Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
Easter isn’t easy. We may think it is and we do our best to make it that way with the flowers, Easter baskets, the celebrations and family gatherings but the truth of the matter is that it is hard.
Look at today’s story. There are three different reactions to the empty tomb and none of them are easy.
Mary comes to the tomb early in the morning and it is still dark. Do you think it was easy for her to show up that morning after watching her beloved Jesus die a slow and painful death on the cross? Imagine what she was still feeling. And if you have ever buried a beloved, you know what she is feeling; the deep despair that comes with death. She sees the stone rolled away but she doesn’t shout out He is Risen.
She runs to Simon Peter and the other disciple and she says – “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”
That doesn’t sound like Easter joy to me. Mary is still looking for a body. God has not yet given her the ability to see or imagine anything other than death being the final word.
The power of the resurrection can be hard to see. Mary could not see beyond what was immediately happening.
When death is at work in your life the ability to see or imagine anything different than what you are currently feeling or experiencing is hard. And when I talk about death being at work in your life I’m not just talking about the death of a loved one.
There are many kinds of death we face each day and they vary in the degree of heartbreak and sorrow they bring but they are still a form of death.
Death is at work in some of you right now. It may be the death of a relationship, a marriage, a friendship, conflict with a family member, the loss of a job, changes in your health due to disease or aging or addiction.
When people we care about let us down, when our hopes and dreams aren’t realized, when the world around us gets to be too much and feels so out of control, all these things and more create that same feeling of despair and darkness.
Death comes in many ways and at various times in our lives but the effects are always the same.
The feelings of helplessness, the deep worry about the future, what will I do, how will I cope, and what will tomorrow bring?
This is why Easter is hard. Mary Magdalene, Peter, the other disciple all go to the tomb which is where we need to go first if we are going to ever know and experience the power of the resurrection at work in our lives.
They don’t run away from the tomb, they run to the tomb.
The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.
Bit by bit the details are unveiled. The other disciple reaches the tomb, he looks in and see the linen wrappings but doesn’t go into the tomb.
Peter follows him and he goes in. He sees more details. He sees the face cloth lying to the side, rolled up. Small clues the writer is giving to help us understand a dead body was not just hauled out of the tomb.
Belief in the resurrection comes in bits and pieces? You may see it today but tomorrow you might struggle to see it and believe it. Everyone is different.
The other disciple believes once he goes into the tomb. We don’t know about Peter. We assume he believes as well but the text just tells us he goes home.
Mary is left standing there, outside the tomb and she is still weeping.
I’m struck by the fact that she stays. She doesn’t leave like Peter and the other disciple. She is courageous. Her love for Jesus is greater than her fear of death. Her strength in this moment is noteworthy. From her strength comes the seeds of faith and the ability to see beyond her grief and tears.
This is the power of the resurrection at work in her life and it is precisely why Easter isn’t easy. She keeps looking for Jesus and when he finally calls her by name she sees him and Easter explodes into reality for her and is no longer hard but filled with joy.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Then Mary goes and announces to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she tells them that he had said these things to her.
Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles, the first to announce the news, I have seen the Lord.
Our eyes and our hearts are opened when God moves us from death to life. Sometimes it happens fast and sometimes it is a lifelong process. The power of the resurrection lifts the veil and we begin to see God’s possibilities and God’s power at work in our lives. Moving us from death to life, from despair to hope.
And when hear Jesus call us by name, when we see him on the other side of death, it is powerful, it is real. And it becomes easy to see and trust.
Oswald Chambers puts it this way; “until the resurrection life of Jesus is fully exhibited in you, you have questions about many things. Then after a while you find that all your questions are gone— you don’t seem to have any left to ask. You have come to the point of total reliance on the resurrection life of Jesus, which brings you into complete oneness with the purpose of God. Are you living that life now?”
I buried a man yesterday who lived that life. A life of total reliance on the resurrection of Jesus. His name was Glenn. This is what he said to me in a letter when he was 86 years old, 6 years before he died. It is about Easter.
“To claim a faith that assures a continuation of your living spirit beyond the demise of your body is beyond description. So – here we are on this piece of planetary dust, waiting for that transfiguration to the “other side”. My upbringing – environment – training – and experience has left me with the conviction that there is more beyond this earthly journey! After 8 decades plus 6 years, the station and stance now is to wait! So – whatever my lot, the Lord has taught me to say: IT IS WELL – IT IS WELL —WITH MY SOUL!
Easter may be hard. But when God promises to raise us from the dead, today, tomorrow and for eternity, we can truly confess, whatever my lot the Lord has taught me to say it is well, it is well with my soul.
For He is risen. He is risen indeed.
Thanks be to God. Amen
 Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, May 28