Reading: John 20: 1-18
She had gone there to anoint a dead body – who has stolen it? She finds it easier to believe in the night-time antics of grave-robbers than in the night-time antics of a God who refuses to let death have the last word.
The Easter story begins with someone who many had written off as a lost cause: Mary Magdalene. When she reaches Jesus’ tomb she finds that the stone had been rolled away…
When Peter and the Beloved Disciple hear her story they immediately head for the tomb – and we have a great marvellous action-picture of the Easter jog! The Beloved Disciple [his name was John] seems to be a better sprinter than Peter. He reaches the tomb first, looks in to see the cloths lying about …and waits for Peter, who catches up and goes straight in as you would expect of him!
The climax of the Story is the Beloved Disciple following Peter in. He sees the same evidence as Peter does – and more: he sees more than discarded cloths: he sees with the eyes of faith what this means.
His is a love that sees through the dark.
One of he features of The Gospel According to John is a specially-mentioned love between Jesus and one of the Twelve. The Beloved Disciple is presented as the ideal follower of Jesus, the one who sits closest to him at The Supper, the one who stands at the foot of the Cross. Now in running to the tomb on Easter morning, the urgency of his love gets him there first, and he is the first to believe.
And some days later, when Jesus stands unrecognised on the lakeside, it is the Beloved Disciple who informs Peter: “It is the Lord!”His is a love that gets him there first.
In celebrating Easter we rejoice in the light that darkness cannot dim; we celebrate the God who raises Jesus from death and calls us from death to life.
We bless God for the faith that challenges us to see more in others as we respond to them with the grace and love that has touched and changed us.
It means that we take a part in the sufferings of the Risen Crucified One And take part in God’s protesting against the violence and suffering in the world… the violence and suffering that too often is accepted as an inevitable part of life in the world. Death is not just a fate that we meet at the end of our lives. We see death around us in the midst of life.
In that Easter Faith we catch a glimpse of the Messiah who makes us friends with each other because he has made us friends with God. The challenge of Easter is to understand the history of human suffering… and to understand the histories of our own sufferings… in the light of Jesus’ resurrection.
In an Easter sermon, theologian Jurgen Moltmann says:
“Death is an evil power now – in life’s very midst.It is the economic death of the person we allow to starve…It is the political death of people who are oppressed… It is the noisy death that strikes through bombs and torture…It is the soundless death of the apathetic soul.”
To accept this litany of death as inevitable is to deny the power of the Resurrection for today. Resurrection faith faces the cross and protests against the finality of that violence on Calvary Hill. It calls us to see as God sees: to act as so many people have chosen to do when, with enormous courage, they refuse to worship the powers of darkness that use suffering and death to gain and keep power.
The Resurrection is a proclamation that this hanging, suffering outcast is the living Son of God, who cannot be held in the grip of death.
The truth that God raised Jesus from death gives hope, healing and health to all who need that miracle to be repeated in the midst of a world that is cruel, harsh and empty of love.
We are convinced that God’s work continues: for we have been grasped by the words of the One who again and again says to us: “I am Resurrection and I am life. Those who trust me, though they die, yet shall live…”
We can catch something of the reality of the Resurrection when the light of new life bursts in upon us in the midst of the darkness of despair and hopelessness. We see it in hospital wards where nurses hug people back from death to life. We see it in the women and men who risk their own lives protesting against the dark, mindless violence inflicted by their fellow human beings. We see it in the disciples of Jesus who see in the dark what no one else sees.
For all this, we will rejoice. It is Easter in our midst. It is the refusal to accept that anyone should be left for dead. Listen – again – to the Basis of Union:
Christ who is present when he is preached among people is the Word of God who acquits the guilty, who gives life to the dead and who brings into being what otherwise could not exist. Through human witness in word and action, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ reaches out to command attention and awaken faith; he calls people into the fellowship of his sufferings, to be the disciples of a crucified Lord; in his own strange way Christ constitutes, rules and renews us as his Church.