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From tears to triumph
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I’ll admit it. I am a big college basketball fan, which means I’m loving life right here in the middle of March Madness.

There is just something about this basketball tournament that makes it, for me, the most fun sporting event there is.

And I think I know what that “something” is. It’s the drama created by putting so many of the little guys up against the big schools, the powerhouses — and letting them just have one shot at it.

If you lose, you’re out. The result is a nonstop barrage of last second comebacks and Davids defeating Goliaths, heartbreaks and triumph.

The scene plays out again and again. The underdog is down. They’ve moved mountains just to get to this game.
They’ve come so close to beating a team so much better than them, but it seems like it isn’t enough. The scoreboard shows them losing.

The clock is running out, and then, one last desperation shot. The clock clicks to zero. And it goes in!
And whether the shooter’s name is Charles or Drew, Edney or Blue, they are instant celebrities. They’ve taken their team from defeat to victory — from tears to triumph! And the crowd goes wild.

That’s what Easter is for a Christian — the crowd going wild, thrilled with victory.

So if you didn’t find yourself feeling like you were rushing the court after a victory this past Sunday at church — you really need to see this replay.

Read John 20 in your Bible.

Let’s set the scene. John takes us into the world of these followers of Jesus the weekend of his death.

That week, they had gone from the peak of Palm Sunday as the crowds were hailing Jesus as a king to the valley of Good Friday as they pulled his dead, lifeless body from the cross.

They watched their hero humiliated and killed. And everyone knows, there’s no coming back from that. Game over.
That is the feeling in the air as those women go to the tomb that morning with arms full of spices and hearts full of disappointment.

Our gospel-writer John focuses in on Mary and her tears.

Now, understand, Jesus had told them he would live forever, but they weren’t thinking about that right now. They had seen him die.

They had seen the finality of the whips and thorns and nails. They had seen the blood flow, the breathing stop, the spear go in without a flinch.

They had wrapped a lifeless body. They had seen the finality. The buzzer had sounded. It was over. All that was left, literally, was the crying.

So we can understand how Mary saw the results of a miracle — an open, empty tomb, angels, even Jesus himself, and all she could think was that someone had stolen his body. She should’ve known — but the facts were there.
Her senses explained it. This is how things work. A dead body doesn’t get up on its own.

Do you see what is going on? The tears are blinding her. Her senses are blinding her.

She is a slave to human presuppositions which makes her a slave to her tears.

She wasn’t seeing God.

How easy it is to be like Mary! It’s natural to see the problem and miss the solution that’s right there. That’s what fear is, isn’t it?

It’s a reaction to obvious circumstances only seeing the visible resources to deal with them.

Do you know what I mean? Fear and worry take what we see as a problem, look at our strength or influence to fix it — and despair.

We miss the miracle God has for us of his promised help. That’s what we do, really, with any sin.

We find ourselves in situations that we pretend have only two bad things of which we choose the lesser of those two evils — whether that is the choice we set up between divorce or living in unhappiness; cheating on your taxes or not being able to afford your living; taking advantage of others or going broke; giving in to lusts or not having any fun.

Do you see what we do? We only look at what we see and ignore God’s word, his promises.

The tears of our own situations blind us to see God’s working in and through them. Our tears blind us to see his solutions.

If Mary had remembered Jesus’ word, she would have been expecting an empty tomb.

Instead, she found herself in tears. And all too often, we do, too.

So, if you find yourself in tears today — in any of those situations I just mentioned — look at how Jesus solved it.
With a single word, Jesus takes us from tears to triumph. For Mary, he just called her name. With a word, he showed her the truth of Easter.

And he does it for us. His word tells us that Christ is risen!

Death couldn’t hold him. Our punishment was paid. It means he is who he said he was.

It means he did what he said he did. It means he defeated the sin — even our sin of being blinded by our tears to his power.

He wipes away the tears and takes us from tears to triumph.

For Mary the word was her name. For us — there are so many — in so many ways — he takes us from tears to triumph — by calling your name in your Baptism, by giving you new names in Scripture: “Forgiven, redeemed, believer, saint, my child.” Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

With words like those, suddenly the problems that had clouded our vision fade away.

Seeing his love inspires ours and we learn how to improve our marriage with his love.

His promise of all that we need according to what we need suddenly removes any need to cheat the system or our neighbors to get more stuff.

Seeing how he treats us, it suddenly makes no sense to take advantage of another.

We have victory over sin because Jesus gave us victory over death. The Easter Sunday miracle has taken us from tears to triumph. Christ is Risen!

Feel free to rush the court (or the Church) this weekend!

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at