"A REASON FOR WEEPING"

John 20.13

 

EXPOSITION:

1. Turn in your Bible to John 20.13 and stand for the reading of Godís Word: "And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him."

2. The context in which this verse is set shows us that this conversation between Mary Magdalene and two angels just outside the tomb where Jesusí body was buried, and had lain for three days and three nights, took place the morning after His resurrection from the dead.

3. I would like to take for my text the last statement of the angels and the first statement of Mary: "Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord." The angels asked her why she was crying and she told them it was because they (some unnamed people) had taken away her Lord.

4. Let me make three observations about Mary Magdalene in connection with this incident before this morningís sermon:

1A. First, THIS WOMAN WAS PERCEPTIVE

1B. To be perceptive means you have a keenness of understanding, and Mary understood one thing while she did not yet grasp another thing.

2B. You see, this trip to the tomb of Joseph Of Arimathea, where Jesus had been buried, is her third.

1C. Her first trip to the rich manís tomb was with the dead body of the Lord Jesus Christ as the afternoon gave way to evening on the day He was crucified. She and others went to prepare His body for burial, but did not complete their task because of the approach of night and the coming of the Sabbath, when preparation for burial was not permitted.

2C. Her second trip to the rich manís tomb was on Saturday late afternoon at the going down of the sun, Matthew 28.1, when she accompanied Mary, the mother of Jesus. At that time there was a great earthquake, Matthew 28.2, a single angel from heaven descended from heaven and rolled the stone covering the tomb away, announced that the tomb was empty and that the Lord Jesus had risen, and showed them the empty tomb. As they left the tomb to go and tell others that He had risen they met Him, fell at His feet, and worshipped Him, Matthew 28.9.

3C. The conversation recorded in our text takes place during her third trip to the tomb, about 12 hours later, with Mary Magdalene just missing Peter and John, who left just as she returned. Only this time when she came there were two angels instead of one, there was no earthquake as there had been before, and it was early in the morning instead of approaching dusk, as in Matthew 28.

3B. Mary and the others seem somehow dull to us for their unwillingness to accept the obvious truth that Jesus had risen from the dead, as He said He would. But let us remember that we have a lifetime of conditioning to accept the resurrection as a historical fact. For her and the others it was very much a great step of faith to eventually accept the fact of it, and then only after Jesus had appeared to them.

4B. That said, let me point out something to you about Mary Magdaleneís perception that is oftentimes overlooked these days by folks who consider themselves superior to her: She realized the importance of knowing where Jesus is.

5B. My friends, most these days do not see the significance or appreciate the importance of knowing where Jesus is, whether in the grave or still on the cross, whether in heaven at the Fatherís right hand or in each believerís heart. But Mary was perceptive enough to recognize that itís important to know where Jesus is.

2A. Next, THIS WOMAN WAS PUZZLED

1B. Why was Mary Magdalene puzzled? She was puzzled because she did not know where the Lord Jesus Christ was, all the while somehow knowing that it was important that she know where He was.

2B. How did she know that itís important to know where Jesus is? Is it really important to know where Jesus is, or am I trying to inflate the importance of something that really is quite minor? My friends, I am convinced that the very nature of genuine faith demanded that Mary know where Jesus was.

3B. You see, faith (saving faith) must have itís proper object. Saving faith must be fixed upon the Savior. But to be fixed upon the Savior saving faith has to be informed, since saving faith is faith that contains factual content.

4B. And since saving faith is likened to "seeing with the eye of faith" it must know where to look with the "eye of faith" to spiritually see the real and the genuine Savior.

5B. That is why, I think, the Word Of God locates the ascended Lord Jesus Christ in heaven at His Fatherís right hand some 16 specific times. Where Jesus is, where the Object of our faith is, where the One upon whom we fix our spiritual gaze is, where the One is we look to for the salvation of our souls is, is important.

6B. And Mary was puzzled that she did not know where He was; troubled to the point of weeping. Why? She had a reason for weeping. Anyone who does not know where Jesus is has a reason for weeping, especially those who have not set the eye of faith on Him.

3A. Finally, WE SEE THAT MARY MAGDALENE WAS PRIVILEGED

1B. How was she privileged? O, there are a number of ways in which this woman was marvelously privileged and blessed by God. But the privilege I want to bring to your attention this morning was in getting settled once and for all where Jesus was.

