The Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John 20:1-18
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. 2So 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.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture,that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Easter Sunday 2018 I Have Seen the Lord, a homily by Mother Beth
Today is the game changer. This day is the day in the church year that you really have to decide what you believe. No other faith or religion professes that their leader died and was resurrected. This claim sets Christianity apart from all the others. The empty tomb presents the dilemma. The empty tomb exclaims that Jesus is much more than just a good man or even a martyr who died for what he believed in. The empty tomb suggests that something much more radical happened. The empty tomb proclaims the resurrection. And although many would like to tell you that it is the same for everyone – we all come to faith in the same way – the gospel for this morning reveals otherwise. We see and hear three different responses to the events.
It was early on the first day of the week and Mary Magdalene has come to the tomb. Why has she come? She is grieving. Jesus was her friend, her teacher, her leader and so she comes to mourn his loss, to visit the site where he was laid – to pay her respects.
But when Mary gets there she notices that the stone is missing and she immediately runs to report this news to the disciples. She reports, “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him”.
Mary assumes that something has happened – someone has tampered with the body – moved it so that his followers cannot visit, or mourn. She wants someone, like the disciples, to know about the problem and to do something about this. She tells what she sees so that the problem can be solved.
The disciples, Peter and John, set out toward the tomb. They run together but John outruns Peter and gets there first. John bends down and looks in and sees the grave clothes lying there but does not go in.
Peter goes right into the tomb and sees the clothes, notices that they are neatly folded and that the cloth from Jesus head is lying neatly by itself.
Now John goes in to the tomb, and the scripture says, “he saw and believed”.
So these two men had different reactions – Peter steps right into the tomb – a look was not enough – he wanted the full experience. This is not surprising if you remember about Peter from other scripture passages. Peter is the one who steps out onto the water with Jesus. He is going to make sure that the tomb is actually empty.
John looks in and sees that what Mary has said is true – the body is gone. And when he steps into the tomb, something happens and he believes.
The two disciples leave the site and head back home. Mary alone is left weeping outside the tomb. And as she stands there alone, she looks back into the tomb and sees two angels in white, sitting where Jesus body had been lying. They ask her, woman why are you weeping?”
She explains her situation to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him”.
You see she ran to the disciples for help saying almost the same thing and yet they came and saw and left. And Mary remains there with her question. She wants to know where the body is so that she can mourn – and attend to it.
Mary is not content to just look into the tomb and be satisfied. Even with the presence of two angels, she asks the hard questions…. Where is he? What happened to him?
When she turns around she sees a man standing there and she supposes that he is the gardener. She wasn’t surprised by the angels so why would she be surprised to find a gardener in the garden or a caretaker in a funeral home?
The man asks her why she is crying and again Mary explains her situation. “if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him.”
And Jesus calls her by name, “Mary”. And it is when he calls her by name that she recognizes him and calls him Teacher.
Mary has an encounter with the risen Christ. In fact, she is the very first to see and speak to the risen Christ.
And how does it happen? She stands and struggles with the tough questions. She asks not less than three times – where is the body? What have they done with the body?
She is determined to get an answer to her question and instead of an answer she becomes the first eye-witness to the miracle of the resurrection. Oh, she didn’t see the resurrection happen – no one did but, she is the first to have a face to face encounter with the resurrected Christ.
And of course, she is the first to tell the good news. She runs back to the disciples and announces, I have seen the Lord!
So the question today for each of us is, what will we do with the empty tomb? Are we like John able to look in, cautiously step in and then believe?
Are you or I like Peter who goes quickly in to the tomb and sees that there is nothing there and goes home? Are you and I like Mary who is determined to find Jesus? She keeps asking the question until she is given an encounter. She presses past her own grief and dismay to discover the truth about what has happened.
And today maybe you’re saying, I’ve sorted it all out a long time ago. I know what I believe. And if that is true then good. So today I ask you, what challenge does the empty tomb hold for you? Easter is all about celebrating new life. It is a time to step out of fear into faith and hope. What does it mean to live as resurrection people; assured the Christ is risen and so are we? So today I ask you to consider, what ways have we slipped back into an apathy – or sleep in our faith? In what ways have we let the cold, dark winter slip into our life? This day we celebrate the new life that is ours through Jesus Christ. Let’s step out into that life with renewed energy and excitement.
Let’s awaken from our contented sleep with a fresh call to love and minister to those around us. Because the good news that Jesus is risen is not for us alone. Mary ran to tell others, may the Lord enable us to do the same.
Today is the game changer. Today is the day that makes a difference. Let us live into that difference. From this day forward, may we live our lives as people of the resurrection and run to tell the news, I have seen the Lord! Amen.