Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!

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Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!

We see the empty tomb through the tears of Friday’s crucifixion and the dreadful realisation of how normal and accepted, was the brutal, state sponsored murder of an innocent man; and we share Mary’s terrible fear when the tomb is found empty, that ‘they’ may have taken the body away. 

The sabbath must have seemed endless to all Jesus’ disciples, waiting impatiently to be able to go back to the tomb.  To the women whose job it always was to prepare a body for burial, the swiftness of the disposal of the body was undignified.  The hurried scrambling to have Jesus’ body removed from the cross, the need to find somewhere to put it, to keep it safe until after the sabbath and away from the machinations of the religious and secular leaders, all being compounded by the sense of being watched and monitored by the state, as Jesus was known as a trouble maker with followers who might copy him.  In today’s world, the secret police would have had Jesus on a watch list, his mobile phone monitored and all his friends under surveillance.  He would have been harassed by police and living constantly in fear of arrest.

Mary’s distress and her story of an empty tomb ensures both Peter and the other disciple hurriedly come and check out Mary’s report, racing to get there first and to be the first to look inside: yes, Mary is right, the body has gone.  But the two men don’t linger, they return home, unable to make sense of what has happened and what it might mean, forgetting or discounting Jesus’ prophecies in their grief, horror and bewilderment. 

Unlike Lazarus being raised from the dead, the linen grave cloths which had been wrapped around Jesus were lying on the stone shelf; the cloth which had been laid on Jesus’ head was rolled up separately.  While Lazarus had come out of the tomb still wearing the grave wrappings, and knowing he would still die again, Jesus’ tomb is truly empty and all semblance of death has been discarded.

Mary came in the darkness of the very early morning, in the pre-dawn. Mary looked into the darkness of the tomb, the tomb in which all the darkness of world and all its terrible suffering and pain are held, just as Mary had been doing since Jesus’ crucifixion. Mary’s grief is overwhelming.  In all the gospels, it is the women who are the closest witnesses of both the crucifixion and the resurrection.  Their intimacy with the dying and the dead, as its always been seen as women’s work, means restoration and healing have an added impact for the women suffering with their grief.  Blessed are those who mourn: for they shall be comforted.

Mary is honoured and called the ‘apostle to the apostles’; although she was ignored, disbelieved, overtaken and over shadowed as the men catch up finally and they all go to Gallilee where the story continues.  Yet the first words Jesus speaks after rising from the dead, are to enquire why Mary is weeping, who is she looking for. 

Jesus comes, asking about the meaning of our tears. He calls her name and her grief disappears.  It is this moment, in John’s gospel, when the resurrection is declared.

It is good to imagine that before Mary leaves, it has dawned on her she is standing with Jesus in a garden; he really is the gardener, and he has called her to himself to live and love in this new creation.  ‘You go and tell the others’ he says, and makes her voice the first to sing of a re-created world. 

We can also hear Jesus asking us: ‘why are we weeping’? 

What does our grief look like today, this Easter Sunday as we let go of tears and step into resurrection joy, into a re-created world? 

In celebrating Easter today, there are so many who are unable to gather in safety; whose lives are at risk, whose expression of faith is still too dangerous.  As we live with the danger and the grief of loss and fear, we know for many, Jesus is still in the tomb. We seem to be stuck in ‘Tomb Saturday’, waiting patiently, waiting for the Jesus-shaped absence to be filled by God’s love. 

Resurrection Sunday has come in a way that echoes the fear and trembling and disbelief of that first Sunday.   In the bomb shelters, in the trenches, in refugee camps, in the shattered hospitals and in the total lack of safety, food and sanitation for far too many in Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan, Resurrection Sunday has not yet been experienced. 

We are resurrection people, with many walking the Jesus way.  Many are being threatened with death, by those who have not yet worked out what the ending and the beginning of the Jesus story looks like and what it means for us and for the whole world. 

But the response of those being threatened, facing death and destruction, is to know now, today, on Resurrection – Easter Sunday, that while they are being threatened with resurrection, their suffering and pain has been taken up by God and they are made whole.   

We can celebrate and rejoice together in this moment, because we know, we have seen, and we have heard our names being called in the darkest of places:  Christ is risen.  He is risen indeed. Hallelujah.

The Lord be with you.

Reference

Jarvis, C.A., Johnson, E.E. [Gen. Eds].  2015.  Feasting on the Gospels.  John, Volume 2 Chapters 10-21.  Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Lucy Morris
Lucy Morris
Anglican Priest, International Speaker, Published Author, Social Justice Advocate and Activist.

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