2B. Itís a privilege that many, many people are never blessed with, to their eternal damnation and regret, because they refuse the clear and certain testimony of Scripture. But not so with Mary. She truly wanted to know where Jesus was, and she found out, never again to be uncertain about where her Master, where her Lord, where her Savior is.

3B. But notice how she finds out where her Lord Jesus is. I read from John 20.14:

14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

CONCLUSION:

1. The text that we have examined is a wonderful portion of Scripture, but seems to be more closely associated with Easter time than with Christmas time. Would you not agree?

2. Permit me, however, to lift a phrase from our text, now that we have examined it in its context and have freed ourselves from being accused of using our text for a pretext.

3. As Mary Magdalene had a reason for weeping "Because," she said, "they have taken away my Lord," I wish to ask you a question: Do you not also have a reason for weeping? They have taken the Lord Jesus Christ out of Christmas. Is that not a reason for weeping?

4. Brother Isenberger now comes to lead us in a congregational song, after which I will consider our reason for weeping.

INTRODUCTION:

1. There is a great delusion that has swept across our country. It is the false belief that you can remove Christianity from the culture and from the society as a valid belief system and replace it with nothing.

2. It is the great goal of the secularists to remove all traces and what they believe to be the taint of religion from the public arena, or at least from all association with anything having to do in any way with government, and replacing it with . . . nothing, with the absence of religion.

3. What folly it is, to hold to such a shallow and naive view of things that it can be imagined that religion can be replaced with irreligion, or that religion can be replaced with non-religion. What is not realized by the secularist zealots is that irreligion is as much a religion as any other religion, and that non-religion is as much a religion as any other religion.

4. But I stray from my purpose this morning, which is to cry against the removal of Jesus Christ from Christmas, which is after all supposed to be the celebration by the Christian community of the Saviorís birth.

5. How can one celebrate Christmas, with any semblance of rational thought or behavior, with any factual content to the observance, without reference in some way to the birth so long ago of the Son of God?

6. Yet this is precisely what man, in all his irrationality, has accomplished; the celebration of an historical figureís birthday without in any way making direct reference to that figure in history whose birth is being celebrated.

7. I speak to you, this morning, for the purpose of informing you and for the purpose of appealing to you, with the words of Mary Magdalene echoing in my ears: ". . . they have taken away my Lord." Only in this case, they have removed Him from all meaningful connection with the celebration of His Own birth!

8. Three points for your consideration in how this is accomplished:

1A. First, THERE IS THE DISTRACTION OF MATERIALISM

1B. My friends, we have a great Christian school here at our Church. We have the very best curriculum that is available anywhere in the world, we have some of the most dedicated and competent teachers alive, and we have the very best setting in which to find a school for children, a local New Testament Church. There simply is no better setting in which a child can be placed for his or her preparation for living life the way God wants it to be lived than here.

2B. Our curriculum is saturated with the Word of God, with a biblical perspective for every subject studied, with Bible devotions or preaching from Godís Word every day, and with catechism and Scripture memorization a required feature for graduation from our school.

3B. If ever there was an environment in which the Lord Jesus Christ would be expected to be at the very center of a childís thoughts related to Christmas it would be expected here. Yet in chapel on Thursday last there was not a single student in our school who made mention of the Lord Jesus Christ when I asked what the students enjoyed most about Christmas (with the high school students wisely not participating in my informal poll because they immediately picked up on what I was doing).

4B. Folks, the kids in our school, which I think is one of the very best schools in existence anywhere, were almost all concerned with the material benefits associated with Christmas, without thought for any tie-in between Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ.

5B. What should this tell us? What should this suggest to us? What should this illustrate? My friends, this should speak very loudly to every one of us, reminding us that the very nature of mankind, as seen in our own children, is bent toward the distraction of materialism, even at Christmas time.

6B. Whenever there is a tradition and custom of giving and receiving gifts, such as we practice in our observation of Christís birth, human beings are prone to focus more on the presents than on the meaning behind the presents, more on the receiving of gifts than on the giving of gifts. Why so? It is the nature of our race. We are a fallen and selfish species, and even those who are most given to the correct observation of the Saviorís birth must recognize the tendency of our own children toward a sinful preoccupation with things, with stuff, with toys.

7B. Taking this together with the aggressive drive by businessmen to make money at Christmas time, you have an environment ripe for shoving Jesus Christ out of the picture, pushing Him out of the celebration of His Own birthday.

