Summary: It is Easter and the resurrection is the laughter of the universe at our inability to understand and at Evil’s inability to read the end of the book.
And God Laughed
March 27, 2005
I don’t watch a whole lot of television, but I do like cop shows: Law and Order, CSI - Crime Scene Investigations, I realize that those are pretty much guy shows, but that’s who I am.
These crime shows are all about evidence: finger prints, hair fibers, and DNA. They look at murder weapons and do all sorts of interesting things with chemicals and technology and computers in order to make the case against a suspect. They are always very good at what they do, and always manage to find a room for the bad guy at the Gray Bar Hotel before the hour is up. I don’t know how much of it is real, but it is fascinating stuff.
Sometimes you will notice that the main characters of these shows, the police and forensic specialists, know who the perpetrator of a crime is, but they just can’t prove it. And a supervisor will say, “We need evidence.” Reminds me of Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet” when I was a kid. “Just the facts ma’am. Just the facts.”
All of which brings us to Easter Sunday, a day when the facts just don’t make sense. Jesus had been crucified, a form of execution used by the Romans for acts of treason and the sort. His friends had taken his lifeless body off the cross and placed it in a tomb before sundown, intending to come back on the day following the Sabbath and prepare it for proper burial.
Mary Magdalene came first that Sunday morning, so early in fact, that it was still dark. The gospels actually differ on exactly what happened and who got there first. Matthew says that there were two Mary’s there, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. Mark names the first visitors to the tomb as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome. Luke names them as Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and the other women who were with them. It is John who places only Mary Magdalene there first. The one constant is Mary Magdalene.
Don’t you wonder what was on her mind? She was no doubt replaying over and over again the events of the past week, still unable to make sense of it all. I’m sure that she had more questions than she had answers, and each question just brought up more questions until her head must have been spinning.
Who knows why she went by herself, why she didn‘t wait for the other disciples to come with her. It was really pretty unusual for a woman to be out alone at that time of the morning. She must have been wondering what in the world she was doing out there and what in the heck was she going to do with that stone that covered the mouth of the grave. But then, in the midst of grief and sorrow, one doesn’t always think too well.
She got to the place and to her surprise, found that the stone which had covered the mouth of the tomb had been rolled away. Running immediately back to Peter and the beloved disciple, she told them the news; reporting that someone had taken the body of their Lord from his grave. They came, saw the empty tomb, got a look at the grave cloths that had been left inside, and then went back home, leaving Mary alone again. I find that to be really curious. They were amazingly unconcerned and self-absorbed. It was as if Mary didn’t exist. They just left her.
As Mary stood weeping, she bent over to look inside the tomb and there, saw two angels sitting where his body had been laid. When they asked her why she was crying, she told them it was because someone had taken the body of her Lord.
Just then a voice from behind her asked the same question, “Why are you weeping?” Not recognizing him as Jesus, and assuming that he was a gardener, she asked him what he had done with the body. Then as he called her name, she identified him as he truly was. She was told that he was ascending to heaven and to the throne of God. She was then told to go and tell the disciples, so she quickly ran to them and gave them the news, proclaiming, “I have seen the Lord.”
It’s a fantastic story, one that has baffled scholars as well as the rest of us for two millennia. It’s really amazing and wouldn’t pass muster with any of our modern day television detectives. Bodies just don’t disappear. Huge stones don’t get moved by themselves. Dead people don’t walk upright again. You can’t explain it. The evidence doesn’t add up.
A few months ago, I read a book titled, When Jesus Came to Harvard.” (Harvey Cox. 2004. Boston: Houghton Miflin.) Harvey Cox has been professor of theology at Harvard Divinity School for as long as I can remember. Some time ago, the curriculum committee of Harvard College decided that every under-graduate should have to complete a core course in moral reasoning. As part of that curricula, Cox was asked to teach a class on the moral implications of the teachings of Jesus. He was surprised when, after just a few semesters, the class grew to several hundred students.