“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. 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.” (John 20:1-2)
Jesus’ disciples expected him to be dead. So did all the Jewish leaders, the Roman officials and everyone else who heard of Jesus and his crucifixion. The best that could be done, his disciples and followers thought, was to honor him and remember him. But all in the “past tense.” After all, that is how we treat all that have passed away. It is part of being human.
“Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.” (Verses 3 – 10)
The gospel vary somewhat as to how the discovery was made that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. And the gospels shade things differently as to how who believed what, and when. But the consensus is that the tomb was empty, Jesus was gone, and the reasons as to how that happened and why were on clear.
“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 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. 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.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” (Verses 11 – 15)
Let us pause a moment, and reflect – seeing as we know how the story turns out. Do we act as if Christian values and guidelines are passe and irrelevant? Have we “buried” the lessons that Jesus taught, and the love, acceptance, and compassion that Jesus exemplified? Have “rolled” other things in front of Christian living? And wrapped up and put away the plans and intentions from when we first came to know Jesus? If so, let us this Easter morning resurrect all that we had previously considered gone from our lives.
“Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to 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.'” 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.” (Verses 15 – 18)
Death could not confine and stop Jesus Christ. We should not let anything stop us from living for Jesus Christ. But beloved reader, we can have so many varying ways that we think we should live for Jesus – what our priorities and practices should be. We try so hard to “hold on to” what we believe is right about proper. What we should do is what Jesus called Mary to do – see Jesus and God clearly without allowing our own humanness get in the way. That is, I know, hard to do. But it is what Jesus is calling all of us to do.
“Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” (Luke 24:13-24)
The Revised Common Lectionary suggests this passage (amongst others) be used if the Easter Service is, for one reason or another, celebrated later on Easter. I have a special fondness for this passage. It speaks to me about the confusion we might have in understanding God and Christ. And not knowing how we should live in and for Jesus Christ. It also speaks to Jesus’ desire to comfort and teach us. And that Christ is always with us, in ways we do not always understand.
“Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” (Verses 25 to 32)
Have you seen Jesus Christ beloved reader? Not have seen Jesus as human eyes see; that is a joy yet to come. But seeing Jesus and God with the eyes of your spirit and soul; feeling the Divine within your and surrounding you.
“That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread. While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” and when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence. Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Verses 33 to 49)
Encountering the risen Lord happens in many ways. But it does happen. Each of us might have our own unique story of such an event; or we might have similar experiences. Tested against the Spirit (which I admit is a paradox and redundancy, for what do you compare that to?) these experience can be illuminating and informative. It is my hope, beloved reader, that this year you encounter the risen Lord at those times that the Lord reveals the God-self. Jesus as ascended to God, and rules with and as God. The Divine visits us in a multitude of ways. See the risen Lord and rejoice on each occasion. Selah!