Changing Our Minds
Focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was.
John(82) (Part of the Believe(74) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on October 18, 2020 (Sunday Morning(281))
Changing Our Minds
“In 1949, researchers asked a group of students at Ivy League schools to perform a simple task: identify playing cards. There were just two catches. First, these cards were shown very quickly. Second, the researchers were using a deck of four ordinary playing cards and six ‘trick cards’ with odd colors and suits (red spades, black hearts, and the like).
The researchers discovered that it took the students four times longer to identify a ‘trick card’ than a normal card. The students’ brains struggled to process something as out-of-the-ordinary as a red six of clubs. Even after they had seen two or three trick cards, it still took extra time for them to identify trick cards.
In many cases, the students tried to ‘compromise’ what they expected to see with what they actually saw. For instance, when they saw a red six of clubs they described it as ‘the six of clubs illuminated by red light.’ In other words, the participants often couldn't accept the facts of what they just saw because they didn't expect to see it.
The researchers called their study ‘The Perception of Incongruity,’ which simply means that when we encounter something that doesn't fit our worldview, we have a strong tendency to ignore it. Or we tend to compromise to make it fit into our assumptions about how we think the world should work. The researchers noted that even smart people (like Ivy League students) fall prey to the perception of incongruity.”
Adapted from Joe Heschmeyer, "Demons, Playing Cards, and Telescopes," Strange Notions blog (7-14-14).
Brain Age for Nintendo DS
When our boys bought their Nintendo DS gaming systems, I would buy a game or two for myself
One of the games I really enjoyed at the time was Brain Age
There were all kinds of games that helped to determine the age of your brain (stroop test, speed counting, word memory, connect maze, calculations x 20, and number cruncher)
The one I found challenging and fun was the Stroop Test
The game would display one of four words and colors: blue, black, yellow, and red
One of these words would appear on the screen, in a random color which may not match the color denoted by the word
I had to say the color of the word, rather than the word itself (e.g., if the word Yellow appears in blue letters, the correct answer is “blue”)
[show image of stroop test in Brain Age game]
Group Stroop Test
Let’s test our brains this morning to see how old they are
When you see the next slide, we are going to say the color of the font and not the word, reading from left to right and top to bottom
Let’s give it a try
[show stroop test picture]
That can be pretty difficult when our brain wants to think about reading the word instead of saying the color of the word
As we’ll see today, Mary Magdalene was struggling with “The Perception of Incongruity.” She had in her mind what she should have found at Jesus’ tomb and was struggling to get past what she thought was reality – “they” had removed His body and put it some place that she didn’t know about. She was unable to see and understand that Jesus had come alive again. John wants us to change our minds about Jesus’ resurrection. He wants us to . . .
BIG IDEA – Focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was.
GOD (John 20:10-18)
Where Jesus was (vv. 10-15)
The disciples went back to their homes
This is obviously referring to Peter and John who had run to the tomb, to see for themselves, that it was empty
It seems clear from what happens next that neither Peter or John shared with Mary what they concluded after seeing the linens that had been wrapped around Jesus body and the grave cloth that had been around His head
We know that John believed that Jesus had come alive again, but he hadn’t shared that belief with Mary
Mary remained at the tomb
Mary is crying
Mary is beside herself with concern for where Jesus’ body is
“Mary weeps, not because Jesus has died, but because his body has vanished; abuse of the dead was considered an abhorrent offense.” [Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, John, 567]
I tend to believe that Mary was still mourning Jesus’ death and the disappearance of His body is adding to her grief and despair
Not only has the One, who set her free from demon possession, died, but now His body has been removed and placed somewhere else
Her desire is to be near Jesus’ physical body and to properly complete the burial process, but that is now impossible
As I mentioned last week, the concept of Jesus’ resurrection, wasn’t even a part of her thought process
She was so focused on where Jesus was that she couldn’t think about where He said He would be after three days
While Mary wept, she bent over and looked into the tomb
She had already been in the tomb with the other women
Perhaps she’s checking one more time to make sure the tomb is actually empty
How many of us would admit that when we lose something, we go to the same places again and again to make sure the item isn’t there and we missed it
If you’re like me, you go back to the places where you normally leave the item, hoping that I just overlooked it the 5-10 times I’ve already been there before
It’s not there, because I didn’t put it back where I normally keep it – it’s lost!
Mary knew that Joseph and Nicodemus had placed Jesus’ body in this tomb, because she had followed them there and watched them do it
When Mary looks inside this time, she sees two angels
John’s description of Mary seeing two angels in the tomb, makes it sound like she isn’t affected by that at all
John doesn’t say that Mary gasped and was shocked to see two people in the tomb, when it was empty before
She’s so focused on where Jesus’ body is, that she doesn’t seem to be phased by anything else
Perhaps we’ve all experienced this ourselves or with family members
We try to talk with them, but they are so focused on . . . (the game, the video game, a book, the sales flyer, the television show, etc.) . . . that they are oblivious to everything else going on around them
The angel’s question
The two angels ask Mary why she is crying
She is aware enough to answer their question
Her answer proves that she is focused on where Jesus was, but isn’t any longer
She basically tells them the same thing she told Peter and John – “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.”
