It is Sunday morning. Mary Magdalene has just come to the tomb, still grieving, wanting to perhaps fully prepare the body of Jesus for burial, and she found it empty. We don’t know why she came so early. It was dark, maybe early dawn, but also dark emotionally. In the darkness, she runs to tell Peter and John (the disciple Jesus loved) that they, someone, has taken Jesus and he’s gone. Jesus is gone.
John’s gospel account of the resurrection is for me, the most intimate, the most personal. While John may differ from the other gospels on how many women came to the tomb or when, only John shows the raw emotion that Mary was experiencing at the tomb. I can see this account being a performance as in a great play or movie. But half way through, being left at the tomb by Peter and John, Mary simply weeps.
Mary; This woman who had loved much. Arriving at the sealed tomb of the teacher whom she loved. And it is empty. She is in shock. The tomb, which we told had been sealed by the authorities, was open. And it was empty. In her grief she could not handle this on her own so she turns to return to Peter and John.
Many of us may have lost loved ones. A father or mother; brother or sister; aunt or uncle; a husband or wife. The experience of loss, it can be shocking. There is a sense of disbelief leading to numbness or depression or loneliness. As a chaplain, I sit with people in this loss.
The home of Paul Laurence Dunbar, a noted Harlem Renaissance poet, is open to the public in Dayton, Ohio. When Dunbar died at 33, his mother left his room exactly as it was on the day of his death. At the desk of this brilliant man was his final poem, handwritten on a pad. After his mother died, her friends discovered that Paul Laurence Dunbar's last poem had been lost forever. Because his mother had made his room into a shrine and not moved anything, the sun had bleached the ink in which the poem was written until it was invisible. The poem was gone.
We see Mary, so taken by grief at the tomb that she does not see the angels for who they are. Perhaps it is because they asked her why she wept, an odd question to ask at the graveside. She weeps because her lord has been taken away.
Even Jesus asks her the same question. Why do you weep, who do you seek? Mary is so overcome with grief she does not recognize Jesus. She even asks Jesus where he moved the body, thinking he was the gardener.
And its at this moment that there is a turning point. It is here the most intimate and compelling. One commentator called it the greatest recognition scene in all of Literature. This exchange points to her love and her grief. Through her tears of grief, she cannot recognize who this “Gardner” is. In her loving grief she pleads to know where he has taken the body
Jesus calls Mary by name. With one word he calls out to her. Mary! He even exclaims it. He claims her as his own. He found her and yet she sought him. You can imagine this moment, when grief turns to joy, when tears of loss turn to tears of joy. She responds with one word, Rabbouni! Rabbi. Mary embraces Jesus. There are two things here: 1. Naturally, in her tears she couldn't recognize Jesus in her grief. But while tears are natural, we cant forget to look towards the Glory of God. 2. When sorrow comes, we mustn't lock our eyes on the grave, but point them to the heavens. I remember my grandmother always said: Never say goodbye, say until I see you again.
And yet, Jesus tells her not to hold on to him. Don’t be afraid. He tells her to go and tell the others; for he is returning to the father. Mary is the first to share the good news. Jesus is Risen, and that good news is not to be held on to, it is to be shared. And like Mary, the first disciple who proclaims the Risen Christ, we too are called to share in this mission. As a people called to become disciples; we are part of the body of Christ, and we learn and grow together to know God more fully.
As this small community ... we share together the friendship we have found in Christ. We share our joys and sorrows together ... and we try to love each other as Christ first loved us ... and as a community of disciples we are called to share the presence of Christ with others ... to let others know that Christ is indeed with us ... he is risen ... and he is present ... we need only look and Jesus will find us ... and when he does, he will call us by name ... and then we will know that he has claimed us as his own and welcomed us into his kingdom .
In our daily lives, our daily walks we can take comfort that our hope is not lost. The story of God’s love isn’t finished. It continues with us daily as we love one another and do the work of Christ. Whether we are welcoming the birth of a child, a positive prognosis of recovery, new job or we are faced with the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the anxiety of illness; Christ is faithful, he is alive, and he walks with us through our daily joys and daily struggles.
Christ is Risen!