Where is my Lord?
Based on John 20:1-18
On Good Friday, the narrative of our Lord’s passion ended when a stone was rolled in front of the entrance to the tomb. Jesus’ body had been hastily prepared for burial, because the Sabbath approached. His body was laid in a tomb. His followers left in utter despair.
Easter Sunday, Mary Magdelene goes to the tomb early in the morning, while it is still dark. Now that the Sabbath is over, she goes to finish the burial anointing. Why did she arrive so early, before dawn? Mary wants to be near Jesus once more, to see and touch him.
Mary sees that the stone was removed from the tomb. Shock! She is eager to be with Jesus again, yet he is not in the tomb. Mary thinks someone has taken the Lord and put him elsewhere. Her inconsolable grief is compounded by profound loss. For Mary, the empty tomb is not a source of joy. It is an egregious turn of events.
Mary runs back to tell the disciples, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they laid him.” Peter and John run to the tomb. When John enters the tomb and sees the burial cloths, “he believed” (20:8). What did he believe? Did he understand what Jesus had said about going to the Father and that they would see him again?
After Peter and John left, Mary remained behind, alone, weeping. She looks in the tomb and sees two angels. They ask her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” She doesn’t know who they are. She replies, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they laid him.” She turns around and sees a man, who she does not realize is Jesus, but assumes him to be the gardener. He asks her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Desperate to find Jesus’ body, Mary says, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”
Jesus says to her, “Mary!” Immediately she knows! Her eyes are opened and she sees who is in front of her. All her fear and worry and weeping are gone. Jesus is alive! He is there with her, speaking to her, calling her name. She turns and says to him, “Rabbouni” which means “my teacher.” Then she clings to him. He is there, with her, in the garden. He is calling her name. Jesus is alive! After he reveals himself to her, he gives her an important assignment. He gives her a message to deliver to his disciples. She, a woman, delivers the first Easter gospel message, “I have seen the Lord!”
Now Jesus is telling Mary the crucial part. Because Jesus died and rose again his followers are no longer just followers, they are brothers and sisters. We don’t worship a God who is distant and separate, we worship a God who holds us close and calls us children. We can speak to God as Abba, Father. Jesus tells this amazing truth to Mary and entrusts her with the task to share it with the disciples.
John’s gospel makes us linger for a moment in shock with the disciples and feel our human reactions to this astounding miracle: Jesus has conquered Death. Through the voice of a 1st century woman we hear that what had appeared to be the worst thing that could ever happen in human history, the death of Christ, has become the best thing that has ever happened in human history, Christ is alive and history has been changed forever.
Lord Jesus, often I find myself at a loss to see you, hear you and know your presence. Help me to believe that even when you seem absent to me, you are always present and as you have promised, you will never leave me alone.