But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one 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.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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 Aramaic,“Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20: 11-16 ESV)
I want to wrap up this three part series on the three paradoxes of the Triduum with some words about Easter Sunday. The disciples and the people who had loved Jesus were certainly at their lowest point. All seemed lost as just days earlier Jesus had been brutally crucified by the Romans at the request of the Jewish elders. What should they do now? Where should they go? Were the authorities after them as well? Was it all just a joke, or a dream? These and many more questions surely weighed on the minds of the disciples.
On that first Easter morning, Mary Magdalene and some other women came to the tomb in order to finish prepping the body according to Jewish customs. As they approached, they wondered who would roll the large stone away from the tomb entrance, but when they arrived they found that the stone was already rolled away and the body of Jesus was gone. Understandably, they were distraught and ran to tell the disciples. The Gospel of John tells us that Peter and John then came back to the tomb and inspected it with the women, finding the same thing. They walked away, perplexed as to what had happened. Who would want to take the body?
But Mary Magdalene remained at the tomb and wept. She glanced back inside to see two men, two angels actually, sitting in the tomb. They asked her why she wept, and she told them that someone had taken the body of her Lord away. Just then a man appeared behind her and asked her the same question: “Woman, why do you weep?”
She turned and faced him. It must have been surreal for her. Why in the world were they asking her this? It should have been obvious why she was weeping. The body of her friend, her Lord, was gone and the burial clothes were all that remained. She told the man this and said, “Sir if you have taken him, tell me where so that I may go to him.” Scripture tells us that Mary thought the man was the gardener.
Then, her world, and really all human history changed in one word. The man looked at her and simply said,”Mary.”
She knew then, in that instant, that it was Jesus. She would have looked him over and seen the wounds on his hands and feet. He had died, but yet he was there standing before her. It changed EVERYTHING. If you’re one of these Christians who believe that women should know their place, and that place is subordinate to man, remember that the Risen Jesus first appeared to a woman. This woman was single, with no husband or children. She had a troubled past as well. The Bible says that Jesus had cast demons out of her, which probably reflects that she had suffered from some kind of mental illness. Yet he first appeared to her, a woman that literally nobody would probably believe. It’s remarkable how often God chooses the least logical person for the job.
Later that evening, Christ finally appeared to his disciples. Can you imagine being in that room, when Jesus pops up out of nowhere and says “Peace be With You?” Oh, it wasn’t just a dream. He was alive, well, and breathing. Their mission, which they ought over just hours earlier, was on again in a much bigger, much more powerful way. The despair was gone, and there was….HOPE.
Hope for going out again and making the world a better place. Hope for vindication of their work. Hope in everlasting life. All this hope had come from a most grisly death. Yes, the Paradox of Easter Sunday is that the King brings Hope from the most desperate, lonely place imaginable: the grave. The worst thing is never the last thing.
Those men, and others like Mary went out from that room and changed the world. They altered the scope of human history. It wasn’t just them either. Depending on the account, the Risen Christ appears to anywhere from 500 to 1500 people before he ascends to heaven.
How can you not grasp that hope, even if it’s a fool’s hope? I cling to it, not just because of the promise of eternal life, but because I believe that this King, his Message, and his Kingdom are still changing the face of the world today: saving the lost, comforting the grief stricken, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, teaching love for God and neighbor, and recognizing that each one of us has intrinsic worth as a child of God the Father and an image bearer of his likeness.
It is a radical message, and a message that is sorely needed in our world, even though many in the church seemed to have forsaken it. As long as there is Jesus, as long as there is the King, there will be hope.
The King is Risen! Alleluia! Make a joyful noise and celebrate new life!
Come, Lord Jesus, and help us live for your Kingdom in love and hope!