Easter Gospel Reflection - Easter Sunday - 30 March 2013
Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.
Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
Have you ever been to a movie that was just so packed full of little things here and there that you missed most of it the first time around? It’s not until the third or fourth time do you see all of the little hints along the way pointing to the big finale.
Or, better yet, for my fellow Whovians out there, have you ever noticed the little hints in a Doctor Who episode that are carried throughout an entire season that culminate in a huge final season episode that you weren’t expecting? It’s not until you watch the season over again that you pick up on them. I remember watching The Eleventh Hour for the third or fourth time and could hear the sound that the Silence makes and then picking up on that sound throughout all of season 5. It was right there in front my face the entire time and I missed it.
John’s story of the resurrection is just like that. It’s so full of little hints that it’s hard to take it all in. But at the same time, it’s also one of those stories that a lot of us have heard so often that we miss those subtleties.
Right at the beginning, John drops a huge hint. He says that Mary of Magdala came to the tomb “on the first day” of the week. This is such an important point that he states it again in verse 19, just outside the lectionary reading. What does this mean?
As we’ve noted before in John’s telling of the story of Jesus, he has been pointing to something. Something BIG. And that something big is New Creation.
In the daily reading for this morning, the passage is John 1.1-18. There, John starts off by stating, “In the beginning...” Any first century Jew would have automatically heard Genesis 1.1, “In the beginning...” John is writing a new creation story. He puts down “signs” - the wedding at Cana, the feeding of the multitude, etc. - pointing us further down the path, pointing to something else. His whole gospel is pointing to this event, the resurrection of Jesus and the beginning of the New Creation.
And just to make sure we get it, John states that when Mary of Magdala sees Jesus, she mistakes him for the gardener (verse 15). Of course. Whom else would he be? As St. Paul notes, the first gardener, Adam, was an example of Christ. So, here, at the dawn of the first day of the New Creation, we see the new humanity, the truly Human One, as a gardener.
All throughout Jesus’ ministry, he was proclaiming in action and word that G_d’s Realm was coming “on earth as it is in heaven.” That G_d’s great promise of returning to Israel, to the world, bringing justice and peace was finally “at hand.” Everyone knew that when G_d finally returned, a New Creation would be born. It’s there in Isaiah. It’s there in Jeremiah. But what people weren’t expecting was that it would take place in the middle of history. But that’s just what Jesus taught. Think about his stories about G_d’s Realm - the seed planted, the yeast in the dough - they all point to G_d doing something within the existing world. John is telling us, on Easter morning, G_d’s New Creation was birthed.
And that birthing is a point that most of us miss. When Jesus was raised from the dead, and New Creation was born, all of the falseness of the world wasn’t instantly gone. That was never the plan. The plan was to rescue humanity, as many people as possible, now, in this life, and then G_d works through them to bring healing, mercy, forgiveness, love, and yes, a new life - true life, real life - to the rest of creation.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+. LC
Mahina’s note: After we finished Eucharist, Mahina and I were walking to dinner. “Do you know why the face covering was in a different place?” she asked me.
“I suppose to show that someone didn’t steal the body.”
“In a way. Forensically speaking, it’s proof to Jesus’ resurrection.”
“How so?” I asked puzzled (Mahina was a forensic nurse for a while.)
“Well, the first thing Jesus would have done when we rose from the dead would have been to take of the face covering and lay it aside. Then, he would have taken off the grave clothes later. The fact that the face covering was in a different location proves that he was really raised from the dead. Someone stealing the body would have put all of the clothing in the same spot.”