Easter Sunday rolls around each year and for me it is a challenging Sunday to preach. How do I find the right words to convey the joy that comes with this day? Especially when I’ve heard the story all my life and the logical part of my brain says, “really, Jesus died, he was dead and three days later came back to life. Really?” Then my faith reminds me Easter Sunday joy just doesn’t make sense. We can understand resuscitation. We see it on all the hospital dramas. People flat line their hearts stop and then paddles come out and that flat line starts to flutter. Resuscitation we can understand – it is a medical miracle. But resurrection is another matter altogether.
Resurrection is three days dead and all of sudden living, breathing, walking, talking. Resurrection is coming back to life – not like the in zombie movies and tv shows but to fullness of life. Not just existence but life filled with joy, possibility and hope. It does not make logical or rational sense. So is it any wonder that Mary didn’t recognize Jesus and thought he was the gardener?
After finding the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, Mary runs to find Peter. “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2) she tells Peter. Peter and the other unnamed disciple run to the tomb finding nothing but linen wrappings and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head rolled up in a place by itself. The two disciples not knowing what to make of the scene left and went home. Mary stayed. Mary always stayed.
She stood outside the tomb weeping. Waiting. Watching. Finally Mary looks inside the tomb but filled with grief she can’t make sense of the linen wrappings. She hardly notices the two angels who ask her what is wrong but all she can manage to say is, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:13) Then comes another voice that Mary thinks comes from the gardener, saying, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15) Hoping to find answers Mary says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15)
What happens is amazing. Jesus says, “Mary!” And somehow in hearing her name spoken everything is clear. It is because of this moment that John’s account of the resurrection is my favourite. A split second and one word transforms grief into joy. Mary hears her name changes her weeping to joy. Jesus says, “Mary!” and she turns and says “Rabbouni. Teacher” Nothing is the same again. Mary runs to the disciples and announces, “I have seen the Lord.” (John 20:18)
Peter Buehler says, “Easter is an event beyond seasons, beyond time and space. Easter is resurrection: impossible hopes made possible by the power of Christ raised from the dead.” (Peter Buehler, Further Up And Further In! www.sermons.com)
We may not be able to logically explain resurrection and what happens at Easter. It is divine mystery. But we do know those holy moments like the moment Mary hears her name and her life changes. Like those moments when we feel God’s presence. We remember that with God all things are possible – even if we can’t explain and we don’t understand it. Dead people stay dead except when God enters in and breaks all the rules and changes everything. And because Jesus is risen death loses its sting and holy mystery opens for us a life filled with hope and joy. In some divine mysterious way God changes everything. The tomb is empty. Jesus Christ is risen. Thanks be to God. Amen.