Reading: John 20:1-18
We pray: Holy God, Risen Christ, we pray this day for discernment, for our eyes to be opened and our faith to be strengthened as we hear you word for us today and everyday. Amen.
It is very early in the morning, and Mary of Magdala was walking slowly down to the tomb to do the saddest and most heart breaking thing –to anoint with sweet spices the body of the one she, they all loved, the one they called Jesus.
But he wasn’t there, the impossibly big stone had been moved, the tomb was empty. Not stopping to check the dark corners, she ran to tell the others ‘they have taken him out of the tomb and we do not know where they have taken him.’ And with them she came back to the tomb only to fall to her knees weeping outside. John, the beloved disciple got there first but didn’t go in, Peter not far behind, had no such scruples – straight past, straight into the dark cavern, and then too John. One saw and believed, the other saw and did not quite connect the dots. None of the three understood the full potential of the open tomb and the scattered grave clothes. Not yet anyway.
John’s account of the early morning after the Sabbath gives us just one woman who came to the tomb, one who was deeply disturbed by Jesus disappearance, unwilling to think other than desecration even when the angels appear, only realising the full implications of the stone rolled away when Jesus speaks to her.
Till then she believed his body to have been moved by others - ‘They have taken him somewhere’ she says, ‘they have taken him away.’
Jesus is there to tell her that, no he hasn’t been taken, he has gone from the tomb. Purposeful resurrection, not political expediency. He was not taken, he had gone. Big difference.
He has gone from the tomb, as we are to go from whatever are our tombs of disinterest, apathy, comfortable isolation, rigid thinking or self interest – not be taken by someone else’s actions but to go ourselves – where God calls us.
We are responsible for nurturing our own faith, coming to our own understanding of what Jesus means to us and to be able to articulate that by word and deed. Each of the three that came to the tomb had a different response, each a unique relationship with God and each a particular way of coming to an understanding of what had just happened. We can’t ride on another person’s experience, we need to have our own. We can’t believe because another has said it is so, we have to see for ourselves. And that means we have to listen, have our eyes opened, as Mary did, realise the potential of the open tomb made known in Jesus Christ and go tell the others what we have seen and known.
So we are to go. But where are we to go? We are to go where Jesus went.
The messengers said – he is not here, he has gone on ahead of you to Galilee. Go and look for him there. Go, don’t wait to be taken. Look for him among the people.
(1) Look for him among the children – Jesus really loved the children, like to talk and laugh with them, didn’t mind at all when they made noise in church, he got very cross when people hurt children, and he made a lot of children who were sick or sad feel better. Remember the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter – an argumentative desperate mother whose pleas were answered and her daughter healed. And remember the children he gathered round him and the truth that children bring to our faith. So Jesus will definitely be found among the children, especially those who have hard lives, who live with war or violence, who have no one to look after them, who are hungry or cold
Look for Jesus among the poor, those who don’t have jobs or not enough money to live on, those who are homeless and who have to beg on the streets – remember blind Bartimaeus – it must have been pretty scary when he could first see – he had only ever known being dependent on others charity – but Jesus had healed him and he had to learn how to be independent, to read and fish and be part of the community – and follow Jesus. He might have wished he couldn’t see, that awful week in Jerusalem. So we will find Jesus walking along with people who are poor, helping them to speak out against a system that doesn’t care enough to help them and helping them be brave enough to go on.
And we will certainly find Jesus among outsiders and those who are discriminated against. Where people are treated unfairly, that’s where he will go. He knows all about not belonging, being accused and treated badly through fear and ignorance. He surely does – and so he seeks out the outsiders or those whom others condemned – like the Samaritan woman at the well – looked down by just about everyone. She and Jesus talked, properly, he gave her back her sense of self, enough that she was able to convince those who had given her such a hard time that he was the Messiah. Today there are plenty of people who are not treated equally, who are subjected to prejudice, bigotry, isolation – lonely, afraid, bewildered – I definitely think that that is where Jesus would go – making friends with them, treating them seriously, making them feel welcome and at home.
And we should look for Jesus among people who share – those who have a lot and those who have very little – not just because then everyone would have enough but also it is just really good to enjoy things together and not worry about someone missing out. Remember the boy with the loaves and fishes. Who could forget? No one went away hungry that day – imagine if the world was like that – no one was hungry, everyone had the medicine they needed, everyone had a place to call home and could go to school and everyone felt like they mattered. Jesus cared for those who were hungry, so that is where he would go.
And lastly we look for Jesus among the sad. He didn’t try and find them to tell them to stop being sad, he looked for them so he could sit with them and comfort them and he would remind them that even if the person has died or gone away then the love was still there. Remember Mary’s story – sitting outside the tomb weeping that someone had taken Jesus body away. But then there was that moment when Jesus spoke to her and she knew such incredible wonder and joy in the midst of the ache. He was still going to go away but he gave her a job to do – to go and tell the others the good news of resurrection.
So our Easter Day question – where are we looking for the risen Jesus. If we are looking among the respectable and the comfortable we are unlikely to find him. If we think he has been taken away from us, or we are still ensconced in the dark tomb of dogma and fear and guilt, then we have haven’t looked and listened and understood the meaning of the risen Christ.
But if we are looking for Christ in the vulnerable, the lost, the needy and the sad then we are very likely to have found the way to Galilee. Amen.
(1) Based on Look for Jesus…Fire and Bread Kathy Galloway and Ruth Burgess.