Pastor's Easter Message 2023
Christ is risen! … Christ is risen indeed! Happy Easter!
In John’s gospel, Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb early on that first Easter morning – while it is “still dark.” Later, as we know because we know the ending, there will be light and life. But right now, there is only darkness.
So, in Mary’s darkness, in her lack of understanding, when she sees the stone rolled away from the tomb, she assumes that the body of Jesus was stolen. She runs to the disciples and cries, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him!” Peter and the Beloved Disciple run off to the tomb and discover just the linen wrappings; then, rather anticlimactically, they go back home.
But Mary stays. She stands outside the tomb crying, and then she sees two angels – and then the gardener. At least she THINKS it’s the gardener. We, of course, know it is Jesus. He asks her why she is weeping, and she says to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She is so determined not to abandon the body of Jesus!
But then he speaks to her, just her name: “Mary!” We can imagine his voice; maybe he spoke her name softly, with emotion. And when she hears that, she knows it is Jesus. In that moment, she must have understood that her world now was transformed. He doesn’t want her to touch him. Why? Perhaps he wants her to understand that resurrection is not just resuscitation; it is not a return to things as they were but a whole new reality. What no one expected has come to be! Jesus has risen – he is alive! Everything is now changed.
And what about us? How does the resurrection affect our own reality? What difference does it make whether Jesus is living or dead? What does it mean to believe that the resurrection is true?
Each of us must come to terms with Jesus’ death and resurrection for ourselves. But I think that if we believe that Jesus is risen, that Jesus is life, then our relationship with death is changed. Everything that brings that shadow of death does not own us, or have the final word. And that shadow is hanging over so much in our world, isn’t it? We have all been through a lot in recent years.
But the Easter story tells us that all that comes from and leads to death does not control us and will not be victorious over us. What IS the last word? It is hope. We can know from this story that God brings life out of death. That’s really the story of our journey through Lent, through Good Friday – through the betrayal, the suffering, the crucifixion, the death. Not that we can fool ourselves into believing there is no death. We know. And yet – there is life, there is hope, there is resurrection.
In the gospel of John, true belief is not the assent of the mind or an intellectual decision. It’s the trust of our hearts. We have heard this story so many times that we might take Jesus’ resurrection for granted. But if we can take Mary’s amazement and joy into our hearts, it can be the foundation of a deep trust, reborn in us every morning. And so we are always moving toward life, toward resurrection, toward heaven. We are on our way, following the risen Christ. Hope in Jesus means hope for us – hope in life everlasting, hope for our journey, hope for our future. It all comes true on Easter.
We may not have “seen the Lord” face to face as Mary did; but we can see Jesus in every place in our lives and this world where faith and love and life bloom. Our Resurrected Lord lives among us, all around us, and within us. And that truly is resurrection.