John told stories. Stories about people just like you and me. In the closing chapters of his Gospel, we learn about the risen Christ through three people. Mary Magdalene, Thomas and Peter. They had the same worries, doubts and failings as we do. It’s through these three that we understand the implications for us today on Jesus coming back to life. And how we’re each called into action.
In the garden
At the start of John, we’re told about the Word made flesh. There from the beginning, from creation. He’s there in the garden of Eden. In him was life and light.
And today we have Mary Magdalene and a story of new life. Of re-creation. And we’re in a garden again. The garden with a tomb in it.
It’s just after 3 in the morning. Mary hadn’t slept much. Not that night nor the night before. It was dark with perhaps the first rays of light but through the gloom she sees the stone has been moved. The tomb is open – but she doesn’t go inside. She makes an assumption: Jesus’ body has been stolen.
How often do we leap to conclusions about things of faith? How do those assumptions affect what we believe and how we behave?
Afraid of the implications?
She runs to Peter and John. Not to all the disciples. Just those two. Maybe they were staying separately to the others? The one who had denied Jesus and then fled, together with the one who had stayed till the end. I wonder what they said to each other during the Sabbath, that day in-between. Or was there a heavy silence, each lost in their own thoughts?
Peter enters the tomb then John follows and they see the grave clothes lying there as if Jesus body had just gone straight through them. We’re told John believed. But believed what? That the body had been taken? No, something much more. That somehow Jesus had risen.
But then, well, nothing… Peter and John go home. No record of telling the rest of the disciples. Or anyone else for that matter. No witness. No testimony. Perhaps they were afraid of the implications of what they’d just seen?
Are we like that? It’s one thing to understand but, for whatever reason, do we keep it to ourselves, afraid of the consequences?
Love and hope
We cut back to Mary. She’s alone and she’s crying. Four times we’re told she’s crying. And why wouldn’t she? Most of us have lost someone close to us. By the end of the times that we’re in now I’m afraid that there may well be more. And we will grieve too. Like Mary. Grieve for our loss. She’s lost everything. Her hope, her future, her Lord. All her senses are deadened.
Now this time Mary goes in. There are angels now. They weren’t there for Peter and John. Out of God’s concern, Mary is sent angels of love and hope. But she turns away. Perhaps we too turn from angels when they’re right in front of us? And when our tide of grief goes out will we see the love and hope that God has sent us?
We are resurrected too
The gardener is outside, but she turns from him too. Then he says: “Mary”…
She twists around and looks into his face and sees the risen Jesus. Jesus who has called her by name. And in a wonderful way Mary is then resurrected too. Not just restored to a life and a hope that she thought was gone. It’s now so much more than she could have ever understood or comprehended.
The morning gloom has lifted and like the Samaritan woman at the well, Mary leaves Jesus. The Samaritan goes to her village and says: “come and see”. Mary goes to the disciples and says: “I have seen the Lord”. They both witness; they both testify.
And Mary is to say, not that he has risen, but that he will ascend. As Jesus says “to be with my God and your God. My father and your father”.
Called by name
Because this God who became human is in this with us. Whatever happens, we’re inextricably bound together with incarnate God.
And this Easter, Jesus looks in our eyes, and he says “Ann” and he says “Ian” and “Irene” and “Joyce” and “John…” He calls each one of us by name. And he calls each one of us into new life.
So, it’s now down to us, to you and me, to say to others: “I have seen the Lord. Come, come and see”. Amen
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. And yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”Teresa of Avila
‘Called by name’ was delivered on-line via Zoom by Ian Banks, on Easter Sunday 12th April 2020, to a mixture of congregations in the Bury, Heywood and Rochdale area. It’s based on John 20:1-18.