Easter Sunday - When every prayer is answered
I have seen the Lord John 20:18
It’s been the weekend from hell and now, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene is weeping at the tomb of Jesus. The questions we have asked… were Mary’s long before they became ours: How is she going to endure the overwhelming of her soul with such sorrow? Why have her hopes and even her prayers come to nothing? And where on earth is God when Jesus lies dead in the grave? In deep trauma Mary Magdalene comes to pay her last respects. And so she sees the answer to all her prayers through her tears.
How very beautiful it is that the first person on Earth to see Jesus after His resurrection does so through tears – or perhaps – it’s the twilight or simply the impossibility of the reality and the fact that she’s been seeing his face everywhere anyway all weekend - but when Mary first sees the Lord she mistakes him for a gardener! This moment alone makes me want to follow Christ for the rest of my life (I’m weeping as I type). How can we fail to love such a Lord? Here is the Alpha and Omega, Creator of the rolling spheres, the One whose resurrection from the dead heralds the bright dawning of a new dispensation. The earth has quaked and angels worship, but He Himself is mistaken for a humble, bumbling horticulturalist with dirt beneath his fingernails at the start of a working day. This then, is the great revelation. And, of course, it doesn’t come to a man – not to Pilate or Caiaphas or even to Peter or John. It comes first to a woman, and a bad woman at that – one from whom Jesus had cast seven demonic powers and who (according to Catholic traditions) may even have been a prostitute. Mary was a bad woman who had become a gracious woman, generous and faithful to the end.
The first words of the New Covenant are a question. Not an announcement, not an answer, but a quietly considerate question addressed to a weeping woman: “Why,” Jesus wants to know “are you weeping?” And for anyone like Mary, anyone like you and me, who has journeyed through the darkness of Maundy Thursday and the despair of Good Friday to reach this garden tomb, it’s a stupid question. But it’s also a profound question and, with hindsight, even a funny one, too. Jesus, the God you may confuse with a gardener, simply speaks Marys name. Easter dawns with a question and a name.
Instinctively Mary moves to touch, but Jesus warns her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary runs to tell the disciples the incredible news: Jesus has risen from the grave! What’s more, He’s not returning to heaven in a huff with his so-called “friends.” He calls them His brothers and wants them to know that His God is, explicitly, their God. His Abba, Father is theirs. They are closer to His heart than ever before. For this commission, Mary Magdalene is sometimes recognised as the apostle to the apostles, the first witness to the resurrection! Mary’s life had been transformed utterly by Jesus. This former victim, who had been faithful through many trials, becomes the apostle to the apostles, the primary recipient of the Good news the Jesus Christ is alive!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he had given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Peter 1:3, 6-7