We see Mary’s wholehearted devotion to Jesus when she says “my” Lord
Last week we talked about Mary’s wholehearted devotion to Jesus, that was evident through her early morning trip to the tomb
Here we see it again, when she says the Jesus is “her” Lord
She was completely committed to Him
We can learn from her example, again
Can and do you call Jesus your Lord, because you have deep, intimate, personal relationship with Him
Or, are you content to just call Him Lord, because You recognize that He spoke with authority and did miraculous things while on earth, but you don’t have a personal relationship with Him
God’s power at work
“They do not solve the riddle of Jesus’ disappearance but by their question (“Woman, why are you crying?”) they suggest that sorrow is not what the present moment requires. But it is their presence that is telling. It has not been robbers who removed the body. Rather, what has happened here stems from God’s power.” [Burge, The NIV Application Commentary, John, 555]
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is all-powerful!
God’s power is revealed through the empty tomb
Whether or not Mary is focusing her attention in the right direction doesn’t change this fact
Mary has laser beam focus as another character is introduced to her and asks her two questions
Mary turns around and sees Jesus, but thinks He is the gardener
We’re not told why Mary doesn’t recognize Him
There are all kinds of ideas (she had experienced deep trauma; she couldn’t see clearly through her tears; it was still dark, because it was early morning; she was confused) [Gangel, Holman New Testament Commentary, John, 369]
I like a more simplistic explanation, that Jesus was in control of how and when He would reveal Himself to her
He did this with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:16) and with His closest disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:4)
In Mary’s mind the only person who would be at the tomb early in the morning during the Feast, would be the gardener – perhaps this was when he usually came to garden tomb to maintain it [Borchert, The New American Commentary, John 12-21, 300; Köstenberger, 568]
She was so consumed by the idea that Jesus’ body was not in the tomb, where she thought it should have been, that resurrection never crossed her mind
That’s why she assumed the man standing behind her was the gardener
Jesus asks her two questions
“Why are you crying?”
This is the same question that the two angels had asked her
Again, Jesus is trying to get Mary to refocus her attention away from the empty tomb
She should not be sorrowful at this point, because the empty tomb means that Jesus has come alive again, just like He had said
Her response should be rejoicing
She should be focusing on the fact that Jesus is alive and right there with her, instead of lying dead in the tomb
“Who is it you are looking for?”
This question again should help to focus Mary
Jesus already knew, but wanted her to verbalize it
Mary’s response to the two questions
She thinks that Jesus is the gardener
Here is the irony, “The one whose body she is seeking is asked for a solution to the mystery of the empty tomb.” [Moloney cited by Köstenberger, 568]
She is asking everyone she comes in contact with, if they know where Jesus’ body is
She is even willing to follow them to the location and retrieve His body
“Her words reveal her devotion. She never paused to consider how she would carry the corpse of a full-grown man or how she would explain her possession of it.” [Tenney quoted in Guzik’s commentary]
The concept of Jesus’ resurrection hasn’t even crossed her mind, because she is so focused on where Jesus was instead of where Jesus is
“Nothing that she has seen – not the stone rolled away from the tomb, not the sight of two angels in the tomb guarding an empty space, not even the sight of Jesus himself – has shaken her stubborn conclusion that he has been taken away and reburied.” [Michaels, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Gospel of John, 999]
PRINCIPLE #2 – Preconceived ideas can blind us to the truth right in front of us
There are those in our culture today, who say that they won’t believe in Jesus until God reveals Himself to them in a miraculous or supernatural way
Mary’s story and the religious leaders that John has introduced us to previously are evidence that we can see the miraculous and still not believe
Jesus asks us to take the step of faith to believe in Him without having all of our questions answered and perhaps without seeing or experiencing the supernatural or miraculous
Faith is believing in something we cannot see
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
John 20:29, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Salvation comes by believing in Jesus by grace through faith
Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
So, if you want God to reveal Himself to you, if you want to experience the supernatural and miraculous, then believe in Jesus by grace through faith
Take that step of faith today
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Take the step of faith to believe in Jesus for salvation.
Mary had been around Jesus and His teachings for probably a couple of years
She was no less aware, that He had mentioned multiple times, that He would be killed, buried, and come alive again on the third day
She should have been focusing on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was
At this point, Jesus reveals Himself to her
Where Jesus is (vv. 16-18)
Jesus uses Mary’s name
PRINCIPLE #3 – Jesus’ disciples know His voice, listen to His voice, and follow Him.