8B. How aggressively must we, then, counter this materialistic tendency by focusing our attention, and by focusing our childrenís attention, on the Savior. To this end, there is perhaps no more important time of year to be faithful in Church than during the Christmas holidays, for no other reason than to offset the tendency to push the Lord Jesus Christ out of peopleís thoughts in favor of Santa Claus, in favor of Christmas vacation, in favor of getting presents, instead of reflecting on and celebrating the birth of the Son Of God.

9B. It is the depravity of our race that so inclines us away from Jesus to things unimportant, to things material, to things glitzy. Therefore, let us see mankind as mankind really is, let us see our kids as they really are, and seek to offset the effects of depravity as best we can.

2A. Next, THERE IS THE DEMONIZING OF CHRISTIANITY

1B. Listening to talk radio for the past couple of years, there seems to be a consensus among most non-Christian callers that Christmas celebrations are not offensive to their sensibilities. And I remember going to public school when the Word of God was read over the intercom every morning before school prayer. Who did that hurt? Who did that offend?

2B. Yet in our day the assault against expressions of Christian thought or ideas in the schools, in the government, and even in the marketplace, is progressing at full speed. You would have thought that there would have been a temporary suspension of the war against Christianity in the wake of the September 11th tragedy, but no.

3B. Listen to what I pulled off the web just this week: the Washington Times in a recent article reported:

-- A Frederick County school employee was prohibited from passing out Christmas cards at school because it "may not be a legally protected right on a public school campus."

-- A Pennsylvania fourth-grader was stopped from giving Christmas cards to classmates.

-- Two Minnesota middle-schoolers were disciplined for wearing red and green scarves in a Christmas skit and for ending the skit with a Merry Christmas wish for the audience.

-- Two Massachusetts students were forbidden from creating cards saying "Merry Christmas" or depicting a nativity scene.

-- An Oregon school superintendent required removal of religious, but not secular decorations from studentsí lockers.

-- A Georgia school board, after being threatened with a suit by the ACLU, deleted the word "Christmas" from the school calendar.

4B. A syndicated columnist wrote, "Notice that all of these involve public repression of voluntary student action. You can dress them up in noble-sounding civil rights language or the enlightened vernacular of multiculturalism and pluralism, but the bottom line remains: Expressions of Christianity are becoming increasingly taboo in polite American society today. Yet expressions of utter disrespect for Christianity and what it holds sacred are celebrated in some circles. The University of Northern Iowa, for example, recently hosted "Corpus Christi," a play depicting Christ having sex with the 12 apostles."

5B. He continues, "As you probably know, the war against Christianity and Christmas is not a phenomenon localized to the public schools. A county executive in Washington State issued a memo decreeing that any holiday celebrations must be "religion-neutral" and "held in a respectful, inclusive and sensitive manner that does not favor one religion over another." Greetings were ordered to be generic ("Happy Holidays"), and decorations were not to include "religious symbols." The memo added that before holding a holiday social gathering all employees ought to be consulted and care should be taken to protect from retaliation those who do not concur with holding the gathering." And this county official is an ordained Baptist preacher!

6B. But donít think this assault on Christianity began in our schools or in our court system. Not at all. It really began, culturally speaking, in the business community and in the entertainment industry:

1C. In the movie "Itís A Wonderful Life," which is played every year at Christmas time, there is a single prayer to Jesus at the beginning of the movie, a single reference in the entire movie to the Savior, in one of the most popular Christmas movies ever made.

2C. But in the movie "The Miracle On 34th Street," that used to be one of the most popular Christmas season movies, with some fellow named Kris Kringel who turned out to be Santa Claus, responsible for mending relationships and making everyone love each other, there is not one single reference to the Lord Jesus Christ or His birth anywhere in the movie.

3C. And what about contemporary movies? Tim Allen played Santa Claus several years ago in a Christmas movie that made no mention of Jesus Christ. And was it not last year that a movie was released titled "The Grinch?" They even took the word "Christmas" out of the title of the book, "How The Grinch Stole Christmas," when they made the movie.

4C. Then there is the record industry, with all their "Christmas" songs: "Jingle Bells" and "Iím Dreaming Of A White Christmas" and "Jingle Bell Rock" and "The Twelve Days Of Christmas" and "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and so on. Gradually, over time, references to the Lord Jesus Christ excised from the public consciousness . . . during the celebration of His birth!

5C. And youíll rarely hear of business advertisements during the Christmas season making reference to the birth of Christ. Why not? Theyíre interested in selling merchandise and making money, not reminding folks of a Savior and causing people to think about their sins and their need to be forgiven.

