12-04-08 Jesus Sightings – Confusion and Weeping– Click Here to Hear the Audio Feed
Gospel Lesson: 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. 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 toward 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? 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.” 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.
As I think about the morning we have had this Easter morning, I am stirred with emotions of Happiness, Joy, Peace, and the simple feeling of being Loved by an Awesome and wonderful heavenly Father. The joy that comes with the resurrection, the happiness to celebrate a resurrection in its own regards as we celebrated a baptism earlier this morning. A peace, a shalom that Christ is Risen indeed and is alive and because so, we share in his Resurrection. And a feeling of being Loved as we have experienced God’s amazing sacrificial love through the events of this past week. Oh, who couldn’t love the rejoicing of an Easter morning like this?
But was it like this on the first Easter Morn? Were the disciples rising up before the sun in anticipation of Jesus walking among them that day? Were they slowly stirring their sleepy eyes while singing, Alleluias!? Most certainly not. The morning of this first Easter is rather a confusing morning for those who followed Jesus. I can imagine, Mary waking early that morning after having a terrible nights rest. Unable to sleep from mourning the death of a beloved friend, and who she had followed and called Master and Teacher, she stirs from her home and in order to find any rest at all, she goes back to the place where they had laid his body just a couple of nights before. We all know this feeling, we all know the grief that comes with a great loss. The days that follow are a blur, the time spent in solitude thinking in silence are endless. We hope to find relief by maybe visiting the place where the body of our loved one has been laid. So Mary does what many have done, she stirs before the sun is up and begins her day, the first day of the week with a new routine. Instead of preparing for the days work, she decides to take some time to go and visit the place where they had buried him. As she walks through the garden where the tomb is, she notices though something is very wrong. The stone, the stone that was covering the tomb has been moved! Even before investigating the sight, she immediately runs out of desperation to the disciples. She finds Peter, and Jesus’ beloved disciples and in a bit of hysteria she breathlessly begins to try and speak the words, He’s….gone, They’ve moved him! Confusion begins to set in. I could only imagine the facial responses of Peter and this other disciple. But without a thought, they must go and see. The must see the empty tomb for themselves. Oh how this rings with the truth of humanity. The need of proof, the need for our own eyes to see. Still today, I recall entering into the Church of the Holy Seplechure, the place where the tomb of Jesus is in Jerusalem, and as I entered this church, there is a 2 hour line of people waiting to go in and see the tomb for themselves. To see it empty is a testimony in itself of the power of the resurrection. But again, what we see in an empty tomb, is not what the disciples saw. We see hope of resurrection, we see glory, we see the promises of the coming Kingdom. They saw theft, grief because now they have lost their teacher and they no longer have a place marked for his death. It would be like showing up to your father’s grave and someone had come and removed the tombstone and took the body. You have already lost the person emotionally and relationally, but now they have also lost them physically. It’s the same reason why when someone dies over seas, the family requests the body to be brought back. There is just something emotionally settling about knowing where the body is laid. This is what the disciples see on the first early Easter morn.
And then we are left with Mary. Mary, who remains with the empty tomb while the disciples had left to go back home, Mary…weeping. Weeping for her loss. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, these are not tears of joy, these are not tears of happiness or peace or being loved. These tears we only know so well when we are returning to a grave site of one who we were deeply enmeshed with. Tears of anguish, tears of sorrow, tears of heartache. As she wept, she looks back into the tomb, maybe a bit hopeful that maybe she would see Jesus’ body lying there, maybe they had missed something. Maybe he had been covered up by a cloth that was not seen before. It’s kind of like when we are looking for something we desperately want to find, and we begin searching in the same places as before knowing that we had already thoroughly looked there before. Instead of looking though for a set of keys or a check book, Mary is seeking her Lord. As I think about Mary’s seeking in the tomb, I am reminded of Jesus’ teaching, “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7). She is seeking what is most precious to her, she seeks not money nor riches, but she seeks her LORD. And as she peers into the tomb she is startled to find two angels in white, sitting where Jesus had been laid just days ago. And they do not just awkwardly sit there, but they initiate a conversation with Mary. They ask, “Woman, why are you weeping?” And Mary tells them exactly her feelings. She says, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” As an acknowledgement of her hearts truest desire and professed with her mouth, she turns around and behind her is her Jesus. She does not recognize him, but he asks, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Mary, still trying to find where his body is assumes this man is the gardener asks him where have they taken him?! And Jesus does the one thing we as humans all desire: He calls her by name: “Mary”. We all desire for Jesus, for God to know us. We do not desire a relationship with some all powerful being that is far off in the great cosmos, but we desire a LORD who relates to us, who knows us inwardly and outwardly. And you know what…can you keep a secret? God desires that too…God wants us to know him inwardly and outwardly, he wants to be in relationship, he wants us to know him by name. And upon Mary hearing her name, her eyes are opened, and she exclaims the first bit of Joy that morning. Rabbouni! TEACHER! She has seen Jesus her Lord.
In response to this Joy, Jesus gives Mary one bit of instruction. And I believe when we come to see Jesus in our lives the way Mary has seen Jesus, Jesus still gives us this instruction. Jesus, in essence says, “Do not let the light of Christ end with you, Go therefore and let my light shine through you and announce to all, ‘I have seen the Lord.’! Amen.