Jesus taught His disciples about this as John records it in 10:1-21 (Jesus is the Good Shepherd)
John 10:3-4, The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.
This happened once before in John 11:43-44a, When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus called Mary by name and she knew His voice
Jesus calls us by name, but do we know His voice, listen to His voice, and follow Him?
There are many things that can distract us from knowing and listening to the voice of Jesus and then following Him
Work; Technology (social media, video games, television, etc.); Family; Friends; School; Hobbies (hunting, fishing, shopping, camping, etc.); Sports
Different ring tones
With small computers in our pockets today (cell phones), we have the ability to customize our ringtones
We have a specific ringtone for our spouse, children, parents, boss, neighbor, and friends
When our phone goes off, we determine whether or not to answer, based on the ringtone
It would be interesting to see how each person here would respond if their cell phone rang during the service, based on a specific ringtone
For certain ringtones, we would fumble around to silence our phones, while for other ringtones, we would simply excuse ourselves, from the sanctuary, and answer the phone call
If Jesus called with His special ringtone how would you respond?
Do you know Jesus’ voice?
Yes! Then you have a personal relationship with Him and are one of His disciples
No! Then you don’t have a personal relationship with Him and are not one of His disciples, which is why you don’t know His voice (what voice do you know? – science, philosophy, Google, friends, Satan?)
Are you listening to Jesus’ voice?
As a disciple of Jesus Christ, you should be listening to His voice (we can hear Jesus’ voice through other believers, sermons, personal Bible study, small group Bible studies, Scripture memory, prayer, etc.)
There are times in our lives when we don’t want to listen to the voice of Jesus (we may be anger, bitter, lonely, hurt, sad, anxious, depressed, and more)
We know what the Bible says, but we decide not to listen to it and instead do our own thing
Are you following Jesus?
If you know His voice and are listening to His voice, then you should be following what He is saying to you
Most of us know what Jesus is asking us to do, but are we following Him – are we obeying Him
Jesus may be asking you to follow Him into full-time ministry, into a volunteer ministry position, to share the Gospel with a coworker, to forgive a fellow believer, to forgive someone who has hurt you, to reconcile with a family member, etc.
You know what He is asking you to follow!
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Listen to the voice of Jesus and obediently follow Him.
When Jesus said her name, Mary knew His voice and responded
She turned her full attention to Jesus and no longer focused on where Jesus’ body was
She was able to focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was
He is alive and with her, right there at the garden tomb
She addresses Jesus as Teacher
Imagine the joy she must have felt as this point, seeing Jesus alive
She had found Jesus’ body, but not in the condition/state that she had previously thought she would
There was no need to complete the burial process
Perhaps in her excitement, she rushed forward to touch Jesus
Jesus gives Mary a job to do
Jesus tells her not to hold on to Him, because He had not yet returned to the Father
Jesus is not giving her a prohibition against touching Him physically, because we know that, with Thomas, He encouraged him to touch the nail marks in His wrists and to put his hand in the whole in His side from the spear
Rather, Jesus is helping her understand that she will see Him again, but also that He has to ascend to heaven so the Holy Spirit will come and He has a job for her to do as His messenger
Jesus’ message for His disciples
Progression of relationship between Jesus and His disciples
Servants: John 13:16, I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
Servants to Friends: John 15:15, I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
Friends to Brothers: This shows the level of intimacy increasing in their relationship as He prepares to return to the Father
They will be the ones who will continue to communicate God’s redemptive plan through the Gospel of Jesus Christ
We see this progression of relationship through Jesus message for His disciples
Jesus is returning to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God
Mary obediently stops holding on to Jesus and returns to where the disciples are
She tells them that she has seen the Lord!
We’re not told if they believe her or not
She also tells them everything that Jesus had asked her to relay to them
Are you ready to take the step of faith to believe in Jesus for salvation?
Are you ready to listen to the voice of Jesus and obediently follow Him?
Is our focus on where Jesus is instead of where Jesus was?
“A friend of mine used to work as a denominational official in Minnesota. One of his jobs was to travel to little rural communities where they didn't have churches to do funerals. He would go out with an undertaker, and they would drive together in the undertaker's hearse. One time, they were on their way back from a funeral, and my friend, John, was feeling quite tired. He decided he would take a nap. Since they were in a hearse, he thought, Well, I'll just lie down in the back of the hearse.
Sounds like kind of a creepy thing to do, but this is a true story. The guy who was driving the hearse pulled into a service station, because he was running low on gas. The service station attendant was filling up the tank and he was kind of freaked out, because there was a body stretched out in the back. While he was filling the tank, John woke up, opened his eyes, knocked on the window and waved at the attendant. John said he never saw anybody run so fast in his whole life.”
John Ortberg, "The Empty Tomb: How Will You Respond?" Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.