John wants everyone to do what he did in Jesus’ empty tomb (John 20:8)

John 20:8  

Unlike Peter or Mary, when John went into Jesus’ empty tomb, something incredible happened. Not only did he see all that Peter saw. He believed (John 20:8). Why did John believe before the others?  

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Bewilderment preceded Peter’s belief (John 20:3-7)

John 20:3-7  

Distraught and weeping, Mary says to Peter, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2) Peter and another disciple immediately run to the tomb to check things out for themselves. The other disciple outran Peter. He arrived at the tomb first.  

They would have cut the tomb where Jesus was laid into the rock of the Judean hillside. The entryway would have been low to the ground, so that the other disciple would have needed to bend low to peak in. As the sun had risen higher, enough light would have entered the tomb so that this other disciple could see what Mary could not have seen earlier. He sees the linen burial strips lying there. He does not go in. We can excuse him. This was, after all, someone else’s tomb. Laws prohibited, just as today, tampering with someone else’s grave.  

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Consider the witness of Mary

John 20:1  

In the wee hours of the morning Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of her recently deceased Master and friend, Jesus. The sun had not yet ruptured the horizon. When she arrived, the stone sealing the tomb, much to her surprise, had been taken away. (See John 20:1)  

We know from the other gospel accounts that Mary Magdalene was not the only one there. Other women accompanied her. Yet, Mary Magdalene, in all the gospel accounts, is given center stage. Later we find out that she was also the first to meet the risen Lord.  

When we take into account the culture of that time, Mary’s center stage presence at the empty tomb surprises us. A woman? Women were not even considered legally valid witnesses in a Jewish courtroom at that time. A woman like Mary Magdalene? Jesus cast seven demons out of this woman not long ago (Luke 8:2). She had a checkered past. Furthermore, if I am doing the math correctly, she was likely the youngest of this group of women who went to the tomb.  

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The way to victory is through the cross

John 12:12-19  

The first Palm Sunday looked like people throwing a birthday party for a birthday boy they did not know. People had high expectations on the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem, but the full meaning of the event would not make sense till later. (Read John 12:12-19)  

The crowd that met Jesus on the way expected a national hero. They came out to meet Jesus thinking he was the one who would lead an insurrection against Rome and return the nation’s sovereignty back to the Jews.  

Other people there on that first Palm Sunday responded in a different way. They did not lift palms or chant victory. They boiled with rage. The Jewish leaders feared an insurrection would threaten their socio-economically beneficial relationship with Rome.  

One day Jesus will come as a warrior king to palm branches and shouts of victory to claim his Kingdom once and for all (Revelation 7:9-10). However, if Jesus was marching to victory on Palm Sunday, victory started with a death march to the cross.  

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Why we need a pleading Jesus (Mark 14:36-39)

Mark 14:36-39

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pleaded. How do we know this? Because he kept going back and saying the same thing. In Mark 14:36, Jesus prays: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Then, after he went back and found his disciples sleeping, Mark tells us in Mark 14:39, “[…] again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.” Did you get that? He was “saying the same words.”

Have you ever pleaded in prayer like that? Praying the same words over and over? Pleading in earnest, repetitive prayer, because the answer has not come yet? Because you do not like what the answer seems to be? Or simply because you do not know what else to do? Hospitals, court houses, prisons, refugee camps, recovery houses, military bases, orphanages, homes with lonely people, hurting people, and churches are filled with people pleading, pleading to God for some relief.

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God loved this cruel world so much (John 3:16)

John 3:16

John 3:16 contains some of the most familiar words in all the Bible, “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

 God so loved a rebellious world. The gospel writer John is not talking about a world so big and full of people, but a world of people who have turned away from their Maker. God made the world very good (Genesis 1:31), but the people of the world have rebelled against God.

God loves this rebellious world lavishly. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, he was not speaking in hypotheticals. He spoke what he was at that moment actively doing.  

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We all need a second birth (John 3:5)

John 3:5

Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).”

If you were to inquire of all the evil, sin, misery, and madness of this world, and keep asking the “why?” question, you would find out that the answer has something to do with the human condition. All of us are born into this world with a heart malady, and from this heart malady flows the problems we face in this world.

I once heard an environmentalist say that humans so endanger our planet that earth would prosper better without humanity. I disagree with that assertion, but I think people who say such things are catching on to something. To put the tragedy in biblical terms, the one creature God created to care for and cultivate this planet contributes the most to its destruction. Even the Book of Romans says that “the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God (Romans 8:19).” Creation itself waits for the day when humanity will actually care for and cultivate creation how God intended.

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What to do when the wine runs out

John 2:1-12

Jesus once attended a wedding where a catering crisis threatened the reputation of a couple of newlyweds. In the middle of the party, the wine ran out. Someone had not done their math right.

Taking measures to help the couple save face, Mary, the mother of Jesus, turns to her son and insists he do something. She says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you (John 2:5).”

Are you going through a tough time right now, perhaps something worse than running out of wine? Is your marriage on the rocks? Are you being socially ridiculed? Did you do something wrong, like mess up the math for an important celebration? Whatever it is, whether you are the one at fault or the victim, ask Jesus for what you need and then trust him.

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Avoid the two extremes regarding Jesus (John 1:45-49)

John 1:45-49

Most dictionaries omit the word gullible. If you do not believe me, just look it up.

All kidding aside, Nathaniel was not of the gullible sort. When his brother Philip told him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:45),” he was not going to fall for it. He replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth (John 1:46)?” Nathaniel knew where Moses and the prophets said the Messiah would be born, and Nazareth, in his mind, did not come close. He did not have the benefit of the gospel accounts to tell him that though Jesus hailed from Nazareth, he was actually born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1).    

While Nathaniel was not gullible, neither did he swing to the other extreme by embracing a doubting prejudice against Jesus. When Philip urges him further by telling him, “Come and see (John 1:46),” Nathaniel went to check Jesus out for himself.  As D.A. Carson said, “Honest inquiry is a sovereign cure for prejudice.”

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People who know Jesus tell others about him (John 1:40-42)

John 1:40-42

No one can appropriate good news unless that news gets to them. In the information age, it is easier than ever to share information. However, on the other hand, it is more difficult than ever to get information in front of people. We have too many people, organizations, and mediums fighting for attention.   

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