Jesus is dead to begin with; there is no doubt whatsoever about that.
Today is Easter Sunday. And there is a temptation to rush ahead, to start the celebration, to get to the part where everything is okay. There is a temptation to sing Christ the Lord is Risen Today as loudly as we can and call it a day.
And I understand that. I am tempted to do that. But I also know that where we were shapes where we are.
And where we were… is dead.
Some of the hardest truths that our faith proclaims are the truths of Holy Week, the truths of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, the truth that we take this world that God creates and sustains and gives to itself as a gift… and we break it. Again and again..
We hoard wealth and build up treasures on earth. We build little boxes and put each other in them. We pursue power for ourselves and deny justice to others. We give ourselves over to sin; we keep wandering into this valley where the shadow of death looms over us.
And when God comes into the world as one of us, among a dispossessed people in an occupied land… or in a soup kitchen or a food pantry… or in a psych ward or a prison cell… or on the refugee road… or crying themselves to sleep because they are not welcome at home or at school or at church…
…when God comes into the world as one of us, with a pleading face and an outstretched hand…
…we build a cross… and we crucify them.
One of the truths of Holy Week—one of the truths of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday—is that our very lives are death.
And the word that was in the beginning with God… the word that was God… the word through whom all things came into being and without whom not one thing came into being… is silent. The light of the world is extinguished. The way is blocked. The truth is thought a lie. Life itself is dead.
Jesus is dead to begin with; there is no doubt whatsoever about that.
Early on a Sunday morning, as she walks through the garden and toward the tomb, Mary has no doubt whatsoever about that.
Mary was there. Mary stood near the cross with his mother and his aunt and that disciple who Jesus loved. Mary heard him say that he was finished. Mary saw him bow his head and give his last breath. Mary watched them pierce his side, and take him down from the cross, and wrap him in linen, and lay him in a tomb.
And in all of her hopelessness and all of her grief, she is walking to the tomb, to visit the dead.
And as though things are not bad enough as they are… as she approaches the tomb… she sees that someone has rolled the stone away from the entrance. And she knows what that means: that someone—some absolute monster of a person—has taken the body. And she panics.
And there’s more to the story, but…
There’s this moment after she’s seen the empty tomb, and after she’s reported it to the disciples, and after they’ve seen the empty tomb and been no help at all…
There’s this moment when she’s standing in the garden, looking at the place where Jesus’s body used to be, crying. The Bible says that she’s weeping. And that sounds pretty; that sounds dainty. And maybe it is.
But if it is, then it’s the kind of weeping that is a cork in the bottle. It’s the kind of weeping that is holding back absolute sobbing. It’s the misty eyes and lonely tears that come from keeping the ugly snotty wailing cry in.
It has to be. Because the word is silent. The light is extinguished. The way is blocked. The truth is thought a lie. Life itself is dead. All hope is lost. And some absolute #$A&%*! has taken. the. body! And she doesn’t know where it is. And there is just nothing left.
And it is in that moment of turmoil that she hears a voice behind her ask, “Why are you crying? Who are you looking for?”
And she turns around and sees this… gardener. And she’s holding in sobs, and her voice is shaking in sorrow and anger, but she tells him, “Someone has taken the body, and I don’t know where he is. Did you take him? Was it you? If it was you, just tell me where you took him and I will find another place for him. But you have to tell me. You have to, you have to, you have to!”
And the gardener says, “Mary.”
And Mary… sees.
Today is Easter Sunday.
Today is the day that we remember that our very lives were death. We broke the world and we crucified God. We stood near the cross with all of creation.
We heard the word say that it was finished and then go silent. We saw the light of the world flicker and go out. We covered the way with sin and pierced the side of the truth. We took life itself down from the cross, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb.
Today is the day that we remember that God was dead to begin with… and all hope was lost… and there was no doubt whatsoever about that.
And then, on this Sunday… God. got. up.
And then, on this Sunday, the outstretched hand of our redeemer—the outstretched hand that we had disdained—reached out… and pulled us out of the grave.
And the pleading face of our savior—the pleading face that we had rejected—spoke to us… and told us that we are loved and worthy of love… and told us that they aren’t done with us yet… and asked us to step into the garden.
And the spirit breathed life into the world. And all of creation… breathed.
And I cannot begin to express what good news that is.
The word who was God was lost in silence; and now it is a shout! The light of the world was a flicker in the darkness; and now it is a conflagration. The way is wide open. The truth is spoken boldly. Life itself is wild and abundant and full of grace!
And even as Mary looks at the risen Christ and whispers “Teacher!”—even as we look at the risen Christ in stunned silence—the cracks of a broken world are being filled in with gold. The treasures of the world are being shared. The little boxes that contained us are crumbling. The powerful are brought down and the lowly are lifted up. Sin has lost its power over us and the sun shines in the valley of the shadow of death.
We are alive. We are loved and worthy of love. God is not done with us yet.
That is the whole reason that we are here.
That is the whole reason that we are here. And that is the whole reason that we cannot stay here.
After all of this, Mary Magdalene—the apostle to the apostles—goes to the disciples and tells them, “I have seen the Lord.”
And yes, she does that because the risen Christ tells her to do that. But… how could she keep quiet? How could she keep from shouting? How should she keep from dancing? How could she keep from singing? How could she keep from sharing the good news the world’s redemption with all of creation?
How could she, as she walked through the garden and back to the disciples, refrain from telling everyone who she met along the way,
I have seen the Lord! The word shouts! The light shines! The way leads! The truth speaks! Life lives and I am alive in it. I who was lost am found; I who was blind can see; I who was dead am brought to life! And life itself is wild and abundant and full of grace!
How can we?
Today is Easter Sunday. Today is the whole reason that we are here.
And today is the whole reason that we have to go out into the world and share the good news that we who were dead are alive… that even though we, in our sin, build crosses and dig graves, God gets up… and pulls us out of the grave… and tells us that we are loved and worthy of love… and tells us that they are not done with us yet… and invites us—invites all of us, no matter who we are and no matter where we are on life’s journey—into a life that is wild and abundant and full of grace.