New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition
20 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. 2 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.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’s head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb, 12 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. 13 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.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 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.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not touch 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.’ ” 18 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.
We are here this morning to witness the empty tomb.
We are here to remember our sacred history.
We are here to stand alongside Mary Magdalene and Simon Peter and the Disciple Whom Jesus Loved in the early morning hours, experiencing some of the same emotions they felt.
Some of us are here because we believe. Some of us are here because we want to believe.
I love that in John’s Gospel, one disciple, known as “the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved,” remains unnamed. It is the perfect invitation for us to step into the story.
John’s Gospel tells us that this disciple saw and believed. It also says, “…as yet they did not understand the scripture.” It will take them days, weeks, years to understand. Two thousand years later we are still wrestling with what happened and trying to understand. Lack of understanding and the presence of doubt does not mean that we do not believe. Belief runs deeper that doubt.
John tells us that after seeing the empty tomb for themselves Simon Peter and the disciple whom Jesus loved went home. We can only wonder what they were experiencing. Grief – bewilderment – hope?
Mary Magdalene stayed at the tomb, weeping, likely feeling very similar emotions. Why was she weeping? Because she did not yet understand; did not yet believe that good could come of this tragedy. She was weeping for what was lost. She was weeping for all that she feared would never be, the as yet unfulfilled promises made by Jesus, his promises for a just world for all.
Mary was completely lost in her grief, but she has a moment of clarity when Jesus calls her by name. She recognizes his voice.
We are here because we long to be called by name. We long to recognize and be recognized by the presence that we know as Love, as Christ, as the Holy Spirit, as God.
The hardest thing when someone dies is to let them go. Jesus tells Mary, do not hang on to me, do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended.
There is joy and there is grief in that very same moment.
Mary is overjoyed. She has seen Jesus! She knows that he lives! But how he lives has changed. There is grief in letting go of the old way of knowing Jesus and learning to understand the new way of knowing Jesus.
We, all of us “the disciples whom Jesus loves,” are witness to his resurrection. He meets us where we are and he calls us by our names.
We are here to celebrate the glorious, unexpected, unlikely turn of events that defy logic and yet cannot be denied. We are here to celebrate the mystery of our faith.
We too experience both grief and joy as we proclaim,
Alleluia, Christ is Risen, Christ is risen indeed!
Rev. TJ Mack – April 9, 2023