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In A Garden of New Life — Easter Sunrise 2023

JOHN 20:1-18 

1-2 Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone was moved away from the entrance. She ran at once to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, gasping for breath. “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”

3-10 Peter and the other disciple left immediately for the tomb. They ran, neck and neck. The other disciple got to the tomb first, outrunning Peter. Stooping to look in, he saw the pieces of linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Simon Peter arrived after him, entered the tomb, observed the linen cloths lying there, and the kerchief used to cover his head not lying with the linen cloths but separate, neatly folded by itself. Then the other disciple, the one who had gotten there first, went into the tomb, took one look at the evidence, and believed. No one yet knew from the Scripture that he had to rise from the dead. The disciples then went back home.

11-13 But Mary stood outside the tomb weeping. As she wept, she knelt to look into the tomb and saw two angels sitting there, dressed in white, one at the head, the other at the foot of where Jesus’ body had been laid. They said to her, “Woman, why do you weep?”

13-14 “They took my Master,” she said, “and I don’t know where they put him.” After she said this, she turned away and saw Jesus standing there. But she didn’t recognize him.

15 Jesus spoke to her, “Woman, why do you weep? Who are you looking for?”

She, thinking that he was the gardener, said, “Sir, if you took him, tell me where you put him so I can care for him.”

16 Jesus said, “Mary.”

Turning to face him, she said in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” meaning “Teacher!”

17 Jesus said, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went, telling the news to the disciples: “I saw the Master!” And she told them everything he said to her.

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

MEDITATION: IN A GARDEN OF NEW LIFE

            For Jesus’ disciples, the Easter events were a total surprise. They were unprepared for Jesus’ resurrection. And, yet, they shouldn’t have been surprised at all. Over the months leading up to Jesus’ arrest, Jesus tried to warn his friends about what was going to happen.  In Mark, Jesus was recording saying he would be persecuted by the priests and teachers and killed, and after three days rise again. In Matthew, Jesus was recorded as showing his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed. In Mark, after Jesus told the disciples he was going to be betrayed, killed, and rise after three days, it says the disciples …”did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.” So, the disciples were too bewildered or fearful to ask Jesus to clarify the meaning of his words.

            And, because they were not clear about what Jesus was telling them, the disciples were caught off-guard on the first Easter Sunday.

            The Saturday of the Passover week was a nightmare for the disciples. They were in Jerusalem while Jesus was arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. On Good Friday, the disciples had trouble being honest about their relationship with Jesus – some pretended to not know him, some hid out, and some stood silently by and observed Jesus’ final hours, weeping and watching.

            Mary Magadalene was one of those who wept and watched.  She cried all the way through the Saturday Sabbath day. After tossing and turning on Saturday night, she got up early in the morning on Sunday and went to Jesus’ tomb. She figured that since she couldn’t sleep anyway, she would sit in vigil at Jesus’ grave.

            But, when Mary arrived at the garden outside of the tombs cut into the stone, things were amiss. She assumed the bad guys had taken Jesus’ body away. Insult upon injury. Mary knew the Romans wanted to quell all the gossip around the possibility Jesus was the Messiah. She assumed they removed Jesus’ body from the tomb to keep it locked up and guarded by Roman soldiers. Mary ran and told the others Jesus’ body was missing. And, then she returned to the tomb and wept.

            Mary’s weeping and anguish was tremendous. So tremendous that Jesus eventually took pity on Mary. He approached Mary and asked her why she was upset. And, then Jesus learned of Mary’s confusion. She thought the body was stolen. She had not remembered Jesus’ words when he told them he would rise after three days. And, she was so exhausted and sad she didn’t recognize Jesus even though he was standing right next to her.

            Finally, Mary’s eyes were opened. She saw Jesus. She talked to him. She understood his prophetic words – yes, he would suffer – but, after three days he rose again.

            The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that we are never separated from God. In life, in death, in life beyond death, we belong to God and God never takes God’s love away from us. Jesus loved his friends so much that it hurt him to see them suffer. Jesus loved Mary so much he broke cover in order to show her he had resurrected. Jesus died so that we can live knowing our sins will be forgiven. Jesus loved his friends to the n’th degree, and taught us to love each other. The Easter story is a story for us to remember that God loves us more than we will ever understand. God loves us when we mess up. God loves us when we don’t understand. God loves us when we can’t see what is right in front of us. This is the story of our faith, of God and God’s love, of Jesus and his love.

            Thanks be to God. Christ the lord is risen today. Alleluia! Amen.

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