Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
The Lord has Risen! He is risen indeed, Alleluia! That is how we traditionally begin our Easter Sunday worship. It is a confident, joyful, celebration. But the actual human beings who make up the story of the resurrection? Not so much. Part of the reason we head towards celebration so quickly (well apart from the fact that we know how the story goes!) is that we concentrate on nouns. For example: Sunday (first day of the week), stone, entrance, Master, tomb, pieces of linen cloth, Simon Peter, two angels, etc.. What if we looked at the emotions instead?
The story starts in grief, and you have to imagine the participants are wrung out and tired. They’ve experienced the terrible, tortured death of their teacher. Mary sees only that the stone has been rolled away and Runs to find Peter and the other disciple. They run with excitement to see the tomb empty. What are they feeling now? Relief? It says that they believed based on the evidence of the cloths lying in the tomb, but their belief is not complete, it won’t be complete until the experience Jesus in person.
Mary is still grieving. She alone truly enters into her grief, expresses and experiences it. Courtney and I can tell you that trying to bypass grief is not healthy. Mary is not celebrating the empty tomb, she is not celebrating the resurrection. She is convinced that someone has stolen the body. We can only imagine her emotions as she is presented with two angels. Fear comes to mind, perhaps shock, or amazement. Then a voice. Someone she had not heard coming. She must be scared to death. But she actually gets to see Jesus. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t her joy now complete? Not yet. She thinks he’s a grave robber! I would imagine she is scared out of her wits, yet she really wants to find Jesus’ body, so she asks where he put it. Amazing bravery for a woman, by herself at the tomb of a friend and teacher when confronted by a dirty, gardener who looks as though he moves dead bodies around!
Finally there is joy and happiness. What causes this euphoria? Jesus speaking her name. In some Gospels the disciples know Jesus by the way he feeds them, the way he breaks bread. Here Mary knows him because she is known, she is addressed personally. Relief, joy, confusion, true fear?
Now the final emotion, desperation. She clings to his feet so that he can’t even move. Jesus has to tell her to stop being so clingy. Ultimately she is obedient. She lets go, she goes forth as the first evangelist and tells the other disciples, “The Lord is Risen!” However they do not answer back with enthusiasm. We’ll hear about that next week. They continue to be filled with fear, and lock them selves up in an upper room far away from the Jewish authorities.
How might we create an Easter worship celebration that recognizes the true width and breadth of human emotion? That’s out goal. Don’t get me wrong, I like dressing up, and love trumpets and celebrations. Let’s do all that, but let’s admit that we don’t get the whole story, we still hurt and have doubts, we are still looking for proof positive of the resurrection for those we love. We still live in families that are messed up and trying to make a go of it. What is the good news for those who are living through such wonderfully messy lives of faith?
Quotes for the Week
“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” ― John Green
“Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue” ― Anne Lamott
“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” ― Anne Lamott
“Now she and I sit together in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both to go heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.” ― Anne Lamott
Lesson John 20:1-18 (The Message)
1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, breathlessly panting, “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.
11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”
13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.
15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”
She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Mister, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”
16 Jesus said, “Mary.”
Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”
17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.
Questions for the Week
What does the resurrection of Jesus mean to you?
What parts of your life are waiting for resurrection?