Grieving, we meet Jesus

Easter Sunday

  • John 20:1-8

Grieving all that has gone wrong, we meet Jesus, who sends us out to tell the deeper truth of God’s plan to make all things new. Like Mary, we speak in a new voice, recounting the stories of resurrection we see around us.

The first line of our focus statement ‘grieving all that has gone wrong, we meet Jesus.’ This week I have lived in the grieving. I have sat with or heard from several people this week who might identify more with the question of Mary after she meets Jesus than with her enthusiastic proclamation ‘I have seen the Lord!’

It is a beautiful text, the Easter morning account from John. It is so full. Of course I often find this when I read and re-read a passage from the gospels. The way it comes alive with the emotions of the characters. But especially here, the verbs give it life: running and outrunning, bending and looking, seeing and believing, weeping and weeping and weeping. The tears of grief and fear, confusion and disbelieve and finally, hopefully, joy.

And so, as often happens with biblical stories, I find myself drawn into identification with one character and this week it is Mary. Full of anxiety and grief she can’t sleep and so she makes her way to the tomb of her friend and mentor and teach, Jesus. Expecting, maybe to sit in the quiet darkness and remember and cry and begin to face up to the loss.

So when she finds the tombstone has been removed, how shocked must she have been – fearful and disconcerted – angry! She doesn’t barely stops to look, but runs immediately to others of his followers and compels them with her first breathless proclamation, ‘They have taken my Lord and we don’t know where they’ve laid him.”

There’s a certain order to things in death. Even one as awful as Jesus’. When someone dies, the friends and family gather, often with the body, it is buried or cremated or entombed. There is a gravesite or urn to mark and remember that person. And those left behind grieve or rage, live with unresolved relationships ore feelings, but always with the expectation that the body will stay in the ground or the ashes sprinkled.

No wonder there is so much running then after Mary’s discovery – first Mary and then the disciples running to see what could have happen, what could have interrupted the expected process. To see for themselves the empty space where Jesus’ body had lain. It reads almost like a mystery novel. The wrappings from him body, the rolled cloth from his head left like clues. But clues not of death but of life.

Someone told me a story recently of a friend who shared the gospel story with a person who had not heard it before. As someone who has grown up with the Bible and Bible stories from the cradle, it seems impossible that anyone could escape without hearing the basics – Jesus was betrayed, was crucified, but rose again on the third day – but this person had not and so when the story teller had gotten to the part about the death, the grief and the empty tomb and then was called away by friends and was about to leave but the listener said, ‘But wait, wait – what happens next??’

Mary and the other disciples haven’t heard this story before either. There is no precedent for what they are experiencing. So while the other disciples go back home – maybe go to tell others the strange tale – to sort out the clues together – Mary stays, still weeping, trying to make sense of it. It is she who get to experience and then answer the question ‘what happens next.’

Mary meets the gardener – yet more suspense for the reader – and the gardeners calls her name. Jesus calls her by name. And she sees! She is confused and disoriented and doesn’t really understand what she is being asked to do. She doesn’t want to let go. But in the midst of these overwhelming feelings she clings to the simple task that Jesus has given her: Go and tell my friends that I’m alive. Finally she is able to make her second proclaimation: “I have seen the Lord.”

The theme for this Easter season in worship is ‘New Heaven and a new earth;” This is the promise of Easter. Easter was an event, but it is also a promise. Although Jesus appeared to Mary – and then to the disciples – and although new life is in evidence all around us as we move into spring, we still live with death and sadness and disappointment and fear and chaos that will not go away because of the date on the calendar. We need Easter to be a promise that Jesus will meet us in the our grief and that even when we can’t see it, we and the world are being made new.

I put it to you. Who are you drawn in by this Easter? Where do you see promise in the midst of uncertainty? What stories of resurrection can we share with each other? I have a mic that I can offer to anyone who wants to share, or we can reflect silently on our own stories, knowing that in community we are cared for and supported into the Easter promise.