1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2So 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.” 3So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples went back to their homes.11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13They 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.” 14Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:1-31
Unlike our Easter Sunday celebrations, the first Easter morning, the first Resurrection Sunday, was not filled with praises 0r hallelujahs or musical crescendos. In fact, it started out with trepidation, continued confusion, residual fear and weeping. The disciples were still locked away and not venturing too far from one another.
Yes, the tomb is empty, but the implication of what that means has not yet settled on these weary disciples. Instead of joy, it inspires suspicion: someone has moved the body of their Lord. From there, it becomes a question of where Jesus’ body has gone and who moved it. Mary Magdalene is the first to discover the stone rolled away and immediately fetches Peter and John.
But Peter and John do nothing more than confirm that the tomb is empty. They do not leave celebrating and shouting hallelujah, but rather they return to their homes and lock their doors and continue hiding from the Jews. Mary doesn’t leave. She stays, she mourns, she weeps, she seeks him even though Peter and John have confirmed that the grave is empty.
And, lo, when she looks inside, it is not empty. There are two angels sitting where Jesus had lain and when they ask her why she is crying, she laments again that Jesus is gone and that she wants to find him. That she realized in this moment that these were angels doesn’t seem possible given her response. Imagine, meeting two of God’s angels in the place where Jesus had been. In so many stories of when angels appeared, folks were always filled with fear, even Mary, the mother of Jesus, when Gabriel appeared to her.
Mary Magdalene, however, is more focused on finding Jesus than on who these two angels are.
And all at once there he is, standing before her. Not the lifeless body that was anointed and wrapped in linens and laid in the tomb, but a living, breathing man standing there, perhaps near the entrance of the tomb. However in her grief and concern for the missing body of Jesus, she does not recognize him. Instead, ironically, she laments to him that her Lord is missing and she is trying to find out where he is.
And then, he speaks her name. He speaks her name and she knows him immediately. What an incredible moment.
If ever a moment were worthy of a hallelujah, this is it. But she simply responds, Teacher!
Scripture tells us that after revealing his plan to her, Mary went to tell the other disciples. But I find it hard to believe that she didn’t first bask in the miracle before her. Jesus stands before her, raised from the dead. This man that cast out seven demons from her. This man that saw in her what nobody else ever saw in her. This man that loved her with the overflowing, unconditional, redeeming love of heaven is standing in front of her, alive. Two days ago, she saw him crucified on a cross. Today, she stands talking to him in the garden by the empty tomb.
Imagine the absolute joy that must have filled her heart and her soul. Imagine the urge to touch him, to hug him, to fall to her knees and worship him, the risen Lord. Imagine the elation at standing in the presence of the resurrected Christ. Surely she must have floated, feet barely touching the dusty roads of Jerusalem as she ran to where the disciples remained hidden away. Imagine her excited exclamations as she shared the good news: I have seen the Lord!
That night, in the locked home of one of the disciples Jesus appears and bids them, Peace be with you. He shows them his hands, his feet, his side; yes, it really is Jesus, their friend, their Savior, their Lord. Can you imagine what they must have been thinking, what they must have been feeling in that moment?
Did they fall off their chairs? Did they mob him in a group hug? Did they whoop and holler and shout? Did they just sit and stare, mouths open in amazement at the sight of him? Or did they fall to their knees and worship God? Did they wonder how he appeared before them, how he got in their locked room?
Because I do. I wonder at it all. I wonder about it all.
Who is this resurrected Jesus? Does he look like the man with whom they traveled for three years? Does he look the same, sound the same, feel the same? We know they can touch him, because eight days later, Thomas puts his hands in the holes of Jesus’ hands and in his side. Did they recognize him? Because we know that Mary didn’t, at least not right away.
Who is this resurrected Jesus? Surely, he is no longer both man and God. Surely now, he is only God. He is the risen Lord, the resurrected Savior, the one true and eternal Son of God. He breathes out the Holy Spirit on them and he instructs them; he sends them out and sends them on to Galilee.
But I am still wondering at this miracle of God. This miracle that is God, that is the man Jesus raised from the dead.
There is so much more to learn as the disciples go forth from this place to preach the Good News and I look forward to all there is to learn from those moments. But right now, today, on this first Easter morning, I am content to sit and stare up at this risen Jesus. I am content to sit and bask in this amazing miracle. I am content to let the joy that comes from being in his resurrected presence flow over me and through me, to sit dazzled by the sight of him, to watch him in wonder and to wonder.
To wonder, who is this God we serve?
To wonder, who is this God who endured all hell and humiliation and death and now is risen?
To wonder, who is this God who loves me like this?
Just like the grave could not contain him and death could not defeat him, words cannot describe him.
To understand him requires a heart to which he can speak. A heart that he can fill with his truth and his love and himself. Only then can one begin to understand who this God is. Only then can these events come to be more than just a story, but to be life itself. New life. Redeemed life. Resurrected life.
Because like Jesus, I am resurrected today. The death and decay of this world’s worries and despair and hopelessness cannot contain me nor defeat me. I live in hope. I live in faith. I live in love. I live in Jesus.
And because of that, I cannot help but shout out, Hallelujah. He lives. Hallelujah.