Summary: A sermon for the Resurrection of our Lord, Series C.

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The Resurrection of our Lord, April 8, 2007, “Series C”

Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Let us pray: Lord of all life, on this day you burst the bonds of death, defeated the power of evil, and came back to your grieving disciples in all of your glory. Come to us this day in the midst of our worship. And through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable our celebration of your resurrection to be a time in which we recognize your tremendous gift of grace and new life, empowering us to walk in the light of your redemption the rest of our lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Amen.

William H. Willimon, in his commentary on our Gospel lesson for this morning, offers an interesting lens through which we might view this text. He says, and I quote, “How do we see?… What we see seems to be connected to some sort of template in the brain. When sensory images are fed in through the optic nerve, the brain sorts through its collection of previously experienced images, makes matches, fits what we see into a pattern, and we are led to say, ‘There it is! That’s a tree…’ If you have seen one tree, that enables you to see them all.

And yet, what does the brain do with things that don’t fit into previously experienced patterns? What if our vision is out of focus? What if our vision is limited by what we expect to see?” End quote. [1]

As Willimon and others have pointed out, this appears to be what John describes happening on that first Easter morning. Those who went to the tomb of Jesus that Sunday morning following his crucifixion, could only see what their minds expected to see. Just follow through this text with me for a moment.

John tells us that early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, perhaps to continue her grieving over Jesus’ death that was interrupted by the Sabbath, when such a journey would have been forbidden. As she arrives, she sees that the tomb was open, the stone removed from its entrance. She doesn’t even look into the tomb, but on seeing that the tomb was open, she perceives that someone had broken in and taken Jesus’ body.

This, of course, is not an unreasonable thought! She had seen Jesus crucified. She had stood at the foot of the cross, and watched him die. She knew that Pilate would never have given permission for his body to be removed from the cross without proof of death. And although she may not have participated in his burial, she knew where his dead body was entombed and sealed. Now, she saw that it had been opened, and assumed that someone had broken into it and stolen his body.

So she runs from the cemetery to tell Peter and the disciples whom Jesus loved, whom scholars assume to be John, the youngest of the disciples, that someone had taken Jesus’ body from his tomb. The two of them take off running to the tomb, to confirm Mary’s report. Thus, they, too, approached the tomb with a preconception of what they are about to see.

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