John 20:1-18




If you are a short man from Iran with the name of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and you have just threatened again to blow Israel off the map and you are presently running untold numbers of atomic subterfuges to make atomic bombs and you are weeping here in this garden area of Sun City this morning and we see you, we are probably not going to be asking you the question, “Why are you weeping?”  Our sinful nature would reason, “If you make my life miserable and stressful, I really don’t care if you are weeping.”  (In fact, I might rather like to see it.)


But imagine that you got here early this morning and there one of you good people was, crying inconsolably.  You got out of your car and this fellow townsperson was standing there in this garden area of Sun City and you heard her crying and saw her crying and you knew her, you just couldn’t walk by without asking the question, “Why are you crying?”  You might stand slightly to the side of the person when you asked the question.  You might put your arm around the person when you asked the question.


Why are you crying?


This is the very question that the angels asked Mary in the Easter garden of Joseph of Arimathea.  It is also the question Jesus asked Mary in this same place.  The question is asked first of all by people who care.  It is asked by people who are for some reason on your side and want to try and help you.  They’re talking to you.    Otherwise, why ask?  If you like to see people crying, why ask?  If you cause people to cry, why ask?  If these are your enemies, you wouldn’t want to ask.  You might rather be glad.  They made you cry, you might think.  Turnabouts, fair play.  


The angels did care about Mary.  They cared about anyone who came to the tomb wanting to see Jesus there.  They cared especially if these guests came there crying, trying to anoint a dead body.  And Jesus surely cared for Mary.  He had saved her from the seven devils who had infested her life.  As a matter of fact, Mary cared for Jesus too.  She had been his loyal follower.    She had just climbed the eighteen miles from Jericho with him nine days before.  She was no doubt also one of those women who had followed him and his cross to Golgotha.  She no doubt had already heard Jesus say to her and the other women, “Why are you weeping for me?  Weep for yourselves and for your children.” The evangelists tell us that she was there at Jesus’ cross when he died.  Matthew said she and the “other” Mary were watching at a distance as they took Jesus down from the cross.  The watched where he was buried.  They saw the stone…the same one they asked about on Easter Sunday morning.  But the dark days were gone and past  and Jesus was standing there and this risen-from-the-dead-Jesus did care for Mary.  That’s why he asked the question, “Why are you crying?”


If you go to a funeral and the box is up there in front of the church and your friend sitting there by your side starts to cry, it would be foolish of you to ask, “Why are you crying?”  Who would be so foolish to ask such a question?  Who would be so foolish to say, “Why are you crying, you had so many good days and such fun partying with this person you shouldn’t be crying now.”  Or, “Why are you crying, this person had a full life and everything must end and now you need to get on with things and enjoy your life….why are you crying?”  If the box is up there in the front and your mutual friend is in the box, you know why someone there would be crying.  You know the answer to the question already.


But let’s say you are late for the service and you slip in and see your friend crying there.  But you know something else.  You know that the closed coffin is not only closed…it’s empty.  Your friend is not there.  You have just come from the hospital and there was a miraculous stirring of this corpse at the funeral home already and they rushed the dead person to the hospital and---you saw it all---a bespectacled doctor came running in with a stethoscope and placed it hesitantly on the “dead” person’s chest.  Only the “dead” person is sitting there with a big smile on his face swinging his legs that dangle off the examination table.  And you hear the doctor say, “Why, you have the heartbeat of a fifteen year old!”


It is actually even better than that.


You are at the funeral.  Everyone is crying.  You are crying too.  It is a closed casket funeral.  The casket is up in front with its smiling photograph of your loved one in better days perched on its top.  The organ music is playing sad and subdued music.  The funeral director is making his professional last minute maneuvers.  You see him bend at the waist to talk to the family.  You are all crying.  And in the back of the church building there is a sudden stir and a gasping.  You spin around and see….your friend!  And your friend never looked better.  In fact, your friend looks far better than the photograph you have been looking at with tears in your eyes.  And your friend says, “I’m not dead.  I’m alive.  Why are you crying?”


Jesus knows why people cry at funerals.  Jesus just plain knows why people like you and I cry.  He knows how a lost job and lost health and lost abilities and lost money and lost friends makes us feel.  He doesn’t ask the question, “Why are you crying?” because he doesn’t understand why it is people cry.  He understands.  He felt the very things that make us cry.  He himself cried.  On a number of occasions he did.  The book of Hebrews says he had the very demeanor Mary Magdalene had in the Easter garden with her “loud cries and tears.”  And we know that is the way it was because that is the kind of word used in Greek to describe the kind of weeping Mary was doing.  This was the kind of weeping for people who have lost it.  This is the kind of shedding of tears that obliterates landscapes.  Jesus was called a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.  Isaiah described him that way.  He had been very sorrowful in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was tempted there and saw impending death up close and personal.  As a matter of fact, Jesus even cried at funerals.  He did so at the funeral of his good friend Lazarus.  The shortest verse in the English Bible says, “Jesus wept.”  He did this when he saw the sisters, Mary and Martha, crying inconsolably.  It was the same word used there for their action that is used to describe what Mary of Magdalene was doing.


It is embarrassing to cry.  Cry babies cry.  Big boys don’t cry.  We’ve been told that since we were little boys.  And it is unsettling when women cry.  Ask their husbands.  It is unnerving having someone on your hands who is crying.  Even angels have trouble when someone is crying.  They asked, “Why are you crying, Mary?”  Jesus asked the question too.  Crying alerts us to the fact: something is wrong.  


Crying today is wrong…unless it is crying for joy.  There is nothing further to cry about today.  Your sins have all been forgiven.  Jesus has risen.   Jesus comes to you and promises you life.  Why would you be crying about the inevitability of death for you and your loved ones when death has been defeated and its darkness dispersed?  We aren’t going to be separated---ever!---from this Jesus.  He has promised us that he is going to be with us forever.  He is with us in this world with his Spirit and his Presence.  He promises nothing shall take us out of his hand.  He is going to take care of all our needs here in this world.  He is petitioning his Father on our behalf.   He will come finally to take us to himself.  He will come with his scarred hands lifted in blessing over us.  He will come reassuring us to not be afraid.  He will come and beckon us to fly with him…”to rise to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we shall be forever with the Lord!”  


Why are we crying?  What could possibly make us cry now?  How possibly could the sagging of the stock market make us cry?  How could another disappointment in the political world make us cry?  In view of our Savior at Easter, how would it be possible to cry?


There is one very sobering statement that must be made today.  Someone has to make it and be brave enough to go against what is considered politically incorrect by many.  Here it is: if you don’t believe in Jesus and his resurrection, then you are doomed to doing a whole lot of crying in hell.  Hell is eternal.  Hell, the Bible says, is a place where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  And no one will ever ask the weeping people there, “Why are you weeping?”  They will know why they are weeping.  You can’t know the joy of this day without knowing the misery that would exist without the joy of this day.  


Jesus died to save you from hell.  Jesus died to save you from weeping.  Heaven is the place where he will wipe every tear from every person’s eyes.  There won’t be weeping and crying in heaven.  There will only be dry, beaming, bright eyes.


The question, “Why are you crying?” will be a dim and distant memory that will go away.  It will even be impossible to ask...there with our Savior, in heaven.  


Mary didn’t return on the Monday after Easter to cry at Jesus’ tomb.  


Neither should we.  Amen.