In the light of the resurrection John 20_1-18
The excitement of the first Easter begins where the Good Friday finished, in the dark. John records ‘Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…’ While it was still dark! The Sun had yet to rise and shine on Jesus’ tomb, was yet to shine on Mary and the other women walking to the tomb, yet to shine on the sleeping disciples. Those closest to Jesus, those who loved him, and saw him crucified, remained in darkness. Not only was the sun not shining on this new day, but the faith and hopes of Jesus’ followers, including Mary Magdalene, were darkened by grief and unbelief at what they had just witnessed and experienced.
They were living in the dark of deep loneliness, their Lord and friend had been crucified. They couldn’t deny the facts. Jesus was dead and buried and along with him, their hope of salvation. Perhaps, I suspect, that in some way they all felt guilty for not trying harder to stop Jesus crucifixion. But its too late for ‘should haves’, death is the end, its final. All the hoping and all the faith in the world could not bring Jesus back; John was right to begin his account in the darkness. It was indeed a dark morning for Mary and the disciples.
Yet haven’t we all experienced a dark morning, when we don’t want to face the day. A time of the darkness of our soul, when death or illness, or fighting or something we have done or said has separated us from those we love? The guilt we feel over not handling the situation properly haunts us, yet, like with the disciples its all too late for ‘should haves’.
The good news of Easter is that Jesus doesn’t stay in the tomb, the sun does rise, there is a new day and there is a new beginning. Jesus has no intention of leaving his friends, including us, alone and in the darkness of loneliness, guilt and separation through sin and ‘should haves’. By the power of God, he is raised from the dead, raised from the tomb and raised into the lives of Mary and the disciples, raised to life for all of us who walk and live in darkness. When Mary arrived at the tomb it was still dark, but as she looked around, saw the evidence, not only did the light of the sun begin to shine, so did the light of Jesus resurrection.
Jesus could have simply just appeared to Mary and the twelve where they were sleeping. He could have just walked into their lives, and showed himself, but instead, he chose to draw his followers out into the darkness, out to the tomb, out to where they thought he was dead, to see for themselves that God brings new life in the midst of suffering and hurt.
For our sake, and for the sake of his disciples, Jesus wants to leave no doubt that he has risen. No doubt that he has the power over death and darkness. No doubt that the words of his father have been fulfilled ‘I will glorify my name through your death’. Jesus assures faith by leaving a long testimony of signs which point to his resurrection.
The stone is not just rolled away, it is thrown from its moorings, an impossible feat for a few men secretly trying to steal Jesus body, while the guards are on duty. The linen cloth still lay wrapped, not touched or damaged in any way, to show that Jesus body had not been stolen or disturbed by vandals, but rather, that he rose through them. The head piece, that once covered Jesus bloodied head, now lay folded and separate from the linen. Robbers or the Jews would not have been concerned to do this.
The two disciples looked and saw the signs and believed, yet their faith was weak. Mary looked into the tomb, saw the evidence but could not believe. The horror of Jesus death could not be over come, even with such powerful signs and wonders. Sometimes hurts are too deep. We are no different. Sometimes our suffering is so dark, that we fail to see the signs of hope Jesus sets before us. The people who help, the prayers people pray, the friends who support without judging. Something even more powerful needs to happen before the light of Jesus forgiveness shines in our hearts, and it happened to Mary and to the disciples.
Jesus speaks a personal word of hope when he calls them by name from the darkness of unbelief in the resurrection light of faith and hope!
Jesus says ‘Mary’. She hears her name and believes. The darkness has been lifted by the power of Jesus personal call to her. By hearing Jesus words, she now knows for certain that he has risen and he has forgiven the past and lives eternally to bring her into his kingdom as foretold by Isaiah ‘He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.’
Jesus has a personal word for you and he calls you by name into his kingdom as he has promised ‘surely I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age’. He could do this anywhere and he does it most clearly in baptism and Holy Communion. Often however, he will call you by name in the midst of your suffering, drawing you away from all comforts and supports, out to where you though God was dead; out to where there appears to be no hope, just like he did with Mary, Peter and John. It is often in our suffering that we are open to reading the bible and hearing his word and this is where Jesus speaks our name, gives us hope and assures us that has risen to have power over sin, death and the devil. He did it with Mary and the disciples, why wouldn’t he do it with you?
Hear, believe and rejoice today in the gospel by which you are saved ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures’.