The Easter story doesn’t begin in the light of day. It begins at dawn when it’s still dark … a place far less clear, far more personal. It begins with an individual…Mary.

Tradition has always had it that Mary Magdalene was broken by spiritual powers that bound her within. This was before the day that a new presence came to town…a presence that proved more powerful than all the powers around her and within her. Jesus had come to town and saw into her soul… and cast those powers out… seven demonic powers. He had done something for her that no one else could ever do, and she could never forget. No one loved Jesus so much as Mary Magdalene. It was Mary, who loved Jesus so much she was first at the tomb.

She comes in love… but ALSO IN DARKNESS; not just the darkness of the sky, but the darkness of her soul. Her love may have been strong but her hope couldn’t see anything to hold onto. Jesus was gone and the world without him was dark… around her … within her.

Easter begins where life on this planet finds us… a world not always safe and sane and satisfying; a world where the love of family and friends can fall short… prove frail and fragile; a world where people we love leave us far too soon.

Easter enters just such a world. The love of God is a love that seeks us in the darkness. Not the love of fairy tales or forced devotion… but a love that reaches into the real world.

Easter begins with one whose hopes appear sealed in the harsh reality of a tomb… and whose expectations are once again left in a natural world. Even when she arrives and finds the huge stone, what does she think? She may have thought that the Jews had taken away Jesus’ body; that, not satisfied with killing him on a cross, they were inflicting further indignities on him. Or there were ghoulish creatures who made it their business to rob tombs; and Mary may have thought that this had happened here. She couldn’t perceive of anything more.

And then a presence beside her. But what can she hope for… a gardener.

The presence of one she loves… longs for… she can’t see clearly through her sadness. Her head and her heart are turned downward in her tears. The hope of Easter begins in that place where it’s hard for us to expect much…to see clearly… to recognize God’s presence through our tears and trials… our fears and frustrations.

What Mary saw that Easter morning would change her life forever… and can change ours. Jesus came to Mary because she needed him. We all need him.

What is the living hope that changed Mary’s life? …. That changes our life? In the risen Christ Mary discovered the living hope that…

1. Jesus can overcome any powers over my past.

Mary knew about the powers that can control and define our past. She had been oppressed by them; powers that controlled her. Luke 8:2-3 claims that Jesus had cast out seven demons from her. We all know something of the power over our past… the shame that tethers us down from the hope of who we long to be.

The living hope of Jesus is that we never have to be defined by our past… tethered to our failures. Because of the cross, our sins can be forgiven and evil is defeated.

2. Jesus will be present with me…each and every day.

The great news of Easter is that God can be present with me…each and every day. Mary didn’t know it but Jesus was right beside her. She was not alone in the garden.

You and I never have to feel alone again. Christ rose so that all who receive him could have the very presence of God within us… among us.  He’s here right now… when you go home… lay down… rise up… go to work.

3. Jesus has a future for me… to be forever with Him.

Jesus knew that death is born of spiritual separation … the final enemy he came to defeat…

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3)  

The hope that changed Mary’s life was that she would be with Jesus forever.

There was a woman who had been diagnosed with cancer and had been given three month to live. Her doctor told her to start making preparations to die — something we all should be doing all of the time. So she contacted her pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what she wanted to be wearing.  The woman also told her pastor that she wanted to be buried with her favorite Bible. Everything was in order and the pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her. “There’s one more thing,” she said excitedly. “I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand.” The woman explained. “In all my years of attending church socials and functions where food was involved, and let’s be honest, food is an important part of any church event, spiritual or otherwise, my favorite part was when whoever was clearing away the dishes of the main course would lean over and say ’you can keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming. When they told me to keep my fork, I knew that something great was about to be given to me. It wasn’t Jell-O or pudding. It was cake or pie – something with substance. So I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder, ’What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them, ’Something better is coming, so keep your fork too.”

In the resurrection of Jesus, God embedded in the earth an anchor of hope sturdy enough to withstand any hurricane. This hope is the anchor that declares…
· God can overcome my past
· God can be with in the present… each and every day.
· God has a future for me… to be with Him forever.