What, exactly, was Mary Magdalene doing at the tomb at that time of the morning… and alone? Anyone who knows anything about the status of women in those days would know that women just didn’t do that.
I wonder then, if Mary Magdalene had some expectations? Hoping against hope, she probably expected to see a still-sealed tomb and her dear friend still quite deceased. There is, of course, always the possibility that she hoped that after the dreadful events of Good Friday, that it was all just a bad dream. Mourning people will often do that.
It’s quite clear though, that she didn’t expect to find the stone already rolled away from the tomb or an empty tomb. In fact, it seems that any expectations were now on the line. But perhaps she has trouble with something else … perhaps she actually has trouble with Jesus really being there, outside the tomb. Perhaps her real problem is that she has trouble with the whole notion of resurrection.
Why? Well… perhaps it was those expectations. She heard Jesus tell them what would happen, but may not have really expected it to happen. Whatever her “issues” were, the real problem was that she was stuck on Good Friday; she had to get a resurrection mind. Maybe that was why Jesus said to her, “Don’t cling to me…,” as if to say, “If you cling to me you won’t get it. It’s a whole new world—tell the disciples!”
Ah yes… then we have those brave disciples… They’re not at the tomb; they’re huddled together, hiding out and hoping that none of them will be next. To be honest, I’m not sure I’d have been any different, given the circumstances. It seems as though no one really believed in resurrection. Reading the accounts in John’s gospel almost gives the sense that they must have viewed it as just another pie-in-the-sky dream idea.
Why would this be? Perhaps for same reason: they too were stuck on Good Friday—their version of it with all of his pain and suffering, all of his shame, all of the betrayal and, worst of all, their denial and abandonment.
Admit it: resurrection is irrational and hard to grasp. Regardless of what anyone believes, no one has ever actually seen it happen. If we read the accounts closely, it would appear that both Mary Magdalene and all of the other followers had trouble with the idea as well. They saw the Risen One, but they did not see the rising. Like Mary Magdalene, they needed to get a “resurrection mind.”
For that matter, they were a lot like us. My mother was a quintessential skeptic who just couldn’t understand my being religious. To her, if something couldn’t be seen, felt, touched or smelled it, it didn’t exist. For Mom, science had answers and all we had to do was apply ourselves and learn. As far as life and death were concerned, to her, one lived and died and that was that—you didn’t come back. Period. Looking back, perhaps Mom’s could’ve used some sort of “resurrection mind!”
Walking the Way of the Cross on Friday here in Havre de Grace made me reflect more deeply on the meaning of the days leading up to Easter. I wonder sometimes if we too don’t let ourselves get too hung up on Good Friday and the gory details. If we do, then how do we view the resurrection? It isn’t something that just happened in the past, a nice tale from antiquity. In fact, it’s something that can propel us into the future but only if we too have a “resurrection mind.”
If the idea of resurrection seems illogical and beyond rationality, then it behooves us to look at Easter with a more organic view. In the Episcopal and Roman Catholic traditions, the three days before the Easter Vigil are all part of one service. They give us a blueprint for what resurrection is all about. Maundy Thursday’s basic lesson is love, the pure, unfettered and unconditional love of God for all of creation. Good Friday is all about what result of all that self-giving love: reconciliation: it is finished. The arrival of Easter brings us full-circle to the start of a whole new life! John’s Gospel starts with “In the beginning…” Christ’s Resurrection takes us full circle back to another beginning.
The God we worship is not the Jesus of the past; he’s not even the Jesus of Good Friday anymore. He’s the Christ of now—and we can share in his resurrection because we live in a resurrection reality. Resurrection then, is something deep and profound: a fresh, new start, a new beginning.
But to grasp it requires eyes and hearts fully opened to all possibilities in God’s creation. There are new beginnings—resurrections all over the place.
- Homeless families finally settling into a permanent address and stability;
- People in recovery are resurrections right in front of us;
- Powerful men losing prestige but discovering a whole new ministry. I’m thinking here of Jimmy Carter, founder of Habitat for Humanity;
- A kid bullied at school grows inwardly stronger, learns self-acceptance and lives a happy, meaningful life.
These are just four new beginnings, but the list—thanks be to God—is endless. They are all concrete signs of God, who stops at absolutely nothing to prove his love. They are all tangible signs that point to the reality of Christ’s resurrection.
So tell me… what it is that makes resurrection so hard to fathom???