John 20:1-18 “Oh, How Long the Travel to This Day!”
April 8, 2012 – Caitlin Trussell
New Beginnings Church at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility
John 20:1-18 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes. 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Oh how long the travel to this day! This day and, in our story, this garden. In real time, it was about 33 years. In the time of the church year, our travel began with Jesus’ birth at Christmas, wandered with him through his life’s ministry and followed him when he turned toward Jerusalem, toward his death. Some of us in the church have spent the last 6 weeks of Lent walking the journey to the cross with Jesus – listening as everyone who knew Jesus, drifted away from him in denial and fear. Listening to those stories became reminders that those who left Jesus to face his death alone and those who killed him could have easily been us and, if truth be told, are us.
Oh how long the travel to this day! And this day, we enter the garden with Mary Magdalene – her eyes dried out from crying, her mind moving slowly through that cloudy haze of grief, and her body exhausted by lack of sleep – and the wondering continues about what just happened to all that we thought we knew…only to be shocked once more. Jesus is gone. Not simply dead on a cross or in a tomb, but, literally, gone. He’s not where he was supposed to be – similarly to how he wasn’t supposed to be dead on that cross. And Mary, as she realizes that Jesus isn’t there, runs to tell other disciples, who rush it to see the same thing, and confirm that, indeed, Jesus is not there. One of them even sees and believes. But, take note, the story tells us that seeing and believing did not bring understanding of the scriptures to this disciple – a most peculiar point to make in a most peculiar story.
Oh how long the travel to this day! Just when Mary didn’t think it was possible to cry even more tears, she begins to sob. And this day, Mary’s hope to catch some peace in the garden, to take a breather after all that has happened, is shattered. The despair is never-ending because everything seems to keep going from bad to worse. The stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty and Jesus is gone. And she gets asked the question, TWICE, about why she’s crying. Until, finally, she hears her name… “Mary.” And…she…knows…
Oh how long the travel to this day! As Mary now knows that Jesus is raised from the dead, she now knows that there is life after death and hope in despair. Called her name by the risen Christ and sent to tell the story, Mary the Apostle, sees the world through eyes that know the worst…yet trust in an ultimate outcome – the ultimate outcome of life defeating death.
Oh how long our travel to this day! Even as we gather here this Easter day, we bring our own despair to the garden. We wonder where Jesus is and who has hidden him. We wonder if the tears and fear in our own life will ever be brought to an end. And on this day, when we proclaim that “Christ is Risen Indeed,” we join Mary in being claimed by hope – a hope that invades deeply into the despair knowing that despair does not have the last word. Jesus has the last word.
Oh how long our travel to this day! The risen Christ names and claims Mary in the garden in an act that echoes into the baptisms of some here today. Through baptism, Christ calls the name of the baptized and then gives the hope of the deeper name of “Child of God.” Through baptism, Christ gives the baptized the gift of his Holy Spirit, the gift of new birth, the gift of forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. Through baptism, Christ joins us to his death and raises us with him into new life.
Oh how long our travel to this day!
This day when Christ invades our despair.
This day into which Christ infuses hope anew.
This day when Christ calls your name.
Christ is Risen!
He is risen indeed! Hallelujah!