Summary: The Resurrection

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People often speak about ‘decisive moments’ in their lives. Some of you are old enough to remember the day John F Kennedy was assassinated – a decisive moment they say. For this generation it may well be September 11 that is described as a decisive moment. Decisive moments in life change our lives direction in a decisive way. Such moments are etched on our memories. Some are surprising moments:

‘uh, dad about the car…’ or ‘honey, I am pregnant’. Some moments are painful; ‘I am afraid it is bad news…’ or ‘the test was positive…’ or ‘I do not want to see you again.’ Some moments are expected, anticipated and even celebrated: ‘ congratulations, it is a boy/girl’ or ‘I now pronounce you husband and wife’ or ‘you have got the job’ or ‘you have passed your driving test.’ Though I am not sure that last one is not a mixture of all three. Such things are decisive moments in the life of an individual. I want on this Easter Day to look at just such a moment in the life of a woman in the Bible – Mary Magdalene. The moment in her life was not just decisive for her but for all of humanity throughout all of history.

We know really very little about this woman Mary of Magdala. Magdala as place was notorious for paganism, prostitution and immorality. It was not the sort of place you would readily admit was your home. The sort of place you omitted to write on your C.V. This we do know about her. Luke tells us that Jesus had cast 7 demons out of Mary Magdalene (Luke 8.2) and that from that moment on she became a close follower of Jesus. John records that she was present at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. Mark says that she was one of the women who came to the tomb of Christ early on the first Easter Day in order to anoint his body as a last act of love and devotion. In John 20 John records for us that she was left at the tomb when everyone else had left. He records for us the depth of her despair and grief at the loss of Jesus. She is distraught at his death and even more so at the removal of his body from his burial tomb.

This was truly a decisive moment in the life of Mary of Magdala. Turn with me to the beginning of chapter 20 of John’s gospel. John tells us it was early in the morning, probably around 3am. Mary and other women are making their way to the tomb of Christ. A few days before they had stood at the bottom of his cross watching their Lord die. They had taken his body down and prepared it for burial. They now come back to the tomb to do this last thing for him – to anoint his body with spices and ointment – a bit like the way we leave flowers on a grave. As they walk along the road they wonder how they will move the stone that they had witnessed the guards place across the entrance to the tomb. When the get to the tomb they see the stone rolled away and immediately Mary Magdalene runs to get Simon and John. The Greek implies that they were not together and Mary has to go two errands to get them both. Why these two?

Even though Simon had denied Jesus he is still seen as the leader. John is known as the beloved disciple and the one who is closest to Jesus. These two disciples run ahead of Mary to the tomb. John gets there first but for whatever reason he just peeks in. Maybe he was frightened, maybe he did not want to be ceremonially defiled, after all it is Passover. He looks in and sees the tomb is empty – he notices folded grave clothes and the linen head cloth lying where Jesus head would have been.

Simon, ever the impulsive, races on into the tomb and finds it empty. Luke tells us in 24.12 that Simon went away wondering what had happened to Jesus. Isn’t that amazing? Simon goes away wondering. Verse 8 of chapter 20 simply tells us that John, the other disciple, went in and believed. Simon went away ‘wondering’ and John leaves ‘believing’ – both having seen the same thing – an empty tomb and empty grave clothes.

Verse 9 – tells us why this was so – they were yet to understand the scriptures and how they applied to Jesus – Emmaus helped to clarify that. Verse 10 tells us that the two disciples go home. Isn’t that amazing also? They go back home – again this may have been due to fear of the authorities. But to have witnessed what they had witnessed and just to turn and go home – well?

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