Easter Sunrise Service – April 17, 2022

Scripture; John 20:1-18

Message; Dirty Laundry or Angels?


John 20:1-18

The Empty Tomb

(1) Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. (2) So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

(3) So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. (4) Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. (5) He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. (6) Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, (7) as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. (8) Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (9) (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

(10) Then the disciples went back to their homes, (11) but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb (12) and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

(13) They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” (14) “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

(15) “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

(16) Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

(17) Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ”

(18) Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


He is Risen!

He is risen indeed!


The miracle of Easter has shocked us out of our “No-name Saturday” sadness, and filled our broken hearts with joy, our souls with hope, our mouths with praise. Even after two thousand years the resurrection still packs a powerful punch of awe and astonishment every year and we’re privileged to celebrate Easter.

Try and imagine then, if you can, how utterly mind-boggling and adrenaline-pumping that very first Easter morning must have been for the men and women who suddenly found themselves confronting the most unexpected of scenes.

According to John’s gospel it’s Mary Magdalene who first trudges out to the barren, cold tomb of Jesus, even before daylight had barely managed to light her way. But in that dim first-light of day, Mary can see well enough to discern what she interprets as a disaster: the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of Jesus’ tomb.

For Mary this was a sure sign that someone has been tampering with the tomb and very likely emptying it of all it contained, including Jesus’ body. Even without the presence of any jewels or decorations, the body itself was well worth taking. Wrapped in fine linen clothes that themselves were filled with exotic, expensive spices, thieves would find Jesus’ body a valuable commodity.

Devastated, Mary runs off to bring this final piece of bad news to Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple. Not only have Jesus’ followers lost their living master. Now they have lost his dead body, and thus any chance to honor and tend his grave-site.

Racing to the tomb to see for themselves, Simon Peter and the other disciple now have enough daylight to see into the gaping tomb. Peter bursts right in, intent upon seeing firsthand the extent of this tragedy. Sure enough, Jesus’ body is gone.

But strangely, both Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, I assume that it was John, notice that the expensive linen wrappings and the head shroud placed over Jesus’ face are still present. Both men also seem to fixate on the fact that these remnants are left in two separate locations the head cloth folded up in one place, the linen body wrappings pushed off into another corner.

Isn’t it interesting that, here we’re in the midst of one of the greatest text in all of Scripture, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, that a significant number of verses want to tell us about dirty laundry.

The story of Jesus begins and ends with swaddling clothes and burial clothes. Priestly undergarments worn under the robes no longer used were cut up and used for swaddling clothes and burial clothes. They were considered too holy to burn.

If you’ve ever gone clothes-collecting on laundry day, you know you can pretty accurately track the movements of a child or spouse by the trail of discarded clothing they leave behind. Socks fly off in one direction, pants and shirts get dropped later, pajamas and underwear end up in one heap by themselves. The clothing trail makes its own kind of perfect, if messy, sense.

Knowing the end of the Easter story helps us to think about what the two separate piles of clothing may have indicated to Peter and John.

A head shroud, plucked off by a living hand, would be taken off first, then laid down by itself where the head had been. The linen wrappings, unwound, pulled and kicked off by living arms and legs, would end up in a heap somewhere down where the feet had rested. The living body is gone only the telltale laundry remains to show its actions.

Perhaps John had done more picking up after others in his life than Peter. He seems to be able to read correctly the laundry signs left in the tomb and come to the astonishing conclusion that these are signs of LIFE, not death. He saw and believed.

The disciples now depart. It’s Mary Magdalene’s turn to look into the tomb. But for Mary there are no piles of laundry. Instead, there are angels!

Where the disciples see dirty laundry, Mary sees angels.

Again with great care, John’s gospel reports in detail the physical location of what’s found in the tomb two beings dressed in white. Like the laundry piles the disciples saw, these angels are placed one at the head, one at the foot, of where Jesus’ body had rested. In the exact place where the disciples saw only discarded cloth, Mary sees instead heavenly messengers!

But does Mary get it? The angels, with whom she seems utterly unimpressed, ask her “Woman, why are you crying?” If Mary were tuned in to what was now before her eyes, instead of the pain that was in her heart, she might have heard the loving tone in the angels’ question. These messengers were not wondering why tears. They were asking why tears? Why sorrow on such a joyful, miraculous day?

The angels denounce mourning because their very presence, which points to Jesus’ obvious absence from the tomb, announces, “He is not here. He is Risen!”

Rejoice, don’t cry! Celebrate, don’t mourn!

For some of us, like Simon Peter and Mary Magdalene, the only thing powerful enough to shake us free from our self-absorbed despair is nothing less than the Risen Christ himself. That’s what every new Easter Sunday is for a personal experience of the living Jesus once again in our midst!

Unmoved by angelic messengers, blinded to Jesus’ presence before her, it’s not until Jesus calls Mary by name that she snaps out of her gloom and awakens to the miracle of Easter morning.

How many cues and clues have you missed in the last year? How many telltale signs that Jesus is a living presence in your daily existence have you missed? How many abandoned shrouds have you mistakenly assumed were just dirty laundry? How many angels spoke the truth to you and you shut your ears because it wasn’t what you wanted to hear or expected to see? How many times have you failed to see Jesus in a gardener’s guise? How many times have you failed to rejoice in his voice?

Maybe it’s our constant inability to catch the cues and clues about Jesus’ presence with us is what really helps Easter Sunday to be such a genuine surprise.

He really is alive!

He really isn’t in the tomb.

He really appears to his disciples . . . then and today.

And he calls us by name!

Which will it be that you see? “Dirty laundry or angels?”

In His Service,

Pastor Joe

Listen To Audio: Sermon 04172022

Call To Worship:

L: Christ is Risen.  Christ is Risen indeed.

P: Chris is Risen Today, Christ lives and reigns

L: The tomb could not hold him

P: The grave is Empty. Christ is risen!

L: Jesus Christ is Risen Today!

All: Christ is risen, indeed!

John 3:16-17 (Jesus said) “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life,” Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world

to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.


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