In the wee hours of the morning, before it was even light….Mary has gone to Jesus’ tomb. She was at his side as he was crucified, stood watch with him as he suffered. And now, she comes to be near him again…to grieve the one she loved. Mary’s heart is broken. She is devastated.
Mary is every person who has sat with their loved one in the hospital as they died…like quite a few of you have done. Mary is every person who has seen some they love abused or abandoned by those who should have cared for them. Mary is every person who has lost someone to violence…to war….like so many in Ukraine these past weeks.. Mary is every person who has a hole in their heart where all their hopes and dreams once were.
And she comes in the dark, before anyone else is up…because we know how hard it is to sleep when we are grieving. She comes in the dark just to be near Jesus’ body. To sit by the stone. The grave. But it’s not there anymore. It’s been moved. And she feels like any of you would feel if you went to your loved one’s grave just three days after they had been buried… and someone had toppled it over…or dug it up. She’s horrified…she’s desperate. And she runs to let the disciples know what has happened.
Two of them return with her…Peter and one other. We don’t know who the other is….many people assume it’s Lazarus…and when he gets there first, he just stands outside the tomb with Mary. Then Peter arrives, and does what Peter always does — he doesn’t stop to think, he just runs inside as soon as he gets there. And he sees that the tomb is empty….but the linens that Jesus was wrapped in are still there. Even folded carefully. This doesn’t look like grave robbers…or Roman soldiers doing Pilate’s bidding. But Peter doesn’t have a clue what it does mean. However, when the other disciple enters….it says he “believes”. We don’t know what he believes, exactly…but he believes that something has happened here…God has done something here. If it was Lazarus, he knows the power of Jesus to call people back from the dead…but whatever the case, they have both seen enough to know that Jesus is no longer there…and so they leave and go home.
Mary does not. Mary stays and weeps. She doesn’t rush on to the next thing….she sits in her grief and pain. And when she finally looks in the tomb, there are angels inside. Mary stays…and angels appear. Mary stays…and Jesus appears. So fully whole and resurrected, she cannot even recognize him as the one she saw in agony just days ago. Mary stays…and Jesus comes to her and speaks her name. I think of Isaiah…where God says… “I have called you by name…you are mine”. Jesus calls Mary by name..and she knows him…she belongs to him. And she wraps her arms around him and doesn’t want to let go…not ever. But Jesus tells her she must…so she can go tell the others that he lives. And that he is going to his Father…and to hers…and ours….that he is going to his God…and to ours.
Where he goes…she will go. As he lives….she will live. Mary belongs to Jesus. She belongs to God.
That is what Easter is all about. Where Jesus goes….we will go. As he lives…we will live. We belong to Jesus…we belong to God.
This morning, we proclaim Jesus is raised from the dead…and it is good news for Mary…and for all who are hurting and lost. It is good news for all those who lost loved ones COVID these last few years and were not able to be by their side. It is good news for all those in Ukraine whose dear ones have been killed. It is good news for all those who eat at tables alone, missing partners…missing children. Easter is God speaking to us when we weeping…saying our name…and assuring us that his resurrection means our resurrection.
You see, Jesus’ resurrection is not like Lazarus’ resurrection. Lazarus came out of the tomb, still bound in burial cloths. He would need others to take them off, and then a day would come when he would need to be wrapped in them once again. Lazarus’ resurrection just meant more of this life…still wrapped in death and pain. And when Mary sees Jesus…she assumes this is what has happened. He has been raised like Lazarus…that she has Jesus back now just as he was and they could spend time together and go on as they had before. But that is not the case. No Jesus’ resurrection promises us that our life in God is beyond what we experience here…and it is free of all that binds us…that holds us captive to death.
I had a conversation with one of my confirmation classes about eternal life…and they were pretty blunt about the fact that they were not entirely sold on the idea.. Because, you see… already for them, life was exhausting and hard and filled with anxiety. And when it was finally over…they just really wanted it to be done. They could not imagine any version of eternal life that was hopeful. They couldn’t imagine any scenario that made eternal life a good thing. Jesus is trying to help Mary understand that new reality….the reality of eternal life…that is held in God. That is a good thing. Jesus, resurrected, reveals that we belong to God. . We proceed from God and return to God….who is revealed in the fulness of all creation. In this life…we get glimpses of God’s fullness. Every moment of love and hope and joy …every new beginning and every act of redemption in this world is a glimpse of God’s holiness breaking through. It is eternity coming in through the cracks. And that is life. Life is not the anxiety and fear…that, my friends, is death. Life is Jesus who speaks our name in the midst of our anxiety and fear…and loves us without end. Life…eternal life…is Jesus who finds us while we weep and lifts our head that we might see the wonder of God’s presence and love that cannot die….that cannot be stopped…that pulses through the atoms of the universe and is the truth of all things.
All the lies and evil and violence that is the cross…all the lies that breedwar and insurrection in this world…that deal in threats under the guise of law and order….all those lies come to nothing. Because Jesus lives. That is our truth. All our grief and pain, our anxiety and exhaustion…is wrapped in the power and wonder of resurrection. Jesus’ God is our God. Jesus’ Father is our father. We belong to God. And love wins. Love wins. For Mary and Peter and Lazarus….for the Ukraine and for Russia. For all my confirmation classes and the young adults they are now. For you and for me. Eternity is breaking through the cracks, friends. Jesus is Risen! Love wins. Amen