19 Apr Easter Sunday
April 16, 2016
Deacon Blaine Barclay
Christ is Risen! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Early in the morning, while it is still dark, a very distraught Mary Magdalen goes to the tomb of Jesus to complete the preparation of the body for burial. What does she find? The stone rolled away, an empty tomb. She must have looked inside the tomb, since she knows the body of Jesus is not there. In her grief and perplexity Mary runs to Simon Peter and John and tells them; ’’They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him’’. As yet, she is only a witness to the empty tomb, and not yet a witness to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. No doubt the questions have been asked; Where is Jesus? Why is the tomb empty? What is the meaning of what has taken place? How to make sense of it? Perhaps Peter the ‘rocky Rock’, or, John the ‘beloved disciple’ will help me to make sense of this traumatic event. So, Mary Magdalen runs and tell them, so that they too can run to the empty tomb to and see for themselves the absent body, the empty space where the presence of death should be.
I was struck by the eyewitness attention to detail in the story. The fact that the younger John outruns the older Peter to the tomb. The fact that John looks in but does an enter the empty tomb, he leaves that to Peter; the placement of the linen burial cloths, the fact that the cloth over the face was rolled up in a different location. Notice also that Peter and John are not much of a help to Mary at this point. Like Mary they see the empty tomb but they do not yet understand what has taken place; the mystery and power of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. So, what do they do in response to the empty tomb? The gospel tells us; ’’Then the disciples returned to their homes”. The place where they are staying, the upper room, their home base in Jerusalem. At any rate, they do not stick around at the empty tomb, don’t send out a search party looking for the dead body of Jesus. They retreat, perhaps just to tell the other disciples about what they have seen, but more likely, to hide, out of fear of the authorities, so that they too will not go missing.
Only Mary Magdalene has the courage to remain at the tomb, weeping, overcome with grief, lost in the experience of loss. ’’Mary Magdalen stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb’’. With the eyes of her flesh she ‘still’ looks for the ‘still’ body of her dead hope. With the eyes of faith she begins to see the dawn of a new transformed reality. ’’She saw two angels in white sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head, the other at the feet’’. Notice the eyewitness attention to detail again. The two messengers of God ask her why she is weeping.
Still focused on the absence of what is missing, embraced by her loss, sunk in lonely despair; ’’She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.” Looking only with her eyes, she does not see him, does not know him, mistakes him for the gardener. In one way he is the Gardener, the new Adam, planting the primal seed in the garden of a new creation. It is no longer the first day of the week, the eighth day has dawned. In the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead the whole of reality has been transfigured, transformed, metamorphisized. The question really is, how do we, and how does Mary finally wakeup to the transformed and transforming presence of the Risen Jesus in her life?
‘’Mary’’, Jesus says to her, “Mary”; and in the invocation of her name, in being personally addressed, called by name, the eyes of faith are opened, she sees him for who he is, in all his glory. “Rabbonni”, beloved teacher. Mary Magdalen, a lay woman, becomes the first witness, the first one to give testimony to the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is why the early church referred to her as, the “apostle to the apostles’’. Jesus sends her, as he sends us now. ’’Go tell my brothers and sisters’’. From the beginning, we are all called to be missionary disciples. Listen to him, even now he calls your name. Listen to him in your heart of hearts. Hear the Easter wakeup call. This is where the personal life of faith really begins and is cultivated? Each one of us in some way hears the living Jesus speak our name. And our response? To go with Mary Magdalen to our brothers and sisters, to announce, ’’I have seen the Lord’’. In his calling out of our name, we receive the resurrection boldness to proclaim, ’’I have seen the Lord’’.