Acts 10:34-43; John 20:1-18
Easter Sunday 10am
St Barbara’s 01.04.18
Rev Tulo Raistrick
The first Easter Sunday was a morning of extraordinary emotion, a day of incredible transformation.
Just for a moment, think of one of the hardest, saddest, days of your life. The loss of a loved one, the break down of a relationship. You alone will know the depth of the emotions you went through on that day.
Now, think about one of the most wonderful, happiest moments of your life. Maybe your wedding day, the birth of a child, the achievement of something long-aspired and worked for.
To capture something of what happens on our first Easter morning, is to see how for Mary Magdalene, the emotions of the first are transformed into the emotions of the second. That the saddest moment of her life is transformed into the happiest.
As I re-read John’s telling of that first Easter morning the other day a few phrases sprung out at me.
He begins: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark.” In the time of Jesus, there was no electricity, and there were no clocks. The day began just before dawn as the light of the morning began to trickle into the sky. Before that, nothing happened. But for Mary Magdalene, while it was still dark, she went to the tomb. She must have stayed up all night waiting. She was desperate to take the earliest possible opportunity to get to the tomb. And she is persistent. When she discovers the horror of the tomb empty (apparently broken into), she goes and tells the disciples, but she returns with them. And she stays when they leave.
Why? Because she wants to express her love for Jesus. She wants to give his body the respect, the kindness, the compassion that was so brutally denied him with the events of Good Friday. She wants to embalm him with herbs and oils. She knows such an act won’t bring him back. But it seems the only way left for her to express her love.
She does this “in the dark”. It reflects her emotions; but it also reflects her understanding. Maybe we come here this morning feeling in the dark, feeling overwhelmed by the challenges and the difficulties of life, not sure how we can get through, but like Mary Magdalene, we can still come and offer our love.
The second phrase that strikes me is a question, repeated twice: “Why are you crying?” Its a question first asked by the two angels, and then by the risen Jesus. Its seems a strange question to ask of someone standing beside a grave. Surely it is obvious why someone would be crying. Why ask the question?
But the question is a gentle prod: “Mary, look up. Look beyond your grief. Something extraordinary has happened. The world is no longer the same.”
There is no longer a need for tears of sadness. Jesus is alive. Death has been overcome. Those two greatest enemies of life – sin and death – have been defeated. Sin has been absorbed by the love of Christ on the cross – a new world is possible. Death has been drained of its power by Christ’s resurrection – a life beyond death, a life of abundance and vitality has been opened up. The universe has changed. Why are you crying?
This is not a glib simplistic call to “don’t worry; be happy”. It is instead a call to re-orient our whole outlook on life through the lens of the resurrection, to recognise that death and sin, terrible though they are, do not have the final word: that Christ in rising from the dead has overcome, and does overcome, and will overcome. That though life throws incredibly hard things at us, the bottom line of the story, made possible because of Easter, is that life, that love, that hope, that goodness, prevails, because Christ has prevailed. Why are you crying? The best is yet to come.
And the final word that strikes me is one word: “Mary”. She mistakes Jesus for the gardener, still wrapped up in her grief. But it is when Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”, that her eyes are opened, and she sees Jesus in all the abundance and vitality of his resurrected life.
She needs nothing more. Only to be called by name, by the one who has risen from the dead, by the one who is Lord of the Universe. In that one word she knows that she is loved.
This Easter morning, the risen Jesus calls us by name too. He stands before us and calls our name too. I wonder how you will respond? He died and rose from the dead for you. He knows you and loves you intimately. And he calls you by name.