Proclamation of the Scripture                        John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 

So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 

Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 

He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 

Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 

as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 

(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 

and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “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 toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Here ends this reading of the Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Let us pray — Open our ears to hear your Word proclaimed in this place.
Open our hearts to know your Love offered in this congregation.
Open our eyes to see your Presence blessing us in this moment. Amen

Message                              Blessed Are Those Who Hope Still

            After Jesus died, his friends had to quickly place his body in the tomb. Faithful Jewish people are not allowed to touch deceased bodies on the Sabbath. And, the week Jesus was crucified was a holier-than-normal Sabbath because it was during Passover. So, Jesus was removed from the cross and then his body was taken to Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb. Jesus was not from Jerusalem, so even if his family had a tomb, it would have been in Nazareth, not Jerusalem. Time was of the essence, so Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloths but didn’t do all of the other rituals traditionally done to prepare a body for burial.

            Mary Magdalene and the other Mary followed Joseph of Arimathea and the body to the tomb.  They were reluctant to leave Jesus. And, although they couldn’t prepare the body during the Sabbath, they planned to return on Sunday morning and do the traditional washing and anointing to fortify the body for burial.

            In our Easter reading, we read that Mary went early in the morning on Sunday before the sun had risen. She wanted to be near Jesus, even though he was not alive in his body. She wanted to get to work, to make sure all of the rituals were precisely conducted to prepare Jesus for burial. To her dismay, when Mary arrived, the tomb was open and the body was gone.  Mary did not remember Jesus’ prophesies.  He had told them he would suffer and die and then rise again in 3 days. Mary was so upset, so devastated, that she didn’t expect a risen Savior. She expected a dead body.

            But, she refused to give up until she found Jesus. Mary went and told Peter and the beloved disciple that the body was gone. The two men returned with Mary to see for themselves that the body was missing. Peter went into the tomb and saw the strips of cloth that had wrapped the body, lying without a body in sight. The Beloved disciple saw the missing body and believed in the resurrection. We don’t know what Peter thought – did he believe? Or did he think the body was stolen?

            Mary wanted the men to witness the reality of the empty tomb. Perhaps they could figure out what to do. Perhaps they would have known where to go to have the body returned to Jesus’ friends. Mary wanted to do everything for Jesus she could possibly do. Wash his body. Anoint in with oils. Re-wrap it for burial. Mary wouldn’t give up until she found Jesus.

            Mary peered into the tomb, hoping to see clues that would help her know who had taken Jesus away. She saw two angels sitting where the body had been. And, they asked her why she was upset. Somehow, in her grief, even seeing two angels didn’t convince Mary she didn’t need to worry. She just told them she was looking for Jesus’ body. But, they were no help….Mary’s grief had her in a haze – after two sleepless nights, even angels appearing couldn’t interrupt her grief.

            Then a man approached Mary. She assumed him to be the gardener. He asked her why she was crying. Mary either didn’t look at the man, or her eyes were clouded by grief. Again, she repeated that she was looking for Jesus’ body. She refused to give up until she found Jesus.

            The man said her name: “Mary!” And Mary finally woke up. She realized he was Jesus. The woman who wouldn’t give up finally had her heart’s desire…she found Jesus. And, surprise of surprise, he wasn’t just a body. He was alive!

            After their conversation, Mary rushed to tell the others that Jesus was resurrected.  Again, they had trouble understanding her. They had trouble understanding that Jesus had told him he would be back, he would be resurrected.

            The story of Easter is a story of life over death. Because of what Jesus did in his life, death, and resurrection, we know the fullness of God’s justice and love and redemption will be accomplished. Jesus loves the people of our world so much, Jesus died for us. He allowed his life to be extinguished. He allowed himself to die a horrible death. But, nothing could keep Jesus from his followers. Jesus wanted us to understand that nothing is impossible for God. Jesus’ resurrection is a sign that no matter how we fail, no matter how disobedient to God’s desires for us, no matter how many mistakes we make in our lives, that nothing we do is so terrible that God won’t love us. Jesus was killed by the people who were supposed to “get” him. Jesus was killed by the people he came to save. And, yet, God got the last word. Jesus rose from the grave.

            So, my friends, take heart. No matter what kinds of problems we face, not matter how terribly we disappoint others, no matter how badly we mess us, God loves us and forgives us. God loves the people of the world so much that God gave God’s one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send God’s son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Jesus.

            We are loved by God, forgiven by God, and saved by God. This is the Good News. Thanks be to God.

            Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia! Amen.