Acts 10: 34-43
Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15: 19-26
John 20: 1-8
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”-John 11:25-26.
I want to begin by telling you the story of a young girl named Mary Ann Bird. Mary Ann was born with a cleft palate and disfigured lip. Mary Ann was also deaf in one ear. Children growing up were cruel to Mary Ann. They would continually make fun of her very obvious physical ailments. “What happened to your lip Mary Ann?” They shouted mockingly in her direction.
The worst day every year for Mary Ann was the day of the annual hearing test. The test was given in the days when teachers administered the test in front of the classroom. Mary Ann dreaded further mockery from failing in front of all her classmates. Mary Ann would secretly try to cup her good ear, so somehow some way she would pass.
This year, Mary Ann’s teacher was Miss Leonard. Miss Leonard was the most popular teacher in the school. Miss Leonard was a short and stout woman, but everyone was drawn to Miss Leonard’s kindness. Every student yearned to be Miss Leonard’s teacher’s pet.
Then came the day of the dreaded hearing test. For most students the lines were straightforward: “The sky is blue.” Or “You have new shoes.”
Mary Ann was next, Miss Leonard began to whisper into her ear seven words that would forever change Mary Ann Bird’s life.
Miss Leonard whispered into Mary Ann’s ear: “I wish you were my little girl.” I imagine tears came to Mary Ann’s eyes as she heard for the first time in her life such powerful words of grace.
Mary Ann would be forever changed from this day forward. She would believe that she was lovable and find it a long, happy marriage living to see the birth of her great grand- children. She was known to those around her for her sense of care. She was a devout Christian, who led Bible study, and attended church until her death.
Now this morning, I want to tell you a similar story. This woman’s name was Mary Magdalene. Mary Magadalene’s ailment was not physical, but spiritual. Mary Magdalene was possessed by a demon. Her life is forever changed when she encounters Jesus earlier in his ministry as he drives seven demons out of her. Mary Magdalene then becomes one of Jesus’ closest followers. She was a witness to his crucifixion, his burial, and now this Sunday morning she journeys to visit his tomb.
She immediately notices the stone guarding his tomb is no longer there. She goes to find the Disciples Peter and John to investigate what she thought had been a grave-robbing. They see strips of Jesus’ burial linen and cloth lying on the ground. The Disciples finding no sign of Jesus’ body then return home. Mary Magdalene stays behind to weep at the cruelty of Jesus’ death and grave-robbing.
Mary Magdalene looks towards the tomb sees two figures sitting there in white asking: Woman, why are you crying “
Mary replied: “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Mary Magdalene then turns around is startled as she sees a man standing there who she wasn’t expecting to see. She didn’t instantly recognize him. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Said the unidentified man.
Mary thinks this was the man who worked the gardens outside the tomb. Mary’s probably getting angry by this point at all these questions from strangers before declaring: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Earlier I told you the story of Mary Ann Bird having her life changed by seven words. “I wish you were my little girl.” Mary Magdalene’s life was changed by one word; hearing her name “Mary.”
As soon as she heard her name, the gates of heaven were open, Mary Magdalene became the First Christian, the first believer in the Resurrection, the first person to see sin’s power crumble before her very eyes.
Mary Magdalene gets so excited that she runs from the tomb, to tell the other Disciples. Mary Magdalene would spend the remaining days of her life telling everyone who would now listen that she had seen the Risen Lord! The Grave had now been conquered.
The Apostle Paul would describe the Resurrection witnessed by Mary Magdalene impact for all believers quite well a generation later when he declared:
“Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”-1st Corinthians 15:12-14.
Christ’s Resurrection to Jesus’ earliest followers meant a chance for all who believe to rewrite their obituary from death to life permanently.
Let me close this morning with one final story to illustrate what exactly took place for Mary Magdalene when she heard her name called out by the Risen Lord.
The year was 1867. A 34-year-old scientist named Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. Dynamite was immediately quite popular in both construction and warfare. It was especially widely used within the mining industry in this country. Alfred Nobel soon became very, very rich. He eventually becomes the owner of 100 factories that made explosives within more than twenty different countries. Alfred Nobel’s life was going great until one day in 1888 when Nobel’s brother Ludvig died of a heart attack.
A newspaper in France heard that a Nobel had died and assumed it to be Alfred. The paper proceeded to write the nastiest obituary they could in the wake of what they thought to be Alfred Nobel’s death. They called him a “merchant of death,” they attribute his fortune to finding new ways to “mutilate and kill.” Alfred Nobel was distraught upon reading this nasty obituary. Alfred Nobel vowed to become known for something else.
The year was 1895. Alfred Nobel signed his last will in Paris at the Swedish-Norwegian Club. Nobel was going to give his entire fortune worth nearly 300 million dollars (today) to establish prizes for those who have given the greatest benefit for humankind in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and ultimately peace. The Nobel Peace Prize which sought to preserve life was ultimately born out of death.
Alfred Nobel died in 1896. Now when people hear his name, he is no longer known as the inventor of “dynamite,” he is rather known for his efforts at bringing forth peace. All this happened because his obituary was ultimately wrong.
Easter Sunday is a celebration of another obituary being wrong that Mary Magdalene believed had already been permanently written. Jesus was no longer dead; he was now risen! Mary Magdalene would no longer be defined by her fear over what lied ahead. She would no longer be defeated by guilt over her past sins. Mary Magdalene instead hears on this day: “My body was given and shed for you.” “I have claimed your salvation.” “Life does not end in death for Mary Ann Bird, Alfred Nobel, or Mary Magdalene; the tomb is indeed now empty. Our Savior is now calling out our name! Amen
 Charette, Brian. “On Compassion: The Whisper Test.” Leader Helps. 6.Feb.2017. Web. Mar.28.2019.
 Robb-Dover, Kristina. ““The Whisper Test” Belief Net. Web. Mar.28.2019.
 Hoezee, Scott. “John 20:1-18.” Center for Excellence in Preaching. Calvin Seminary. Grand Rapids, MI. 21.Mar.2016. Web. Mar.28.2019.
 Hoezee, Scott. “John 20:1-18.” Center for Excellence in Preaching.
 Charette, Brian. “On Compassion: The Whisper Test.” Leader Helps
 Luke 8:2.
 John 20:13.
 John 20:13.
 John 20:16.
 Andrews, Evan. “Did a Premature Obituary Inspire the Nobel Prize?” History Channel. 9.Feb.2016. Web. Mar.28.2019.
 Unknown. “Alfred Nobel Obituary.” Sermon Illustrations. Web. Mar.28.2019.
 Andrews, Evan. “Did a Premature Obituary Inspire the Nobel Prize?” History Channel.
 Unknown. “Alfred Nobel Obituary.” Sermon Illustrations.
 “Alfred Nobel.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 5.Feb.2019. Web. Mar.28.2019.