7B. The battle against Christianity is not uniform, either throughout the society or throughout the calendar year. The hot spots are those institutions that most affect the minds and hearts of people; institutions of learning, the court system, entertainment and media. And the intense times of opposition are those times when Christianity is most in the public eye, during Christmas and during Easter.

8B. The goal in opposing Christianity? To demonize the Christian faith so that it becomes unpopular, politically incorrect, making the publicís perception of Christianity warped and twisted.

1C. Imagine Christianity being portrayed as intolerant, a religion of men and women who publicly admit themselves to be sinners worthy of damnation but forgiven through the gracious offices of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Intolerant? Nonsense.

2C. Imagine Christianity being portrayed as racist, a religion that rapidly moved beyond its cultural and racial beginnings to embrace every kindred, tongue and tribe . . . without, as Islam does, requiring converts to adopt the culture or language of its first disciples.

3C. But most of all, consider the absolute lunacy of those madmen who think a society is well-served, who think that citizens are benefited, when all references to Jesus Christ and all exposure to truth about the sinless Savior, the Son of God, are eliminated, creating a spiritual vacuum that sucks all kinds of junk in to fill the void.

9B. My friends, I need to turn for home because we are running out of time. But you and I have a reason for weeping. Though our circumstances are different, like Mary Magdalene, you and I are saddened by the fact that "they have taken away my Lord." They have all but removed Him from public consciousness and consideration. How very sad this is.

3A. Finally, THE DEFENSE OF THE FAITH

1B. I have noticed, while talking to business representatives on the telephone and customer service personnel over the last month, that fewer and fewer people say "Merry Christmas" Anymore. Instead, they say "Happy Holidays." Letís just celebrate the holiday without making any reference to what the celebration we are celebrating happens to be.

2B. And what are "Christians" doing while this secularizing of the season is taking place? What was done when Jesus Christ was slowly excised from the movies and from music? What was done when Jesus Christ and references to God were removed from public schools, from public displays at county courthouses, and from virtually every area of public life? Nothing really.

3B. Now, donít get me wrong. Iím not sure we should be doing anything in response to this secularizing of Christmas. After all, what we see is an accurate reflection of the spiritual condition of our country and culture, is it not? We are seeing things the way they really are.

4B. The celebrating of Christmas is nothing more, really, than a symptom of the real problem in our country. And the real problem in our country is that very, very few so-called "Christians" are truly converted, and the popular "Christianity" around us is really quite anemic and ineffective in influencing and affecting those who are exposed to it. Why? Itís not real.

5B. If there were even 100 truly converted people in our town, would our city council have ever approved the construction of the abortion clinic? I donít think so. Would Monrovia High School be referring pregnant teens to Planned Parenthood if there were 200 truly converted people in this city? I donít think so.

6B. Jesus said Christians are the salt of the earth, having a flavoring and preserving impact on those around us more profound than we can imagine. So, when the culture is secularized itís because there are so few true Christians.

7B. What is our task, then? Evangelism. The Great Commission. Bringing the lost to Jesus Christ. My friends, we have to get after Ďem. We have to compel them to come in.

CONCLUSION:

1. On a chilly night some 2000 years ago a baby was born to a young Jewish virgin. Unknown to the entire world, the eternal Son of the living God had completed His nine month journey from the throne room of heaven and His Fatherís right hand to a manger in a poor little village of downtrodden people.

2. The Word was made flesh. Yet no one would have known had they not been told. Thank God they were told. Thank God they were told.

3. Some 33 years later that same Jesus suffered and bled and died an atonement for sins. But He didnít stay dead for long. After 3 days and nights He arose, victorious over sin, death, Hell and the grave. Thank God His disciples were told. Thank God His disciples were told.

4. After He returned to His home in glory, to there wait until the time of His second coming, His disciples began to then tell others. Thank God they told others.

5. And so it went down through history. Men and women were told. Then those men and women told others. And they, in turn, told others. And so itís been, down to this day.

6. Are you a Christian? Itís only because someone told you. Thank God someone told you. Amen? Thank God someone told you.

7. Now itís time for you to tell someone else. What would have happened if the shepherds had not been told, while watching over their flocks by night? What would have happened if the disciples had not been told on Easter morning? What would have happened if they had not told others? What would have happened if others had not told you?

8. Now is the time for the burden to be shouldered by you. Now is the time for you to do your part in telling others.

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