“A Matter of Curiosity”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
March 27, 2016
When I was a young child, my favorite holiday wasn’t Easter, in fact it was Christmas. I loved decorating the Christmas tree, hanging the lights and the balls; and placing the tinsel, strand by strand. When it was completed, I would lay down under the tree and look up into the branches, watching the lights as they reflected off of the glass balls. Probably what I liked best about the tree though, was the packages that were placed underneath. It was magical to me.
One year my mother had placed several wrapped packages under the tree and there was one with my name on it. I swear that she put the package there to torture me. I could almost hear it calling to me, “Sandy, Sandy, I’m here…don’t you want to know what I am?” I was so curious I couldn’t stand it. Finally after several days, I don’t know what happened. I did what I knew I wasn’t supposed to do. I opened the package.
I knew better, but I couldn’t help myself. I had to know what it was. Inside the wrapping paper was a small toy picnic set – complete with a table, red and white table cloth, play food, and small utensils and even little dishes. I’m not sure how long I played with it, but it probably wasn’t long before my mother found me. Busted! My curiosity had gotten the best of me. The gift was put away, never to be seen again.
“Curiosity is a hunger to explore and a delight in discovery. When we are curious, we approach the world with a child-like habit of poking and prodding and asking questions. We are attracted to new experiences. Rather than pursuing an agenda or a desired set of answers, we follow our questions where they lead.
“Socially, curiosity lets us really listen to other people because we want to know who they are. We open ourselves to the morsels of knowledge and experience they can share with us. We relish having discoveries of our own to share. Curiosity makes us interested in a broad range of information about the world around us. We learn for the joy of learning.”
Curiosity is central in the Easter story. From Pilate, to Nicodemus, Mary to Peter. They were all curious about this man who claimed to be Messiah. Curious about the events as told in our scripture this morning. When Mary arrived at the tomb, early in the morning, it was still dark but she could see that there was something wrong. She was curious why the rock had been moved. The guards that had been placed were no where around.
Instead of investigating for herself, she raced to find Peter and the other disciple. Out of breath, she blurted out, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Peter and John run to the tomb, John, a faster runner was there first, and he peered into the tomb and saw what Mary was talking about. The tomb was empty, except for the linen wrappings that should have been around the body. Peter arrived and in typical fashion, stormed into the tomb. His curiosity wouldn’t be stopped until he got to the bottom of the mystery. He also saw the linen wrappings and the one that was put on Jesus’ head was lying, alone, rolled up by itself. Both men believed that Jesus was gone, they could plainly see that. But neither fully understood what Jesus had said, that he would “rise from the dead.” What did that really mean?
Peter and John return to their homes, pondering the meaning of what they had just seen, but Mary stayed behind, weeping outside of the tomb. Grieving for the loss of her beloved Jesus and grieving the fact that he was now missing. In her grief, she looked again into the tomb, still not able to believe that he was gone. What she saw startled her. Two angels, dressed in white, were standing where the body of Jesus had been laid; one at the head and one at the feet. Curious, the angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?? She said the same thing to the angels she had said to Peter, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have laid him.”
As she said this, she turned and was face to face with Jesus, but his identity was hidden from her. She presumed him to be the gardener and when he asked why she was crying, who it was that she was looking for? She replied for a third time, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
I think that grieving someone who has been lost can be the most difficult type of grief. A missing person, someone lost in the wilderness, a loved one whose body was dragged out to sea. There is no closure, no finality without a body; always the sense of wondering and longing to know the truth. Mary was desperate for answers and she wouldn’t stop until she had pieced together the puzzle.
But then Mary’s curiosity was cured. “Jesus said to her, “Mary!” In the calling of her name, he identified himself as Jesus, the Christ, her Messiah. I can imagine that she tried to grab ahold of him, so glad she was that she had found what was lost. Jesus wasn’t dead after all, but standing there, right in front of her. Jesus instructs her not to hold onto him. Instead Jesus tells her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.”
“A new relationship emerges here, between Mary and Jesus. Her curiosity about a missing body is transformed into a curiosity of a spiritual nature with one word, Mary.” We aren’t sure exactly what the men believed before they left the tomb. Had their curiosity brought them to believe that Jesus had actually risen from the dead? Scripture says that they didn’t fully understand. That was until Mary returned to their home and shared the rest of the story. She had spoken to Christ directly. He’s alive. “Mary’s curiosity moves to a spiritual level once Jesus speaks her name, it would seem that the curiosity of Peter and John remains on a different level, as the two continue to muse about the missing body.
“Pilate displays curiosity about Jesus. “Are you the king of the Jews?” he asks Jesus. And when the Jews report to Pilate that Jesus claims to be the Son of God, Pilate responds in fear. “Where are you from?” Pilate asks. Although Jesus explains that his kingdom is from a different world, Pilate continues to see him as King of the Jews. On a sign above the cross, Pilate angers the Jews by writing, just that, “The King of the Jews.” “What I have written I have written”, says Pilate. Pilate’s curiosity about Jesus never elevates to a spiritual level. However, Pilate is clearly curious and seemingly moved by Jesus.
“The curiosity of the Pharisee, Nicodemus moves him to become a disciple, albeit secretly. Nicodemus seeks Jesus at night so no others will see him. Now, as Jesus’ body is moved from the cross to the tomb, we find Nicodemus along with Joseph of Arimathea, preparing Jesus’ body for burial. It is said that Nicodemus brought a “mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighting about a hundred pounds.”
“The Easter story piques our curiosity, doesn’t it? None of us here enter the story from a strictly human perspective. We are not curious about a missing body. We are not curious about the influence of Jesus with the Jews. We are, thought, quite curious about the Resurrection. Like Mary, we have heard Jesus calling our names. (David, Samantha, Rick, Pam, Chuck, John)
“We know about the empty tomb. We are at some level of spiritual curiosity, wondering what a resurrected Christ means for us. Mary Magdalene’s curiosity is transformed as she encounters the resurrected Christ. She wants to touch Jesus, to use her physical senses to satisfy her curiosity. The Resurrection, however, moves us to a different level, a level of the ultimate and eternal rather than the temporal. God has wrapped a gift up for us and begs us to unwrap it, a free gift from the God of the universe. If we allow our curiosity and concern about worldly matters to control us, we may miss the opportunities offered to us by God. The risen Christ is calling our name. The risen Christ calls us to a new spiritual level of curiosity. The Risen Christ calls us to receive the gift of eternal life!”
Let us pray: Gracious God, we thank you for making us curious beings. Thank you that we can satisfy our curiosity about you by knowing your son Jesus Christ. We long to be transformed and to know Jesus as Mary did, to believe in our hearts that he is the long awaited Messiah. Continue to inspire us to be the people you created us to be, loving one another, sharing your love with everyone we meet and making this world a better place. We pray this all in Jesus name. Amen.
 John 20:2
 John 20:13
 John 20:15
 John 20:17-18
 John 18:33
 John 19:9
 John 19:22
 John 19:39
 Flanagan, Dan L. Worship in a Flash for Lent & Easter. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN