4/20/2014 Caroline Williams (C’14)
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’ Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her. - John 20:1-18
Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord has risen indeed! Alleluia!
We speak these words –the first ones uttered in Episcopal services this morning -after many weeks without the A-word. This is it. This is the central truth of our common Christian faith. Christ is risen. Alleluia! It is wonderful to shout it out; every year our cries never lose their joyful tone.
Yet we, unlike Mary Magdalene and the disciples, have the benefit of hindsight as we hear and read the gospel today. We know that when Christ was no longer in the tomb it was because He rose in glory into Heaven, and for that we celebrate today. Mary, though, simply knew his body was gone. How terrible, to lose one whom you love not once, but twice. Overcome with grief, Mary questions this man who has appeared, who she sees through her weeping.
She turned around and saw Jesus standing there but she did not know that it was Jesus.
I often wonder what would happen if Jesus came to walk among us again, in our culture of today. Would we recognize Him? Or would we crucify Him as the crowds did so many years ago? I recently read an article (which I share with you below) about a church that has just installed a statue of Jesus as a homeless man, sleeping on a bench outside their sanctuary, only identified as Christ by the wounds on his hands and feet where he was nailed to the cross. One passerby called the police, thinking it was, in fact, a real person. Would I walk past Jesus if He were a man without a home, asking for money, or huddled for warmth on a bench? I hope not. But I might. I have done it before.
The chances of meeting Christ incarnate on the street may not be so high, but how often do we, like Mary, fail to realize we see Jesus? In Matthew 25:40, Jesus tells us “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are my family, you did it to me.”
We celebrate the miracle of the resurrection today, with Alleluias and joyful songs, but let us not forget why Jesus was resurrected. He would not have been raised if He did not die; He would not have died if He had not lived on Earth. So, in remembering the resurrection, we must also remember why He came to Earth – to teach us to love everyone as He did, and to forgive us when we forget that the “least of these” are children of God, too. Alleluia.