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“Questions at the Cross: Why Are You Crying?”
John 20:15


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Easter Sunday—March 31, 2013

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!”

But, very early in the morning that first Easter, Mary Magdalene is in the garden, near the tomb, not rejoicing, but in tears.  A mysterious man asks, “Why are you crying?”

On Good Friday, Mary followed her most beloved friend as he carried his cross to Calvary.  She stood nearly, watching, comforting his mother, as he was nailed to the cross and uplifted between two criminals.  To witness your best friend, an innocent man, terribly tortured and cruelly crucified!  To look on as his lifeless body is lowered from the cross and laid in a tomb!  To see the stone rolled into place, your beloved friend dead and gone!  Mary Magdalene is crying because she has just gone through an overwhelming, painful experience.

“Why are YOU crying?”  What are the overwhelming, painful experiences in your life that bring you to tears?  What are the overwhelming, painful experiences you are going through in your life right now?

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  The week before, on Palm Sunday, Mary was with the cheering crowds as Jesus entered Jerusalem: “Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”  What a wonderful week it would be with Jesus in Jerusalem!  But, soon the cheers turn into jeers, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” Now, just a week after Palm Sunday, Mary has come to the tomb in the garden to anoint the dead body of her beloved Jesus—but his body is mysteriously missing!

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  Mary Magdalene is crying because nothing is working out like she expected or planned.  Everything in her life is going all wrong.

“Why are YOU crying?”  What are the plans and expectations in your life that have gone all wrong?  What are your hopes and dreams that have failed to come true?  What is going wrong in your life right now?

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  Mary Magdalene lived her whole life for this man from Galilee.  She followed him, helped him, served him.  Now, he is gone, and she feels like she has no reason for living.  Her purpose in life is dead and buried.  What will she do now?  Is her life even worth living?  Mary Magdalene is crying because she doesn’t know anymore her reason for living.

“Why are YOU crying?”  Do you ever feel that way—like you have no purpose, no reason for living?

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  Mary hadn’t felt alone like this since the day she met the carpenter from Nazareth.  But, now, seeing the empty tomb, sitting in the garden nearby, shivering in the cold just before dawn, Mary Magdalene feels very much alone and very afraid.  Everything is so confusing and upsetting.  What is happening?  What is going to come of all this?  What is going to come of her?  Mary Magdalene is crying because she feels alone and afraid.

“Why are YOU crying?”  What are the confusing and upsetting things going on in your life?  Do you feel alone?  Do you feel afraid?

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  It might have been a beautiful spring morning in Jerusalem; perhaps the garden was lovely, blooming with flowers.  But, no matter how beautiful the garden, it is still a cemetery.  And, no matter how lovely the morning, Mary is there for a difficult duty: to anoint the dead body of her dearest friend.  Mary Magdalene is crying tears of sorrow, because her loved one is dead.

“Why are YOU crying?”  Who are the loved ones for whom you shed tears of sorrow?  Who are the loved you go out to the cemetery to remember?

“‘Why are you crying?’”  the mysterious man asks Mary Magdalene.  “‘Who is it you are looking for?’  Thinking he was the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if You have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.’   Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’”

“He is risen!  He is not here! See the place where they laid him!”  “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins. . .  But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead!” 

On the cross Jesus gave his life to pay for your sin.  On Easter morning he rose from the tomb, triumphing for you over sin, death, and the devil.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”  “Thanks to be God!  He gives us the victory through out Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus knows your pain: “Come unto me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus cares when things in your life go wrong: “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world!”  Jesus gives you a reason for living: “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for him, who died for them and rose again.”  Do not fear, you are not alone, for Jesus promises, “I am with you always. . . I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Jesus even cancels death, for you and all who trust in him: “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even though he dies, yet shall he live. . . . For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “Why are you crying?”  Psalm 23 describes how Mary Magdalene felt as she sat crying in the garden that Easter morning: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”  Sitting in that cemetery at Jesus’ tomb, Mary was crying because she felt the “shadow of death” looming over her: the pain of seeing Christ crucified; everything going wrong; things not working out as she expected or planned; no longer knowing her reason for living; alone and afraid; mourning the death of her beloved Jesus.

That’s how we feel sometimes, too—like “shadow of death” is looming over us: pain in our lives; everything going wrong for us; things not working out as we expect or plan; not knowing our reason for living; alone and afraid; mourning the death of our loved ones; facing our own death.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’  She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!,’ which means Teacher.”  “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Just as Jesus comforted Mary that first Easter with the Good News of his resurrection, and his presence with her, he comforts you today with the Good News, “Because I live, you also shall live. . .  Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”

“This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!”

Amen.

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