“Whom are you looking for?” Jesus asked this question of the soldiers the night they took him away. The question is asked in the darkness and as far as anyone knows, the darkness has ruled these last days. The soldiers were clear that their mission was to find Jesus of Nazareth and take him away to be judged and tried as a criminal…
“Whom are you looking for?” Jesus asks this question again, this time in the darkness of early morning. He asks it of Mary Magdalene, his disciple and friend. She is weeping, trying to make sense out of all that has happened. She came to the tomb of her teacher and friend to mourn, and now the tomb is empty. She has told Peter and the others that it is empty, and now she is back, bewildered and confused. I wonder if she can hear his voice in her head saying that he would die and in three days be raised… that was his promise. Dare she hope that it is true?
What little hope she might have stirs in her while she asks the gardener where the body of Jesus is. Her hope isn’t quite strong enough to see the absolute truth that is before her… and then he calls her by name. And once again, God’s goodness and love break through the confusion and Mary knows… it is Jesus, he is alive, just as he promised. And Mary goes once again to tell the disciples what and whom she has seen. Mary thought she was looking for Jesus who was dead and destroyed by those who could not truly see the truth; Mary found the ultimate expression of God’s truth and love; she found Jesus raised from the dead; and she may not have understood it all, but she knew everything was different now.
All these centuries later, this story still draws us in. We listen, and we hope that even in the darkest moments of morning, that God will break through and bring God’s light: and, just as God did in the beginning, God brought forth the light. God brought forth the light of Christ who is now alive, from the darkness of death. Death has now been conquered for the whole earth and no longer has dominion over us; because Jesus lives, we shall also live.
Mary Magdalene’s sorrow literally blinds her to the true identity of the man she assumes is the gardener. Isn’t it like that for us too sometimes? There are times when we find ourselves in a place of hopelessness where we cannot see God in the midst of the darkness. Jesus knows how sad Mary is and he breaks through her grief and confusion by calling her name. Once she hears the familiar voice of her friend and teacher, she can truly see him. And that is Easter; it is knowing that Jesus understands our grief and our pain and even in the midst of it, he calls us by name so that we can know that he is there. It was sin that separated us from God, and it is God who has rescued us from sin and death and given us hope and truth in its place. This is the greatest of all days, when the whole earth is made new. Jesus is alive; God took on human life in Jesus, and all that we are has been taken up into God’s very being. Sin and death were taken into Jesus’ arms on the cross, and now he lives. Because he lives, we too shall live. The gates of hell have been thrown open and we shall live with God forever. Jesus’ resurrection changes absolutely everything about who we are in this life and in the next. Becasue God so loved the world, we too are to love the world, this world, that Jesus loves so much that he was willing to die for it. We are Easter people! The miracle of Easter morning is just as real for us as it was for Mary Magdalene; and because we are Easter people, we are to do Easter things with Easter joy. We are to do as Jesus did because we are now his hands in this world that he loves. Dear ones, we are loved by God in ways that sound ridiculous, and perhaps they are. Only in God’s kingdom does the king reign from the cross; only in God’s kindgom does one death mean life for all. May we all go from this place, ready to do the works that Jesus has done… may we seek justice for all people, may we be peacemakers, may we feed the hungry, heal the broken, proclaim the gospel. May we hear his voice call our name and may we recognize him.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!