Sermon Easter Sunday – Mother Beth
How do you respond in a scary situation? When you hear that strange noise in the house, do you pull the covers over your head and just hope that it all goes away? Or maybe you lay, wide awake but turn and face the bedroom door so that at least you will see someone enter the room if there is someone lurking around? (I have to admit that sometimes this is me – I want to see the attacker if there is one!) or maybe you are the brave soul in the horror film who gets out the flashlight and goes in search of the answers? (When I am home alone with the kids – I figure I have to be brave enough to check out whatever is going on). What is your style? How curious or brave are you? How serious are you about finding the answers?
In the gospel reading today we hear about the disciples’ response following the death of Jesus.
Let’s not forget that they are confused and grief stricken – the one that they believed in and loved – the one that they thought would lead them to a new kingdom- his kingdom has hung a cross and died.
What does this mean for them? What are they to do? How can they go forward without a leader? How can it be that they were so sure that he was the one – the Messiah – the bringer of peace and now he is lying in a cold tomb. There seem to be different responses to what they find there.
Mary approached the tomb and discovers that the stone is missing and out of concern she runs to tell the disciples that all is not well.
Initially she believes that someone has taken Jesus’ body and she wants to know where he has been taken.
Peter and the beloved disciple start out toward the tomb to discover what has happened. They run and the beloved disciple arrives at the tomb
first. He looks in and sees the grave clothes lying there but does not go inside the tomb. Peter rushes in and sees the grave clothes – the shroud laying separate from the other clothes.
The Beloved disciple now enters and when he sees the clothes we are told that he believes- the grave clothes are a sign to him and motivated by that sign he believes.
The two disciples then return to their homes.
Mary stands outside the tomb weeping and as she looks into the tomb she sees two angels sitting inside the tomb where Jesus had been lying.
They ask her why she is crying. She responds, “They have taken him away and I do not know where they have laid him.” With that she turns around and sees Jesus standing there. She assumes he is the gardener and asks him if he knows where they have laid Jesus. But when he speaks her name she recognizes him.
There is something wonderful about being called by your name. There is powerful connection when you are addressed by your name. And Mary responds by calling Jesus by his title “Rabbouni” and then runs to tell the others the good news of the resurrection.
So the question for each of us this glorious Easter Sunday is …Have you looked into the empty tomb? Have you asked the questions?
Maybe we don’t want to know – Maybe we want someone else to explain it.
Maybe we are content to speculate about who Jesus is or maybe we think it doesn’t matter if he really died or was really resurrected.
But this is the defining moment for Christianity – this is what sets following Christ apart from following all other gods or religions – If he really died and he really rose then death has been conquered –
death does not have the last say. If the tomb is empty then God has accomplished the impossible.
When we look into the tomb and see that the body is not there then we must acknowledge that something really tremendous has happened.
This is not just some figural resurrection – this is not the person’s soul leaving their body and going on to a higher plane or another dimension.
The lack of a body in the tomb speaks to a bodily resurrection – the body also has been resurrected – Jesus has been restored from absolute death to absolute life. It is not just an analogy or a way of explaining what we do not understand.
And when Jesus calls Mary by her name – she recognizes him.
Mary through tears of grief and despair is startled to hear her name spoken by the risen Christ. This is the moment that makes me weak at the knees. Can you imagine? Your beloved teacher and Lord whom you watched suffer and die; whose tomb you have kept watch at; waiting for the time when you can go and prepare the body for a proper burial – is standing there in front of you and calling your name.
Can you hear him call your name today? Do you recognize the risen Christ?
Once you have looked into the tomb and found it empty, what are you going to do about Jesus?
Will you rush home and hide until God makes it clearer?
Will you like Mary hurry to tell others about the visitation of Jesus and how he is so much more than you realized – more than just a good man, more than just a teacher or a prophet – he is the one who has conquered sin and death?
Or maybe you will await the news from a sheltered home (like those disciples who did not go to see for themselves) – letting others check it out first?
Because once you have looked into the tomb, you cannot forget what you have seen there. You cannot just go about your life – once you have looked into the empty tomb you must decide what you will do with it
Are you content to listen to rhetoric or intellectual arguments – the speculation about someone stealing the body or the disciples devising some complex conspiracy plan to fool the whole world?
And the good news is that God has accomplished this mighty act – the death and resurrection of his only Son on your behalf. He loves you that much. And no matter what your response has been – there is still time to respond differently. God longs to reveal himself to you. We will hear over the next weeks that Christ meets the disciples wherever they are. Those who have questions are not left out. Those who are scared or nervous, he seeks out. There is still time to respond. There is still time to witness the resurrection. God wants to reveal Himself to you. Christ wants to call you by name and draw you to himself.
The beautiful, wonderful and exciting news of the resurrection is that Jesus died for us but death could not hold him and he triumphed over death – sin and death have been overcome through Jesus Christ our Lord. This Easter Sunday may God give you and I the grace and mercy to look inside the empty tomb, to hear Christ speak our names and to go rejoicing to tell others about the good news – Christ is risen – He is risen Indeed, Alleluia! Amen.