Why Are You Crying?John 20:1-18Theme: Rejoice!This week’s lessons teach us that there is both a time to weep and a time to laugh. LessonNothing is more evident than that Mary was looking for a body. She was thinking of it in terms of the Jesus she loved, but she knew he was dead and that the body was all she would have left to her, assuming even that she could find that. This is what the women were looking for when they made their way to the sepulcher, and Mary was of their number. These women had ministered to Jesus while he was still alive. Now he was gone, but they still wanted to carry out their duties and demonstrate their love as long as possible. All they could do now was anoint the body. When she carried the women’s message to Peter and John, Mary was still thinking along these lines, for her message was: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him” (John 20:2). She said the same thing to the angels later, when she had returned to the garden: “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him” (v. 13). She expressed a similar concern to Jesus: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (v. 15). Not once in all these conversations does Mary mention Jesus’ name. She calls him “the Lord” or “him,” assuming that everyone will know whom she is seeking. But in spite of her fixation on Jesus and her great love for him, not once does she think in any other terms than a body. She wants to know where they put him so she can carry him away.
In place of this dead body God had the living person of Jesus for her. And he was there in the garden, right beside her. He spoke her name, Mary, and she knew it was he. After that Mary never thought of a body again, for she knew that the living person of Jesus was her companion.
I do not know if we have exactly the same thing today, because our circumstances are different from Mary’s. But I think there is a sense in which something similar happens. People look for things in religion, things which are inanimate – dead things – when what God has for them is the living Jesus. In what sense do they look for dead things? Well, some think that religion consists of a dead body of theology, that is, a book of religion. As one whose profession requires him to read much of it, I can say that there are fewer things deader than mere book religion or book theology if Christ is not in it. It is not that theology is unimportant. It is of great importance. But theology is “the study of God,” and God is the living God if “God” means anything. A theology without the living God and the living Christ is the deadest of all dead things. So one who has only book theology might well be crying. He might be saying, “The theologians have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”
Again, there is the dead body of religious forms or ritual. When we talk about ritual, we must acknowledge that it too is not without importance. It is a step removed from theology, since it points to theology, and is therefore less important. But it is not unimportant. If a person has good theology, a good form of religious worship is apt to follow; if he has bad theology, a bad form of worship will come from it. There can be a good theology and a good form of worship. But again, if the living Christ is not present in the worship, what are mere forms? They are the dead bones of faith. They comfort no one.
I make this application. If you have been pursuing religious matters but have found that your heart is still empty and that your soul is crying out for something you can hardly even define – for God, for reality, for beauty, for life – the problem may be that you are seeking the living among the dead, or even that you are not seeking the living God at all. What God has for you is Jesus. What Jesus asks of you is: “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Notice the “who.” It is not “What are you looking for?” although that question may be important in its place. The question is rather “Who are you looking for?” You should be looking for the One who is living, even Jesus the Lord.
Study Questions

What realization turned Mary’s sorrow to joy?
Where do people today look for “dead” things?
How does theology determine worship?

PrayerAsk God to open your spiritual eyes to see more of who Jesus really is.
ReflectionHas your soul been crying out for spiritual things – for God, for reality, for beauty, for life – yet you have not found that which you seek? The problem may lie in where you are looking. What God has for you is Jesus.

Study Questions
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