The Gospel: John 20:1-18
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He 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. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Prayer: Lord, you have promised that when two or three gather in your name you will be present with them. We depend on that promise today and pray that you will move among us. Lord, we pray that you have inspired Mike's preparation, that you will enliven his presentation, and that you will empower our application. Amen
The Message: Do you remember the question I repeated several times throughout my Sermon last week? It was the question that Jesus asked those who came to arrest him in the garden.
"Whom are you looking for?"
We are in another garden this morning but that question is still relevant isn't it? We see this question play out in the lives of all those we read, and hear, about this morning.
If we begin with Mary, and we ask that question, what does the story from John tell us this morning?
Mary has come expecting that she will complete the burial rites for Jesus.
She has come looking for her spiritual leader, her close companion who has affirmed her as healed. She has come looking for the man who told her she was a redeemed member of his followers. When it is all said and done she is looking for her "dead" friend.
She is astonished to find the stone has been rolled away from the tomb. Her immediate thought is that someone has moved or stolen the body.
She runs to find Peter and the other disciple - self-described as "the one whom Jesus loved - so we assume this is John.
They don't stop and say to Mary "Oh, Alleluia the prophecy Jesus shared with us has been fulfilled and he has risen from the dead." "Don't worry Mary, the empty tomb is a good sign." "We can look forward to Jesus coming to us and revealing himself as the Messiah as he said would happen."
No! They run back to the tomb to verify what Mary has said. So, what does that tell us about who they were looking for?
Their expectations were much the same as Mary's. They are looking for their teacher, their Rabbi, and their friend. They are looking for the one who helped each of them come to a fuller understanding of their relationship with him and therefore their relationship with the Heavenly Father. They find the tomb empty and they are disappointed.
What does John say about their reaction in verses 8, 9, and 10:
"Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed, for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes."
They returned to their homes. Why? Well simply because, as John says in our reading this morning: "for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead."
That certainly tells us who they were looking for, doesn't it?
Isn't it wonderful that the Lord does not leave Mary and the disciples in that place? Isn't it wonderful that the Lord doesn't leave us there in that place?
We get to read on and to learn the story of what happens to Mary next. Mary stays by the tomb, Mary weeps for her loss, Mary then takes the opportunity to look into the tomb for herself.
We are not told who or what she was hoping she might see when she did that.
But it must have been astonishing! Angels! One at the head and one at the foot of the place where Jesus had been lying. Then they ask her "Woman, why are you weeping?"
Can I suggest that this question is our question reframed in a different way? The angels are actually saying to Mary: "Whom are you looking for?" "Who is it that you understand or believe Jesus to be?" She continues to answer from the perspective of her understanding of Jesus as she has known him. But at that moment things change.
Because at that moment, Mary turns and sees someone standing behind her. John tells us it is Jesus, but, that Mary still does not recognize him. She enquires about Jesus' body, still believing and working out of her understanding of Jesus as she has known him in the past.
Jesus says her name and everything changes. In that moment of personal intimacy, Jesus reveals himself to Mary. Mary responds again from her understanding of Jesus as she has known him in the past. She calls him "Rabboni" or teacher.
Jesus then opens her eyes, her mind, and her way of thinking, to the new reality of who he is now: “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'”
We do not know how long this conversation goes on, but from what follows we can assume that there is more to it than is recorded here. Mary moves from her former understanding to a new perspective. If we asked Mary at the end of this conversation our question from this morning we would receive a very different answer. If we asked Mary, at this point: "whom are you looking for?" she would give a much more certain and definitive answer.
In fact, she becomes the first proclaimer of this new reality. The first person to declare that: "Jesus is Risen!"
Our reading from John this morning ends with these very powerful words: "Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her."
So, as we prepare to Baptize Jackson and repeat our own Baptismal vows may we affirm that we acknowledge the Risen Christ this morning. He is Risen.
Bishops & Father Mike