John 20:11-18 tells Mary Magdalene who, upon discovering the empty tomb, is clearly panicked by the idea the Lord has been “taken away” (John 20:13). First she dealsl with Jesus’ death, and now the possibility someone has stolen his body, perhaps as some cheap stunt. Whatever hope she had placed in Jesus seems to be vanishing, her tears telling a story of despair. In this uncertain moment her heart and mind wonder if Jesus had in fact risen from the dead, just as he had said he would (see Matthew 20:17-19).
If Jesus did not rise from the dead there are serious implications with which we must deal. Consider these that follow.
First, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then he is a liar. He clearly stated he would do so. Matthew 16:21, 17:23, and 20:19 find Jesus making very plain he anticipated rising from the dead following his humiliation and execution. He is specific enough to declare it would be the “third day” (cp. Matt. 20:19). If he did not rise from the dead then he is a fraud; therefore, not doing “all things well” (cp. Mark 7:37) as the crowds claim. For ages even non-believers have acknowledged that Jesus is “good.” But a good man does not lie. He cannot be both a deceiver and good.
Secondly, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then he is not God-in-the-flesh. He stated as much in the gospel narratives (see John 10:30, for instance). But if he is not God-incarnate then he has no real authority or power over our lives, and is not worthy of our allegiance. John 10:17-18 reminds us Jesus’ power from above allows him to give life. Either he has such power or he does not.
Thirdly, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then we have no real hope for the future. First Corinthians 15:17-18 declares, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith if futile and you are still in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ (that is, died) have perished.” The anticipation of forgiveness, honor, power, peace, reconciliation to our Creator, and much more, evaporates. We are left with nothing.
Fourthly, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then many throughout time risked their lives in vain. Early followers of Christ declared themselves to be “witnesses” (see Acts 2:32) to his resurrection, and many of them were martyred for their allegiance to Jesus. If Jesus did not rise then they sacrificed their lives for no reason.
Lastly, if Jesus did not rise from the dead then all of Christianity is a house of cards. After all, everything we believe hinges upon Jesus’ resurrection.
However, if Jesus rose from the dead then we must deal with him on his terms. He is the embodiment of truth. He is Almighty God who has arrived on the scene. He gives meaning and hope to our lives. He merits our total surrender, even unto death.
We must, then, respond with the determination and delight of Mary Magdalene, as recorded in John 20:16, when the resurrected Jesus did in fact approach her. Her response upon seeing him?
“Rabboni!,” which means, “My Master!”
Her response should be yours and mine as well.