First Lesson: Acts 10: 34-43
Second Lesson: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-11
Gospel Lesson: John 20: 1-18
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The date is October 14th, 2003. The place is Wrigley Field in Chicago. The Chicago Cubs had a World Series title drought now in its 95th year. Things were looking good though for the Cubs. They were leading the Florida Marlins three games to two and led the sixth game three to zero with one out in the eighth inning. Five outs and the Cubs were going to the World Series with the long-standing supposed Curse of the Billy Goat in danger of being broken.
A Marlins batter hits a foul fly out towards the left field stands, Cubs outfielder Moises Alou possibly has a play on the ball. Several spectators extend their hands trying to catch the foul ball interfering with Alou. One man a financial analyst and lifelong Cubs fan named Steve Bartman reaches for the ball and deflects it away from the Cubs outfielder. Ball touches the ground, Moises Alou slammed down his glove in anger and began shouting at Bartman.
Reaction towards Bartman from the other fans was swift (he was called vulgar names, pelted with both beer and other debris, and even threatened death). Fans tried to strike him as he was being escorted from the stadium. The Chicago Cubs go on to lose the game 8-3. They would also lose to the Miami Marlins the next night thereby ending their 2003 season.
Steve Bartman would go into hiding as the worst person in the City of Chicago. Even the Governor of Illinois suggested Bartman needed to go into the witness protection program. Steve Bartman would seemingly forever be known as the person who ruined the Chicago Cubs season. What eventually happened to Steve Bartman, we’ll get back to his story in a bit.
I want to tell you a similar story this morning. This woman had like Steve Bartman been a front-row witness to the harshest of defeats. Mary Magdalene had seen her life changed by Jesus early in his ministry. Jesus had cast a demon out of Mary Magdalene, and her life was never going to be the same. Now, a few days prior Mary Magdalene had received word that Jesus been had arrested. She then journeyed out to Mount Calvary along with Mary the Mother, Mary the Aunt, and John the Disciple. She was a witness as Jesus took one last sip of sour wine, proclaimed “It is finished,” and dropped his head as he breathed his last breath.
Death was undefeated since the time of Adam. People could try to run as far away from this as they could. But the scriptures say it best: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people because all sinned.”
Mary Magdalene stuck around about the final breath; she stuck around when everyone else exited Mount Calvary, she stuck around when the Roman Soldiers cleaned the site of the crucifixion to get ready for the next one. It was almost like Mary Magdalene stuck around because she had nowhere else to go, regardless of the outcome. Mary Magdalene was there when Joseph of Arimathea buried Jesus. She even brought spices along to “anoint” Jesus’ body.
So fast forward, two days, Mary Magdalene gets up Sunday morning to visit Jesus’ tomb.
Sunday morning though was different, as soon as Mary arrives on the scene, she notices the stone guarding the tomb had been rolled away. To do such a deed would have been no easy feat for grave robbers as the stone probably weighed a ton.
She decides to track down the Disciple Peter and another Disciple so that they can find evidence of the stolen body. Peter walks into the tomb; they see the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head two days earlier lying on the ground. The burial cloth lied before them with no body inside it. As they searched and searched, still no sign of Jesus’ body could be found. Peter and the Other Disciple eventually travel home.
Mary Magdalene still didn’t want to leave Jesus’ tomb. She begins to cry. She grieves over the loss of her spiritual leader. She grieves over death’s pain and separation. She cries over the pain of defeat. She figures she’ll cry until she can gather the strength to walk home.
Pretty soon, she sees two figures standing right at the spot where Jesus’ body had been.
“Woman, why are you crying.”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”
Mary then hears a voice behind her. “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for.”
Mary assumed this was just a nosy gardener, getting all up in her business. She demands to know where the gardener had taken the body.
She then hears words that would change her life forever, words that wouldn’t change just her life but the lives of countless people after her.
“Mary.” Mary hearing Jesus speak her name changed everything. Mary’s world had been flipped upside-down. Death’s verdict had been overturned. Death was undefeated no more, regardless of the outcomes of century after century before. Resurrection had proclaimed to Mary Magdalene that things were never going to be the same again.
What the Resurrection that Mary Magdalene saw says to us is this “The worst moments of our lives do not inevitability write our story even unto the grave itself.”
You might wonder what exactly happened to Steve Bartman who I told you about earlier. The man who supposedly cursed the Chicago Cubs to a further generation of misery. The Chicago Cubs win Baseball’s World Series in 2016, after a 108-year drought.
August 2017, The Chicago Cubs decide to reach out to Steve Bartman with the most unusual of offers.
The Chicago Cubs decided to offer a World Series Championship Ring to the same Steve Bartman who years prior heard chants of “ Rot in Hell” “Everyone in Chicago Hates You” “We’re gonna kill you.”
What were the Cubs’ reason for giving Bartman a ring, let me read from their statement:
“We felt it was important Steve knows he has been and continues to be fully embraced by this organization.”
What Mary Magdalene encounters at the Tomb on Easter Sunday is a message that her burdens of sin, shame, and all the other ways that the devil has tried to defeat her, have been rolled away. The one-ton stone is gone, her story and our stories will now be different every day of our lives. She will be embraced by her savior even beyond the grave! The power of our graves will soon be no more!
William Franklin Graham, Jr. was born in Charlotte, NC in 1918. Graham was an early proponent of racial integration. He even once bailed his good friend Martin Luther King, Jr. out of jail. He would serve as a spiritual advisor to every President from Harry Truman to Barack Obama. Graham’s preaching would become so famous that he ended up being heard by estimates of upwards of 2 billion people. Graham would frequently be on Gallup’s Most Admired Americans list.
Max Lucado summed up Graham well: “He had convictions without being divisive, and he never took himself too seriously despite all his fame.
Perhaps the best story of Billy Graham comes from an encounter between him and musician Michael W. Smith when Graham was a ripe, young man of 94. Graham wanted to discuss with Smith his funeral. Graham’s one wish was as follows “That my name not be mentioned.”…” I hope only that the name of the Lord Jesus be lifted up.”
For despite every personal accolade that Billy Graham had every achieved, Billy Graham understood what the Empty Tomb that Mary Magdalene encountered truly meant.
The great hope confronting us Today is we are not the source of our salvation, we do not walk out of own tombs, for only by the grace of God do we experience the forgiveness and hope given to Mary Magdalene on Easter Sunday.
Billy Graham died in February. Graham was 99 years old. Graham described his death quite well in a statement years prior.
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
Steve Bartman thought he was destined for a lifetime of public shaming until one great and dramatic act after 108 long years changed the whole narrative of his life!
Mary Magdalene thought there was no life after death until she encountered her Resurrected Lord.
Billy Graham saw the stone had been rolled away; the tomb is now empty, tears will soon be no more, your savior will soon stand before you!
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Amen
 Duke, Annie. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts. Portfolio/Penguin Publshing. New York. 2018. Print. P.98.
 “Steve Bartman Incident.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 10.Mar.2018. Web. Mar.12.2018.
 Luke 8:2.
 John 19:25.
 John 19:30
 Romans 5:12.
 Mark 15:47.
 Mark 16:1.
 John 20:13.
 John 20:13b.
 John 20:15.
 John 20:15.
 John 20:16.
 Duke, Annie. Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts.P.100.
 Steve Bartman Incident.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
 “Billy Graham.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 8.Mar.2018. Web. Mar.12.2018.
 Lucado, Max. “Farewell Mr. Graham.” Max Lucado.com. 21.Feb.2018. Web. Mar.12.2018.
 Lucado, Max. “Farewell Mr. Graham.”
 Lucado, Max. “Farewell Mr. Graham.”