SCRIPTURE: John 20:1-18
TEXT: John 20:1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.
THEME: Easter Message
On Friday, after the death of Jesus on the cross, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate to let him take Jesus’ the body. Nicodemus also came and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about 100 lbs. They took the body of Jesus
and wrapped it with the spices in linen clothes according to the burial custom of the Jews. They laid Jesus in a new tomb as Sabbath began. John is the only Gospel that has the body of Jesus prepared as it is placed in
the tomb, so on Easter morning, Mary Magdalene wasn’t there to prepare Jesus’ body as in the other gospels.
Sunday morning Mary came to the tomb while it was still dark. Why was she there? The events of the past week happened tremendously fast. The palms from the triumphal entry have wilted but it wasn’t that long ago. The celebration of the
passover lead to an arrest in the garden, then a trial and execution. There was a lot to process. Her emotions have been on a roller coster of highs and lows.
Being as close to Jesus as she could might bring some comfort. So she goes to the grave. Having time to run the events of the past week through her mind might give her a sense of why things lead to such a disastrous end. Maybe she just
needed to be alone. Who else would be there so early in the morning? But when she gets there the stone was removed from the tomb. That is all that she needed to go and fetch Peter and the other disciple - yeah you know which
one, the one that Jesus loved. And told them her worst fear, “ They have taken the Lord out of the tomb…and we do not know where they have laid him.” She must have had several case scenarios running through her head of what she might have found when she got to the tomb; the grave site silent and cold. Vandalism. Armed guards preventing entrance or the result of grave robbers. It was the later. It is not quite certain whether the disciples believed her or not. It was dark, she
is distraught, maybe she wasn’t at the right place. So Peter and John set out towards the tomb and eventually break out into a run, which turns into a race to get there. John gets there first and peers in and sees the wrapping there. When Peter
arrives he goes right into the tomb and sees the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head rolled up by itself. John goes in and finally believes what Mary has said about Jesus’ missing body. Peter and John go back home but Mary stays at the grave site. Why? Her deepest suspicions have been confirmed. There really wasn’t anything more to do. In fact it could have been dangerous for her once word got out and the authorities came to investigate what happened. She might even become a
suspect of a hoax.
She didn’t care. Weeping, she stood outside of the tomb. Still sorrowful about the missing body of Jesus she bent to look into the tomb. Maybe to look for evidence. Maybe because she had to do something, Maybe because she had a sense that she needed to be there. Maybe she knew the only explanation of Jesus’ body been taken away was not the real answer. This only made the grief worst. Looking into the tomb she saw two angels. They asked why she was crying and when she explained, she turned about there was another figure who addressed her by name, “Mary”. She recognized him to be Jesus. Stuck in grief Jesus calls her to the reality of the resurrection. What she experienced at Jesus’ death was real. Her grief unconsolable. This is not Jesus revived, but resurrected. No longer Rabbouni, but as the risen Lord. As she goes to the disciples once more she tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
Mary was looking for some kind of relief from the grief she was experiencing from the death of Jesus. She couldn’t help but stay by the grave of Jesus. Some how being close to the remains of Jesus brought some connection and comfort.
In death, what are we looking for and what is God showing us? Recently I went to a funeral of a buddhist relative. The service left me with three impressions; the impermanence of life, the lost of identity in the renaming of the life and those there, seeking consolation from the wisdom of the Buddha. Each family was called to burn incense for the departed life. It connected us in our familial bonds and gathered us to commemorate our common loss, but it left me empty and unsatisfied. Mary must have felt that there must be something more to the life of this remarkable teacher, healer, and prophet, as she lingered at Jesus’ tomb. Her instincts were correct. At the resurrection every soul is precious to God.
Resurrection life takes precedence over death. We are a soul, loved, celebrated and embraced by God and gifted with a resurrected body that ascends to heaven to be with God when we die. We have relationships of permanence beyond the holding onto of this world. We can live beyond what we can see and have confidence in what we believe in Jesus.
This is what Mary was looking for. This is why she kept on being drawn to the tomb, when she thought Jesus was there, when she discovered it was open, when she knew it was empty, and when there were angels in it, and a gardener who interrupted her grief with the resurrection. She now has a new way to understand death that changes the way she grieves. She may not be able to hold on to Jesus as she had, but if that is the price she has to pay to have a resurrected Jesus, it is more than worth it. Death has now become a passage way and not an end.
Mary is persistent in discovering something more in the death of Jesus. Her unsettledness leads her to discover the empty tomb. She knew Jesus’ missing body was more than the work of thieves. And through her grief she was able to recognize the risen Lord. It is true that what God has done for Lazarus, God has done for Jesus in an even greater way and now we have confidence, that God wills for us in death, is resurrection. Resurrection changes our grief to hope. Resurrection changes our fears to love. And Resurrection transforms our relationships from ending to continuing. Resurrection has changed grief from something we are suppose to get over to hope beyond the grave. That is the something Mary was looking for, that is the something we have to look forward to. This is the something that brings consolation to our grief like nothing else can. The promise of death ending in resurrection.