…she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know it was Jesus.” — John 20:14
Students of Scripture will immediately recognize this as a portion of the Easter Sunday Gospel. No, I do not have my seasons mixed up. We are in the seemingly never-ending Season of Pentecost which stretches all the way to the end of the Church year. But: no matter when and where we find ourselves in the Church year or the calendar year or the fiscal year: we are Easter people. We are folks of the Resurrection promise. So, let us take a lazy-hazy-crazy August look at Easter through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.
Imagine this. You have mourned the loss of a dear friend and teacher. You have watched him be murdered. Then he has been buried. Now you have come to the cemetery, only to discover that the grave has been disturbed and the body is missing. Despite what Jesus may have said about the Resurrection, it is clear that Mary had come to see the dead. She believed that death was final. When she saw the empty tomb, she assumed that someone had stolen the body. What other explanation could there be? She reported this bad news to two of Jesus’ closest disciples, and they ran to the tomb. They also saw the empty tomb, but the story continues to be confusing. “Then the other disciple … also went in and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” So what was it that the disciple believed? Their belief, apparently, was weakened by misunderstanding. What was their response to this earth-shattering event? “Then the disciples returned to their homes.” It was Mary Magdalene who stayed around.
Seeing is not believing; because we often interpret what we see by what we already believe. Because Mary believed that death was final, she did not recognize Jesus when she saw him. Even being addressed by two angels did not change for her the cold reality of death. It was only when Jesus addressed her personally that the prison of her mind was opened to believe that Christ had been raised from the dead. When she believed, she was able to see. Despite her confusion, she did not leave, and, in her staying, she became the first evangelist.
Sometimes, in our confusion, we have to continue to stick around until we can be addressed in a way that alters our beliefs so that we can see with new eyes. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus whom we proclaim as our Lord. What does this mean for you? What does this mean for us who identify ourselves as Christians? Simply phrased, “God wins.” Sin doesn’t win. Hate doesn’t win. Political power doesn’t win. Fear doesn’t win. Coronavirus–19 certainly will not win! God wins.
We are called as Jesus’ followers to make the same proclamation the Apostles and disciples made in the first century. We are called to preach to the people and to testify to the power of God through Jesus: sins are forgiven, life is restored, and love overcomes hate and even death.
How we choose to testify may look very differently for all of us. Some of us preach from a pulpit, many through the words and actions out in the world wherever God has placed us in our families, work environments and communities. Some use our gifts and talents for the larger good by serving in capacities beyond our small corner of the universe. Either way! It is not enough to say that we are redeemed if we do not act accordingly. The Resurrection is not only “good” for Easter Sunday or maybe a week or two thereafter. If we are Resurrection people – and we are!!!! – even in the midst of a lazy-hazy-crazy August week we can testify to the power that brings life and hope and assurance into our days and into a world that is pretty much messed up and needs to hear a good Word. In that spirit: Happy Easter again! He is Risen, He is Risen, indeed!