Sunday 27th of March, 2016
On this Easter Sunday we hear a Gospel reading from John that tells us of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that we all here today believe and confess. Now I don’t know about you but I would not have expected the resurrection account to be told this way. I would have expected Jesus to immediately reveal himself to his disciples. I would expect Jesus to make a bigger scene. I would expect that the telling of his resurrection from the dead would start with him, or if not him one of his close disciples. But it doesn’t rather, it starts with a woman named Mary Magdalene.
May Magdalene is coming to visit Jesus tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark. Notice here that at this point none of his other disciples are mentioned yet, it is just her alone. We don’t know what they were doing, but they were not here at this moment at the tomb of the buried Jesus. The very fact that she came there to this tomb at that time of the morning, suggests that Mary was deeply grieving. She could not let this man Jesus go. She could not accept that he had just died like this, two days before. In this account from John’s Gospel we see that Mary is steadfast and devoted to attending to Jesus his dead body. Mary was one of those who had taken upon herself the task of seeing to Jesus’ body, a task that lead to uncleanness according to the Jewish law. The very fact that she was doing this was made her unclean by the law. The Jews were not to come near a dead body, for it made them unclean. This action would have put her in a position that if she was found out then she most likely would have been ostracized by those around her, banned from the community until the priests had cleansed her. Yet she was willing to do this for her Lord.
When she found the tomb empty she ran to the other disciples to tell them, and Peter and the John came running to see for themselves. They came went into the tomb and saw what they needed to see and then as verse 10 says: 10 the disciples went back to where they were staying. But notice the Mary did not leave, rather she stood outside the tomb crying. Mary was weeping because she was not able to care for her Lord in death. She was still wanting to care for him. The question of the angels prepares her for what is to come. “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” Imagine seeing two angels in white.
This woman is in a place of deep grief. Her grief must have been intense not to have stood in awe at the sight of Jesus. Jesus speaks to Mary and says “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”, but she does not answer the questions, but rather she is still looking for his body.
At this point things change. The resurrected Lord Jesus calls her by name. He said ‘Mary’ In this one word, spoken to her by Jesus, all of her earthly priorities are undone. In an instant Mary has found the living Lord. She recognizes him immediately, calling him “teacher.” In this moment Jesus’s relationship to her has changed. He is not dead. He is the risen Lord, full of hope and love.
Mary desperately want to cling to Jesus, but rather he tells her not to hold on to him, but to tell “my brothers, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
So Mary obey Jesus and she does what others would soon do, she bears witness through the words of Jesus to the risen Lord.
In this action Mary is about to start one of the most important events in history, the telling to others of Jesus resurrection from the dead. It is Mary who first speaks of the Jesus and his resurrection. She is the one who said “I have seen the Lord”.
Mary was the one who did not give up on the worldly task of burying her Lord, at great personal cost to her, and that determination made her the first eyewitness to our risen Lord. And having witnessed the Lord, she brings the good news to the other disciples of Jesus.
It was Jesus, who by his words has created and redeemed this devoted follower, and then renewed her by his gracious words. It was Jesus who propelled her so that her response was to immediately go out and take the message of her Lord to the other disciples.
This incredible event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus, spread through this devout ordinary women.
On the whole the resurrection of Jesus is not something that we stop to think about often in our Christian lives. We certainly think about it on Easter Sunday, but it tends to fade into the background at other times. Yet every time we meet for worship each Sunday, we are gathered together with our risen Lord. If fact it is only because he has risen and concurred death that we worship at all.
We meet with the risen Lord Jesus, the one who has risen from the dead and taken away our penalty for our sins. But he is also the one who still coming to us and is speaking to us and reminding us that our grief and our veil of tears, that we experience because of death is but a passing matter, when it is compared to the eternal life we enjoy, partially now, and will soon enjoy fully with Jesus in heaven. It is because of his work in Mary that we here today have heard the Gospel of Jesus and have come to him. We too like Mary can say “I have seen the Lord”. We have been spoken to by him in our baptism, we to are spoken to by him through his Word, we to are spoken to by our risen Lord Jesus, who his renewing us, so that we too, like Mary, can bring the good news of his resurrection to others.
I encourage you to ponder on how Jesus spoke to Mary that day. To dwell on how, something so huge and incomprehensible, a dead man being raised from the dead, could be revealed and spread to others in such as small and humble way. Think about how he is still revealing himself to you and others today.
This Easter Sunday is a day where we celebrate the victory over death and sin by our Lord Jesus, where we celebrate the fact that Jesus overcame all that he went through on the Friday, and because of this he has now won the victory over sin and death. This is the day where we celebrate the fact that you and I have been included in this victory that he won for us; and therefore we stand in victory with him. I remind you of Jesus words to Mary: “…Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”’ These words also apply to us. We celebrate this day all that Jesus has done, but also all that Jesus still does for us here today. But let it not only be this day, that we ponder these things, but every time we gather together to worship him.
May our resurrected Lord Jesus Christ, give you his peace.