by Alan Rudge
“Jesus Christ is risen today! Alleluia!” What a joyful hymn of praise this is, what a song of celebration! How our spirits are lifted as we remember that Jesus did rise from the dead on that first Easter morning. What joy should be in our hearts today as we celebrate the new beginning for the world; sin and shame defeated through the cross and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour! We have the wonderful gift of hindsight and knowledge about the Resurrection but how did the disciples feel on that first Easter morning? They were probably still asleep when Mary went to the tomb, by herself, because we are told that it was still dark. Why did she get up so early and go to the tomb? What did she expect to find? When she arrives she finds the tomb empty. What went through her mind at that moment? She had watched as Jesus had been placed in the tomb so what could have happened? Where was he? Where had his body been taken and who by? Surely she must have been shocked, fearful and amazed; what could she do all alone in that place, alone in the darkness? Aren’t these the thoughts we might have had? How would we have reacted if it had been one of us standing there in front of the empty tomb? She must get help; she runs to find Simon Peter. Picture the scene as she blurts out what she had seen. Whether Peter had been awake before, he certainly was now as he and John quickly get up and raced each other to the tomb. What did they expect to see? Had Mary told them the truth? When John arrived he looked in and saw what Mary had seen. Peter, though, went into the tomb and saw:
“the linen wrappings lying there and the cloth that had been on Jesus head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.”
In Jesus’ day carpenters when they had completed a piece of furniture would take off their apron, roll it up and place it in the middle of the table or chair. How appropriate then that the wrappings should be found folded where his body had been laid – the Master Carpenter’s signal to his disciples, through this rolled up cloth that had been on his head that his work is finished. Just as he had said on the cross, his last words when he gave up his Spirit
“It is finished.”
So what did Peter and John think had happened? Who had moved the huge stone? Where had Jesus gone? John, we are told ‘sees and believes’ and then they go to tell the others. Did they lock their door in fear? But Mary, overcome with despair, stays at the tomb weeping, consumed with grief because Jesus it seems has disappeared. Finally, she bends down to look into the tomb and sees the two angels at the head and foot of where his body had been.
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
Somehow she finds her voice to reply
“They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Then Mary, turning away from the tomb, sees a man who asks her the same question:
“Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?”
She assumes he must be the gardener coming to work, the most logical reason for him being there in the garden. Obviously she hasn’t recognised that it’s Jesus.
“Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him,
and I will take him away.”
Jesus just calls her by name; that’s all she needs. In a flash she knows, she sees – she sees her risen Lord! What must have flooded through her mind at that point? Her sorrow and weeping transformed into joy and her face alive with the knowledge that her Lord and Saviour was alive! Immediately she rushes back to tell the disciples:
“I have seen the Lord!”
Did they believe her? Peter and John had seen the empty tomb, yes, but Jesus alive? We are not told what they said or thought but we do know that the doors stayed locked for fear of the Jews.
How this year has passed with us all ‘locked in’ because of corona virus. We might ask the question, “Will life be different here and around the world once we can return to some normality?” I don’t know and I doubt if anyone does, but we should hope and pray that it will be. We do know that life was different after the Second World War some 75 years ago. But even more important is the fact – yes true fact – that the world, and our lives, can be changed forever, through the work that Jesus did 2000 years ago; the victory that he won for us through his death and resurrection and the promise of eternal life. Jesus called Mary by her name, and he calls each one of us by our names. Jesus offers us something the world cannot give – peace with God our Father and life everlasting in his presence. He gives us hope for a better future; inner peace; love and joy. This is something to rejoice about; that is why today is so special for us and why we need to share our joy and hope with those who do not yet know the Lord. Let us make this year one of reaching out to others, our friends and neighbours, with the love of Christ. Jesus is waiting to call them by name, to offer them forgiveness and new life; to invite them into a relationship with him which will last forever
What an offer and one we should, like Mary, rush to tell others. Lets be creative in finding ways to share the love of Christ so that our world is different, it is a better place; it is full of compassion towards those in need; offers support for the weak, the migrant, the refugee, the lonely and the unloved.
We have good news – let’s be willing to share it.