Christ is Risen!

He turns our sorrow into lasting hope.
We Will Experience Sorrow

We all experience sorrow to one degree or another. And, at first, Mary couldn't rejoice at the empty tomb because she was overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus had been crucified and by the fear that someone had stolen His body. She didn't see the joy that was right in front of her.

Is our sorrow a sign that we are walking in disobedience to God? No! Granted, the grief and sorrow Christians experience are different than that which those who don't have hope in Christ experience (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Still, we do experience deep sorrow. Even Isaiah 53:3 describes Christ as "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." It's not ungodly to grieve. It's not ungodly to feel sorrow.

There are several factors that can cause our grief and sorrow.

Disappointment

When Jesus appeared to the two men on the road to Emmaus, they were so heartbroken, they didn't recognize the Master although He was walking with them. Instead, they recounted the horrors of the previous week and, as we read in Luke 24:21, said, "But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel."

They were disappointed that Jesus had not appeared as a conquering king—at least not in the way they'd expected their Messiah to come.

We can see the same thing with Mary. She believed, like everyone else did, that Jesus was to be their political Messiah, and everything was now over. They had killed Jesus and she simply wanted to finish the burial process—but the body is missing. She was broken, grieving, and sorrowful.

When things don't go as planned, the way we thought God was going to work them out, we're often disappointed.

Evil Prospers

When we look at the world around us and see evil prospering, we are grieved. Why are they doing so well? And why are we struggling even though we're Christians?

Mary grieved when she thought evil men had won yet another victory, that they had taken away her Lord.

If we're sorrowful because it looks like evil is winning, we must remember that God is sovereign over everything.

There is nothing man can do to hinder, frustrate, or disrupt God's plans. God is never surprised, shocked, or bewildered by evil. In fact, God uses evil people to accomplish His purposes, while holding them accountable for their sins. That's because, "All history is being directed by God in order to bring his own purpose … to pass." [1]

This side of heaven, we will never fully understand why God does what He does. But that's because God is God and we're not. There's no lasting comfort apart from His sovereignty.

Does that mean we don't grief? Of course not. My wife's last miscarriage occurred seven years ago, but we still grieve the loss of these little ones. But we do not grieve like those who have no hope.

Our hope, and the hope of every Christian, is in the resurrection of Christ and the fact that He's coming again to take us home to heaven. He eases our pain, our grief, and our sorrow. One day there will be no more tears, no more sorrow or grief, no more suffering and death.

Jesus turned Mary's sorrow into joy and He can do the same for us.

Jesus Turns Sorrow to Joy

When Mary went to the tomb, she wasn't looking for her risen Savior. She didn't believe in the resurrection. Like the rest of Jesus's followers, she misunderstood who Jesus was, what His mission was. Throughout the Old Testament there are prophesies of the Messiah's death. Jesus Himself told them that He would die. Still, they didn't understand. Their minds had not yet been opened.

It wasn't enough for His disciples to simply see Him after His resurrection. The men on the road to Emmaus didn't recognize Him as He walked and talked with them. Mary didn't recognize Him although He was standing right in front of her. In fact, she thought He was the gardener. She says in John 20:15, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away."

Mary can't recognize her Savior until He makes Himself known to her. And how does He do so? He speaks her name (v. 16).

Immediately she recognizes Him. Immediately she believes He is no longer dead. Immediately she clings to Him. Jesus had removed the veil from her eyes. He had changed her heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

It was natural for Mary to cling to the Messiah she thought was dead. However, He instructs her to let go. Why? Verse 17 of John 20 says, "… for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"

Jesus did not refuse to let Mary touch Him, but He did signal a new relationship with His people. Even though He rose from the dead, He wouldn't be with them much longer—not physically, at least. He didn't rise from the dead to usher in an age of prosperity for Israel. He rose to secure our spiritual prosperity.

Maybe you feel spiritual prosperity is not for you. Maybe you've turned your back on Jesus when sorrow and grief overwhelmed you. Maybe you want to return to Him, but you're afraid He won't accept you.

Consider His disciples. Every one of the Twelve—except Judas Iscariot, who had already denied Christ, and John, who stayed nearby—fled when their Master needed them the most, humanly speaking.

Peter, who went on to lead thousands to faith, denied knowing Jesus and returned to his life as a fisherman. It was Jesus Himself who, after the resurrection, met with Peter on the beach and restored him to fellowship.

Jesus told Mary to share the news with "my brothers." Despite all that had happened, Jesus referred to these men as His blood relatives.

So, what does that mean for us? When we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and surrender our lives to His lordship, God adopts us into His family and considers us "joint heirs" with His Son (Romans 8:17; 10:9–10).

He is calling you to return to Him, to run to Him.

Run to Him
o many people believe they have to clean up their act before they can come to Jesus. But, without Him, we're slaves to sin; we're in chains. There is no way we can break free on our own.

We can't break free, but we can accept what Jesus did for us when He died on the cross for our sin and rose victorious over both sin and death. We can confess our sin and accept the gift of salvation. In this way, we can "run to Him."

And, as believers, we must diligently run the race of life in a way that honors the Lord. It isn't always easy to get the family, or even ourselves, to church, but God calls us to fellowship. It isn't easy to volunteer to teach Sunday School or serve on the missions committee or even greet at the front door when our schedule is already overflowing, but the Lord calls us to serve joyfully. And it definitely isn't easy to devote time to daily Bible study when our schedule is packed from morning to night, but it's crucial to our spiritual growth and the good of those whose paths cross ours.

We must keep Matthew 16:24-25 in mind.
"If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it."

If we're diligent in our pursuit of Christ, we'll put Him above all else (Matthew 6:33). We'll take up our cross and follow Him (Matthew 14:24). We'll have an increasing desire to study His Word, to obey His Word, and to proclaim His Word. Of course, this desire may fluctuate for many reasons, but God calls us to be diligent, and we must seek to run back to Him and to His Word as often as we need to.

We must also be diligent in our pursuit of Christ. And while we may not gain health, wealth, and prosperity, we will develop a close personal relationship with the Savior, God the Son. We don't get to know anyone like this unless we spend time with them. We must make it a priority.

What sorrows are you experiencing today? Why are you hurting? Why are you grieving? What are you afraid of?

Jesus displays a profound truth in today's text. If you seek Him, you will find Him. He wants to take your hurt. He wants to take your pain. He wants to take your grief. He wants to take your fear. He wants to turn these sorrows into joy and hope. Run to Him today!