a sermon for Easter Day Year A
There is no question that both John and Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. But after his Resurrection, Jesus chose Mary to be the first one to see his face.
Alleluia, he is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!
Before I begin this morning, I’d like to see a show of hands: How many of you dyed Easter eggs this weekend? For Christians, eggs are a symbol of Christ’s resurrection: the shell represents Christ’s tomb. And the egg itself represents our new life in Jesus Christ. Now these eggs were specifically dyed for me by Sandi Teel. She didn’t use just any regular easter egg dye or food coloring. She prepared an all-natural dye using red onion peels. Red Easter eggs have a special meaning – their color reminds us of the wine of Communion, and the blood of Jesus Christ.
When I was a boy, my Jidu, or grandfather, taught me an Easter egg game. In English, you might call it the “egg tap” game. In Arabic, he called it, “tah-ish.” He and I would each take an egg, and one of us would tap our egg against the other one until one of them broke. Sooner or later, one of the eggs would crack and the winner would get to keep both eggs. Now there was some strategy to this game. Sometimes, I would simply take my egg and smash it against his. That works, of course, but it wasn’t very satisfying. Then he taught me how to sneak up on it by tap, tap, tapping his egg against mine. After a while, one of the eggs would crack The game took a little longer this way, but it was also much more rewarding.
Today’s Gospel tells how two of the disciples, Mary Magdalene and John, each came to understand Jesus’ resurrection differently. Early in the morning, when Mary Magdalene saw the open tomb, she ran to the Peter and John and told them what she saw. The Bible tells us that Peter and John actually raced one another to get there. They saw that the tomb was empty. They saw that the linen cloth was neatly folded where Jesus had been laid. They saw all this and immediately, they believed.
No muss, no fuss. They believed. And then they went home.
But things were different for Mary. She didn’t go into the tomb right away. She waited outside, crying, until after Peter and John left. And when she finally did go in, she was confused about what she saw. At first, she saw two angels. And then she met a man, whom she thought was a gardener. Her recognition didn’t happen all at once. But slowly, gradually, over the course of their conversation, her perspective changed. And finally, she understood that she was standing in the presence of Christ, himself.
For some of us, this story about Jesus, the man God raised up from the dead, changes everything in a instant. We have come to believe in an instant, just like John did as he looked into the tomb, saw that it was empty. He knew that Jesus had been raised. Just. Like. That. For us, the Resurrection is an actual, physical reality, just as surely as the sun rose up in the sky this morning. Just as surely as we are sitting in this room today. We know, with every ounce of our being, that God raised Jesus from the dead; that one minute he was dead and the next, he was alive and breathing again. And we believe that the same will happen to us all. We believe this because the Scriptures say that’s what happened. For some of us, this story breaks into our lives like a hammer on an Easter egg. Christ is alive! His resurrection is a victory over death and the grave.
But others of us are more like Mary. We need to take some time and work a few things out. First we might talk to God in our prayers. Then we might begin to see the face of Christ alive in the people we meet everyday. Like the gentle tap, tap, tapping of our shell, something finally cracks. We come out of our shell and we finally come understand that the Resurrection isn’t just something that happened one day two thousand years ago. It is happening all around us all the time.
You see, the Resurrection is about more than just raising one man from the dead. It’s about love – the love Jesus had for his friends, even the friends he knew would betray him. For it was only when he set aside his concern for his own life for the sake of his friends that the Resurrection was possible.
But it wasn’t only his disciples that Jesus loved. Jesus sacrificed himself out of love for us, too. He died as he lived, betting against all odds that love is the strongest force in the universe – stronger even than time; stronger even than death. Jesus sacrificed himself for us – to show us that it is only when we give up our concern for ourselves completely that our lives will have meaning, even beyond the grave. Christ died so that we would see that the only way we will ever come to know what it means to truly be alive is to fall through fear into love.
There is no question that both John and Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Both were faithful disciples whose witness continues to bring more and more people into the love of Christ every day. But after his Resurrection, Jesus chose Mary to be the first one to see his face. She was the one who anointed Jesus with perfume before he died. She was the one who recognized him in the face of the gardener in the tomb. She was the one who realized that Jesus died, and Christ was raised, so that we might understand the eternal power of self-sacrificial love. And when she left the tomb, she was the one who did not return home. Instead, she went and found the others and announced, “I have seen the Lord!”
This is why we say Christ IS risen – present tense. Because the Resurrection continues. The Resurrection continues because Christ lives forever. It continues through his promise to us of eternal life with God. The Resurrection continues in each and every one of you here. The Resurrection continues when we see the face of Christ in every person we meet.
We have seen the Lord. And the Resurrection continues, right here and right now.
Alleluia. He is risen!
The Lord is risen, indeed. Alleluia!