We are here, the morning of very unexpected discoveries.
After Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, his denial by Peter, the deserting of the disciples, the mocking by the Romans and his painful suffering and death we reach the end.
This should have been the low point. The moment when the women continued the burial preparations begun 24 hours before. But the power of God transforms this moment of grief into an enormous surprise. It turns out this isn’t the end, but instead a new beginning.
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week. A new beginning, a new revelation, a new understanding. And how can the women and the disciples even begin to take it in?
It is so unexpected.
They expected to find his body there. Instead neatly rolled graveclothes.
They were worried he had been stolen or removed, instead he was present.
They ran, desperate towards the tomb, trying to make sense of yet more sorrow. And then leave again, not realising or quite fully comprehending what has taken place.
It is Mary who waits and then experiences the encounter first with the angel and then with the gardener, who turns out to be more than she expected.
I always love the fact that it is when Jesus speaks her name that she recognises him. It is through her relationship with Jesus, through their intimacy and familiarity with each other and the knowledge of his voice that she knows it his him. Reminding me of God’s promise in Isaiah 43:1, ‘Do not fear, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are mine.’
And then a new instruction for Mary. She isn’t to stay here clinging on to Jesus, although surely that is what she wants to do. She must go and share what she has seen with others. Reveal what amazing things have taken place. Tell everyone that she has seen the Lord.
We have the same commission as Mary. And we have the same experience too.
Jesus knows us as his friends, we are in relationship with him. He has called us by name, we are his. He died for us and rose again for us. We meet him here in worship, through prayer, through story, through bread and wine. But we can’t stay here. We can’t cling on to him in this sacred space, if the grave can’t contain Jesus then certainly he won’t stay trapped inside a slightly cold church. Instead we are invited to leave and tell others that we have seen the Lord. We share, with Mary, with the disciples, with Christians all around the world in Christ’s risen life. We share in the forgiveness of sins, we share in worship with God and with one another today, we share bread and wine, we share the life of the church, we share a common faith.
And our response must be to take that new life, that love, that forgiveness, that hope, that joy out into the world and transform the world through love. We meet and see Christ in the lives of others, we share his love with everyone we meet.
Christ did not stay dead. He was not in the tomb. Death could not defeat him; the grave could not contain him.
He is risen, He is alive, He is present with us. I have seen the Lord. Now we must go and share that good news.