with tears. Apart from God it is indeed vain and hopeless. Through Christ we have hope.

In the Old Testament God is called “the hope of Israel” (Jeremiah 14:8). In the New Testament we see that Christ, and the gospel of Jesus Christ, is the ground out of which this hope springs.

In Acts 26 Paul stands on trial before Agripa and says, “And now I stand here on trial because of my hope in the promise made by God to our fathers, to which our twelve tribes hope to attain, as they earnestly worship night and day. And for this hope I am accused by Jews, O king! Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:6–8, ESV)

In Romans 5:1-5 Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, ESV)

In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul writes to those grieving the death of loved ones. He says,“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–14, ESV)

I love the way this story of Mary’s encounter with the risen Lord illustrates the hope that the resurrection of Christ brings. Her sorrow was turned to joy because he is risen.


Do you have hope? Is it a hope that goes beyond the grave?

To the one suffering – to the one discouraged by the difficulties of life – set your hope on Jesus.

“For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” (1 Timothy 4:10, ESV)

To the one doing well in this world – do not set your hope on the things of this world. They will fail you in the end!

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” (1 Timothy 6:17, ESV)

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace…” (2 Thessalonians 2:16, ESV)

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