Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is helping people become new creations in Christ. This time of year has always been hard for me. I’ve never really been a huge fan of the cold, and I honestly despise the days getting shorter, the leaves falling off the trees, grass turning brown, and especially the fact that there is no baseball or drag racing in the winter. Ever since my accident, I’ve had even less of a reason to enjoy this time of year. It’s actually become the time of year that I dread the most. I’ve always had seasonal depression, but the last few years have been worse than ever because of the memories associated with the accident.
The last few weeks, we’ve been going through a series called Lost. We started out by talking about the times when life doesn’t make sense, and last week, we talked about loneliness. This week, we are closing out this series by talking about losing hope. I know that many of you have probably dealt with this in one way or another. My hopeless moments include things like the weeks/months after the accident, the times in my childhood when my mother beat me, or even as recently as losing someone that I loved. The truth is, none of us is immune to this feeling, and we will all experience it from time to time.
Our Scripture for today is John 20:11 – 18 (NIV). To set this up, Mary Magdalene has gone down to the tomb of Jesus on the third day, only to find it empty. It says, “Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying?’ ‘They have taken my Lord away,’ she said, ‘and I don’t know where they have put him.’ At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, ‘Woman, why are you crying? 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.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means ‘Teacher’). Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.” This week, I have one big takeaway from this message, and it’s this:
Look at how the text starts. Mary is crying because the tomb is empty. She has lost her hope. The Greek word here for crying can also be translated as wailing, or crying uncontrollably. Mary has lost all hope, not because Jesus is dead, but because his body has disappeared. This is important, because in those days, abusing or moving a dead body was a shocking thing. Her attention is caught by two angels standing at the head and feet of where Jesus’ body would have been. This symbolized that God, not robbers, had taken Jesus, for a purpose yet to be revealed. How often do we fail to recognize Christ in our lives? We try to take control over things, often with the best of intentions, but we find ourselves with no hope when the things we try to control end up controlling us. Before we know it, we are so deep into our hopelessness that we don’t even recognize Christ, even though He has been there all along.
I love the way that both the angels and Jesus speak to Mary. Both say, “Woman, why are you crying?” Now, both the angels and Jesus know the answer. That’s not the point here. I think the reason John points this question out is to show us that Mary feels hopeless because she does not know where Jesus is. As several of you know, I was in a band when I was younger. In that time, I did a lot of things I’m not proud of, and I lived a life that was far from the one God wanted for me. Looking back on those days, there were a lot of times where I felt completely hopeless. Those times continued until just a few years ago. Just like Mary, I couldn’t see Jesus working in my life. A lot of that was my fault, because I wasn’t looking for Him for a lot of my adult years. I put my hope in alcohol, women, music, my work, anything and everything except Jesus, and it led me to some of the darkest times of my life. It wasn’t until a few months after the accident, when I finally completely surrendered to Christ, that I found hope for the first time in my life.
Look at v. 16. It’s not until Jesus calls out to Mary that she finally recognizes Him. Her excitement cannot be contained. This is the hope that we have in Christ. Without it, we are constantly searching for dead bodies, trying to find something to fill us, but never being fulfilled. So, my question to you is this: Where is your hope? What is the thing that, without it, your world falls apart? I’ve been guilty over the years of putting my hope in all the wrong things, even recently. For me, it’s almost always been relationships. I’m not saying it’s bad for you to enjoy being in a relationship, or that it’s wrong for you to desire to have someone to spend your time, or even your life, with. Those are good things, but they’re terrible gods. Do you find your hope in things that fade, or do you find your hope in Christ?
There’s an old hymn that says,
“On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand.”
Where you put your hope ultimately says what you believe to be your god. Philippians 3:13 – 14 (NLT) says, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Jesus Christ, is calling us.” What is the prize that you are chasing after, because the prize you chase determines where you place your hope. Let’s pray.
We thank You for being the solid rock on which we can stand. Lord, I pray for anyone who does not have the hope that You provide. I pray for anyone who feels like they have lost hope. I know this season is one of the most difficult times of the year, and I know that many feel more alone during this holiday season that at any other time. I pray that You would send each one who feels hopeless someone who can speak life and hope back into them. Be with each of us as You send us on this mission, and help us to put our hope in You alone. Most of all, we thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name we pray,