Easter is a time when the impossible is made a reality.
The crowds of Jerusalem have disappeared. It is early Sunday morning. Before sunrise. Mary Magdalene is walking along in the darkness, thinking about the events of the past week. It had all happened so fast. In no time at all, the crowds that had cheered when Jesus arrived into Jerusalem had turned against him. Turned him over to the authorities, denied his release, jeered and mocked him as he hung dying on a cross.
A troubled Mary Magdalene walked along in darkness thinking of the one who had accepted her, healed her, and invited her into a loving relationship with his disciples Jesus. She had to view his body to make some sense of her loss. She follows the path to the tomb and sees that something is missing. The stone. The stone had been removed.
She runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple. Had someone snuck in and removed the body? Was this some further trick meant to ridicule their Lord? Together they return to the tomb. Fearful, not knowing what to expect. Peter, another disciple and Mary Magdalene.
The sun is starting to rise as they return. They can now see that indeed, the stone had been removed, that the linen cloths used to wrap the body lay folded at the entrance of the tomb. What had happened? Confused, perhaps a bit apprehensive, they return home.
But Mary stays outside the tomb. Weeping. She looks again inside the tomb and now she sees another strange sight. A vision of two angels. She turns around and sees…Jesus! She doesn’t recognize him at first. She thinks he’s a gardener. He calls to her and then she recognizes him. Overwhelmed with joy, she reaches out to hold him. Go, he says, and tell the others.
This is the scene at the first Easter. One woman, Mary Magdalene, is sitting weeping outside the tomb. Mourning the death of Jesus, her friend, the one she called Teacher. This vision of Jesus, calls out to her and she is overwhelmed with joy and sent to share the joy of Christ with the others. Our faith begins with this recognition of the risen Christ, in the midst of our sorrow, God comes to us even as we grieve.
Easter is a time when tears of grief become tears of joy.
The resurrection of Christ is pivotal for our faith. It is the event on which our faith stands. What does the Resurrection mean for those of us who do believe and how might we explain it to others?
First of all, the focus of the resurrection is on the risen Christ. The gospel accounts do not go into descriptions of how Christ was raised from the grave. This is a mystery. Instead, they testify that Christ appeared. First, to Mary, then to the others. It is not the empty tomb but the risen Christ which gives meaning to our faith.
Many find the resurrection of Christ difficult to accept. Secular skeptics, casual Christians, even orthodox believers, find the suspension of belief in empirical evidence a pill too big to swallow.
Even for the early disciples, the resurrection of Christ was tough to accept It was only after they appeared to them behind closed doors in the upper room. Thomas required even more, that he touch the hand of Jesus where the nail had pierced.
How much more difficult for someone in our modern age, to believe in something that goes against the laws of nature. To believe in the resurrection is to ascribe to a power greater than the laws of nature, greater than all our best scientific theories, to believe in the transcendent God who gives shape to reality. This is a difficult thing to do, particularly as we have grown to fully trust on own understanding of the universe and depend on the on benefits of science and technology.
The resurrection can not be proven on scientific or even historic grounds because the event is so absolutely unique that it lies beyond our capacity to understand, beyond our ability to explain. It is a great mystery that Christ is risen. It is this mystery that is the foundation of our faith. Who would have thought it possible?
Mary encounters Jesus beyond the tomb and her spirit is lifted.
Easter is a time when despair gives birth to hope.
The beauty of Easter is that we don’t get what’s coming to us. We deserve judgment and we receive mercy. We deserve despair and we receive hope. We deserve death and we receive life, new life in Christ. Christ accepts the judgment, the despair, the death and we receive new life. New life that is to be lived together in joy, in peace, in love.
Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed. Go out and share the good news. Amen.