What?!

John 20:1-18
The Resurrection of Jesus

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. 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.”

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. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look[a] 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,[b] “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 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.’”

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.

It’s Easter and we are reminded that God is doing something new in our lives and that we are all one …we have truly been given a gift of being present together!

I’m sure we have all sorts of memories of this day. Some good, and maybe some bad. It’s my hope that we can recognize that God is in the business of redeeming and being present in all things. Maybe we come to Easter a bit conflicted, questioning some things or experiencing joy along with some sorrow. It seems like holidays such as Easter and Christmas can be so emotional and we may struggle to ask “what” is going on within us and the world around us.

Maybe we have some questions even about this Easter story. How could God let his Son die on the cross, how could God allow this to happen? Why didn’t God the father do the dirty work instead of sending his son? Many times we’ve heard this story from the church, but maybe we haven’t been able to dig a bit deeper into the story.

You see, it was God on the cross.

We believe that there are three persons who share the same essence, the same substance, they are so close that they exist within each other to make one God., they mutually indwell within each other. Jesus not only shares the same substance as the Father and the Spirit, but also shares the same essence as us, humanity. God became one of us.

Jesus did not go to the cross to appease a vengeful father either. Jesus was nailed to a cross because he challenged a system that excluded many, while maintaining a status quo that kept some on top of the proverbial heap. Jesus came and demonstrated radical inclusiveness and hospitality and called us into lives filled with freedom, love, purpose, and deep Presence with others and with God. Jesus invited us, and still does, to deeper lives that are good for us and for others. Yet, this message scared many, it even scares us today. What if we have to give up what we know or have lived in for so long? What does it mean to truly love everyone, including ourselves?

Even if the way we are living isn’t working, it’s what we know.

This message of radical love led to Jesus’ death. Many in the crowds who were cheering for Jesus a few days earlier on Palm Sunday, were now turning against him. They had visions of an earthly king, Jesus came to give them so much more, they didn’t have the awareness to hear or see what Jesus was about.

Jesus’ love for us, Jesus’ promise of a full life filled with purpose and presence could not be kept in a grave. What phrase do we share on Easter? “Christ has risen!”. And the response? “He has risen indeed!”.

The gospel text from John is filled with so much drama! Mary Magdalene, a disciple of Jesus, who was close to him, wanted to give him a proper burial. She wanted to make sure that he was anointed and that Jewish custom was followed. She went to tomb to find the stone rolled away and the tomb empty. She had questions, especially after a traumatic week. What happened, where have they taken Jesus?


What happens next? She runs and tells the other disciples!

It’s amazing to me that Mary, a woman who was marginalized during the time of Jesus, was the one emboldened to proclaim the good news first. It is God’s way, of teaching us from folks that many of us may overlook! So, she goes and tells the disciples.

As many of you know, I’m an obsessive runner. So, I love this passage about the two disciples running to check out Mary’s story at the tomb. John runs and beats out Peter, but John kind of stops short of the finish line, and Peter, who’s obviously slower, runs the smarter race and just keeps on going into the tomb!

Both disciples are amazed at what they find. They both believed, but they still didn’t know what was going on, so the men, Peter and John, go back to their homes. Yet, as we read, Mary had the courage to stay at the tomb in her grief, she persisted, and saw two angels, then someone that she thought was a gardener. She eventually recognizes its Jesus, calls him “teacher” or rabbi. She shares her story with the other disciples, and, this amazing woman sparks a movement by simply sharing what she experiences.

What happens next? The story gets out, the new reality sets in, people begin to see Jesus and to experience new things. Life as we know it is never the same, and it becomes filled with imagination, new possibilities, strength, confidence in the face of incredible odds. Something begins to form in these early believers that moves them to change the world, starting with their own awareness of themselves and their inclusion of others.

Friends, we are all here this morning and are a part of this ongoing story of Easter. As Christ is risen, we have risen with him as well in the resurrection! I want to invite you to live deeper into this story, that, in reality, you are already a part of! I believe the church universal and the church in my neighborhood where I am the pastor, Fleming Road UCC (http://www.flemingroaducc.org) is ahead of us and is wrapped up in this Love that God has for us. Love that could not keep Christ in the grave, love that gives hope and purpose. This Love that is flowing up within us, around us…everywhere. This Love, this Jesus, also wants to carry us and has forgiven us and gives us new life each day as we cultivate an awareness of Christ’s rising within us, and all around us.

Let us hear the invitation to become persons bound together to be a community joined in God’s risen son giving us courage to ask the hard questions, to live fully, and to be fully present with God, others, and ourselves.

Christ has risen!

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