Summary: A SERMON FOR EASTER: We experience with Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple disbelief, then the belief and joy in the reality of the resurrection! And, with Mary, we encounter the Risen Christ, and can exclaim “I have seen the Risen Lord!”
THE WONDER, THE CELEBRATION, THE JOY OF RESURRECTION!
A SERMON FOR EASTER SUNDAY: We experience with Mary, Peter and the beloved disciple the disbelief, then the belief and joy in the reality of the resurrection! And, with Mary, we encounter the Risen Christ, and can exclaim (through the eyes of faith) “I have seen the Risen Lord!”
So, this is Easter – (arguably!) the most important, most joyful celebration of the Christian year. The day when (more than any other) we celebrate the victory of life over death – the power of the Light of the Risen Christ, which even the darkness of death could not master. Today (more than any other!) we relish the Light of Easter Resurrection: the Life, the hope, and the fulfilment of God’s promise.
But to fully appreciate the wonder, the joy, and the celebration of the Resurrection we really need to accompany Jesus’ disciples and friends from where we left them on that first Good Friday, and the burial of Jesus in that borrowed tomb in the nearby quarry / garden, just before the Sabbath began.
The disciples had fled and scattered for fear of being arrested and interrogated, as Jesus had been, and accused of being his followers. Mary (the mother of Jesus) had gone to the house of John – the ‘beloved’ disciple – and there (we imagine) they comforted and consoled each other, as a mother for her son, and as a son for his mother, having witnessed the horrors of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.
Now we pick-up the story as the Sabbath is about to reach its conclusion, and we see Mary Magdalene making ready to return to the tomb to finish what she and the other women, had begun so hastily on the Friday evening.
It was early in the morning, between three and six, when Mary began her lonely way to the desolate quarry / garden tomb. We might imagine her to be completely exhausted – physically and emotionally – after two sleepless nights and from being in so much grief. It was still dark, even as she entered the quarry / garden and approached the tomb, the entrance to which she expected to find sealed from the outside world by that great, heavy stone that had been placed there. She must have been wondering how she was going to move that stone, so she could carry-out her duties. Maybe she would have to await the arrival of the other mourners who would soon come to give the last rites.
Then, as Mary nears the tomb, imagine her sense of anxiety, then her utter astonishment and alarm, as she peers through the darkness to find the great stone rolled away from the mouth of the tomb.
Immediately, and deeply troubled in spirit, she runs to the home of Peter and John (the ‘beloved’) to break the news. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him” the breathless Mary exclaims. In their shock and disbelief, the two men run out of the house and make haste to the quarry / garden tomb – John racing ahead of Peter, being the younger and faster of the two.
John arrives first, and hesitantly stoops down and peers into the darkness of the tomb. He sees the funerary shroud lying on the floor – the shroud that covered Jesus’ body. Then Peter gets there and (characteristically!) without hesitation rushes straight into the tomb and quickly glances around. He also notices the shroud on the floor, and also the small cloth that had covered Jesus’ face. This was neatly rolled-up and placed to one side. John then plucks-up the courage to follow Peter inside, and he sees what Peter has seen. Now they UNDERSTAND and BELIEVE in the TRUTH of what Jesus had told them. HE WOULD RISE FROM THE DEAD IN THREE DAYS. Even though they had not understood what Jesus had told them about the scriptures, they now believed him because they saw the empty tomb and the discarded shroud cloth. In wonder and awe they return home.
But what of Mary? She had been left behind as Peter and John had run. While the two men had been inside the tomb, she waited nearby once she had arrived, deep in her grief and shock. Then, through her tears, she sees Peter and John emerge from the tomb, in stunned silence as they walk away. Again she was alone in that desolate, apparently God-forsaken place.
Still weeping, Mary enters the dark coldness of the tomb, to see what those disciples of Jesus had seen. Imagine her surprise to see two white-clad figures inside, shining as angels, standing either end of the ledge where the body of Jesus should have been. And (as one) they say to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The reason for her open expression of grief, she thought, should be obvious! But she answers anyway, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put him.”