Q: Is anything good happening?
A: Something good is happening.
V: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…[The disciples] did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. (John 20:1, 9)
The moon proves that the sun still exists and that dawn is coming. The moon shows us that something good is out there, even when we’re surrounded by night. We just need to hold on a little longer. We have great hope, whether we realize it or not. Even though the first followers of Jesus could not see it right away, it had still happened. They had all the hope in the world and they didn’t even realize it.
Q: Has God done anything good to help me?
A: Your greatest enemy has been defeated.
V: He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. (John 20:6-7)
Gravestone. We’re all headed to it one day. Nothing can stop this movement. One day, you’ll merge with death and nothing will be able to pry you apart. That is, until Jesus came along. Jesus went down into death in order to release you from its grip. The greatest offense to your life is not a lack of friends or possessions or even a terrible tragedy. The greatest offense to your life is death. Nothing will do more damage than death. By overcoming death, Jesus has defeated your greatest enemy.
Q: Does anyone love me?
A: You are loved.
V: When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled…Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:33, 35-36)
When we shed tears, God sheds tears. This is a sign of his great love for us. When Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha were mourning over the death of their brother, Lazarus, Jesus was greatly disturbed, too. This shows that our God is not far off, but very near. He shares our pain with us. But he is not just personal, he is also powerful. Since Jesus was fully human, he could relate to our struggles; since Jesus was fully God, he had the power to overcome our struggles. That’s when he raised Lazarus from the dead. But before he did this miracle, he wanted to make sure that his people knew that he loved them. Where our verse says, “See how he loved him!” you can insert your name: “See how he loved (you)!”
Q: Will anyone stand up for me?
A: Someone is standing up for you.
V: Jesus came and stood among them. (John 20:19 & 26)
Picture a field that has been totally burned by a fire, so that it is all black and smoldering. It looks totally hopeless, a great parallel to how our lives sometimes feel. But now imagine if just one blade of green grass stands up in that field. Ask yourself, “Is that field still without hope?” No! It’s not without hope so long as one blade of green grass is standing up in it. Life is possible for that field. The word “resurrection” means to stand up. It’s the moment when one Person stood up for you. Jesus is the single blade of grass that stood up on the landscape of our hopeless lives. So long as he is standing up for us, life is possible. You are never without hope so long as one Person is standing up for you. And Jesus will never sit, quit, or go away. He’ll remain standing up for you no matter what you are going through, showing you that you always have hope.
Q: Will sorrow keep me trapped?
A: You are released from sorrow.
V: 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!”…Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:15-16, 18)
When you look into a broken mirror, you see a broken person staring back at you. A great number of the people in our lives are broken, and when we look into them to see who we are, we can only see a broken person in ourselves. If we only have broken mirrors, then we might begin to think that we are broken. We might think that we’re ugly, stupid, or unwanted, just because that is all we see from others. We need to find an unbroken mirror in order to see who we really are, and to free us from our sorrow. When Jesus calls out the name “Mary,” she is able to look into the face of the world’s only unbroken mirror. By looking into the face of Jesus, she sees who she really is. She is not an unwanted problem, she is Mary, someone who is loved by God. In order to be released from sorrow, look to Jesus and follow him when he calls out your name. He will lead you out of your sorrow.
Q: Will fear keep me paralyzed?
A: You are released from fear.
V: On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. (John 20:19-20)
There are two categories of fear, fears of being (which have to do with our identity or reputation) and fears of not being (which have to do with our physical safety). The first followers of Jesus had both, so much so that they locked themselves together in a room. Despite the locked doors, Jesus was able to get in. Looking at his trembling followers, he showed them the scars on his hands and side. He did this to give them courage. If he could endure the ridicule and torture of the cross, then they could face whatever lay ahead, outside of the locked door. When Jesus stood up before his followers, he released them from fear and they found joy. Like Jesus’ scars gave them courage, so can your scars give others courage.
Q: Will doubt continue to determine my thoughts?
A: You are released from doubt.
V: Do not disbelieve, but believe. (John 20:27).
What would you do if your car broke down? Would you give up on cars after that? Would you walk or ride your bike after having a bad experience with a car? Probably not! Why? Because modern forms of transportation are very important to us! A few broken down cars won’t keep us from driving. This teaches us an important lesson: we’ll find a way to do whatever is important to us. We don’t let bad experiences determine the outcome with things that are important to us. Ironically, this is not what we do with our relationship with God. We’ll have a bad experience at church, so we’ll give up on God. God will allow a trial in our lives, so we’ll use it as an excuse not to believe. We don’t see enough evidence, so we’ll doubt God’s existence. But the lesson from the car helps us to see that if God were truly important to us, we wouldn’t give up so easily. When Jesus stands up in our doubt, he’ll meet us where we’re at and help us to believe.
Q: Will I fail?
A: Your future is not failure
V: Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:4-6)
The African Impala is the size of an average dog, yet it can leap nine feet high and 30 feet in length. The way to contain an African Impala is simple: just put it behind a barrier that’s only three feet tall. How does such a small fence contain an animal that can jump so well? If an African Impala cannot see what’s on the other side, it won’t jump. We’re like the Impala. Since we can’t see what’s going to happen, we hesitate. We don’t take a step of faith. When Jesus stood up after death, he showed his followers that it was safe to jump. Our future will not end in disaster, but victory, like his. What are the fences that are holding you back? Is fear of the unknown keeping you from hope? The resurrection means that hope is now possible and our future is not failure.
Q: Aren’t I just a burden?
A: Your purpose is restored.
V: When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)
Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world. He does not wait until we’re perfect, in order to say this. He says it when we’re still full of troubles and problems. He can use us just how we are and he is in the business of making us better. Even more, he does not keep us hidden under a basket, but he puts us on display on a stand, for everyone to see. This shows us that he is proud of us. Our new purpose is not hindered by our past failures, but is restored by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Q: Does this world need me?
A: You are essential.
V: When Peter saw [John], he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You, follow me.” (John 21:21-22)
Henri Nouwen said that God’s people are like individual stones in a mosaic. Some stones are bright and some are dull; some are in the middle and some are at the edges; some are red and some are yellow. Each stone is different when compared to the next stone, but together, they make up a picture of the face of Christ. Who would ever argue that one stone is not needed? Every stone is needed; without even one of the stones, the face would be incomplete. There is something about you that teaches me about God. There’s something about God that I would not know if you were not here. You are not worthless, you are essential. Jesus wants you to follow him.