Christ is risen! Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia! So that’s all well and good for us, but what about Mary (Mary Magdalene)? When she looks in the tomb she isn’t inspired to shout at the top of her lungs, “Christ is risen indeed!” She’s, instead, sad, disappointed, worried, thinking the whole thing is nothing short of a complete travesty. Because this man isn’t someone she heard preached about at the local synagogue or whose picture she saw on a random wall or someone she read about in Scripture. Only weeks before this supposed-to-be just a son of a carpenter saved her brother, Lazarus’s, life. He was dead, and then was brought back to life by this Galilean. He had to be more than just some average son of a carpenter.
And even before that, stones were about to be ferociously heaved at Mary because her community was convinced she was undeniably a good-for-nothing adulteress. However, this man from small town Nazareth staunchly stood between her and death! This “son of a carpenter” was different. Mary Magdalene saw in this man someone who was not only willing to save her life and her brother’s, but to actually save the life of every person who was thought to be worth nothing at all; a man after God’s very own heart with a mercy and compassion for all humanity of all times and places, including the ones who feel as if they don’t deserve it at all.
So, no, Mary isn’t thrilled to see Jesus gone. She wants to somehow say her humble good-bye at His final resting place. She wants to somehow say, “Thank you!” for all He did for her and her family, because that’s all she can offer Him after He died on the cross for her and the world. She wants to extend her appreciation for the newfound hope He restored in her that will last the rest of her life.
But then there it is, this dark-infested empty tomb. In an instant that’s how her heart felt. Her hopes inconceivably dashed by this awful death that her Savior did not deserve at all; but for whatever reason, still took on with all He had to offer for Mary, for Lazarus, for you, for the entirety of humanity. Nevertheless, in an instant, through that same boundless tender care Jesus, the Risen Lord, shows up on the scene of her turmoil as He did each time before. Mary, the looked-down upon thought to be good-for-nothing Mary Magdalene gets to be the first witness to Jesus’ everlasting triumph not just for her or her brother, but for all children of God, over and against sin and death forever!
It is most certainly the greatest news of all time: that the victory of everlasting life is taken care of by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We don’t have to worry about impressing God. We don’t have to obsess over avoiding sweets and red meats for forty days of Lent in order to better satisfy God. Our Messiah has more than done the job to save all of us for eternity.
So with that in mind, there’s something I think we often take for granted in this Easter story, and it’s the fact that Jesus sticks around that dreadful tomb at all. He more than has the right to go straight into heaven from that dark-infested rotten grave. He did His job, to say the least. For three years He preached, He ate with sinners, He healed people from sickness, He gave food to the hungry, He died, He rose from that hideous death. What else does He really need to do exactly? Certainly He’s entitled to be done and escorted into Heaven in divine and glorious triumph.
But there He stands, still beside the stone that kept Him in for three whole days, and yet, somehow eager to continue ministering a woman in pain and anguish. Evidently, Jesus, the Risen Lord, is under the impression, there’s still more work to be done! Evidently the Resurrection does not stop all suffering from there on out. Evidently the Christ, after the greatest victory of all time, still wants to help a grieving woman, still wants to love, still wants to show up in our broken life oftentimes without us even realizing it or giving thanks to Him at all.
That’s the best part of this Resurrection story for our mortal time. Yes, everlasting life is taken care of: that’s wonderful, miraculous news, to say the least. But what does this story do for us now, in this life? Jesus sticks around for a reason. No matter how dark the day seems, no matter how daunting, no matter how much hope may seem lost for good, as Mary Magdalene felt looking into that never-ending darkness: she obviously wants to find Jesus; but He’s already there, right beside her, standing with her in the thick of her sadness.
He never left, and our Risen Lord never will. The Easter story does promise a Resurrection for the living and the dead in due time, but it also promises that until then, our Savior shows up time and time again at our dark-infested tombs of fear and worry and anxiety and guilt and shame and everything in between. There’s no darkness deep enough to take over the light of the Resurrection dawn; for Christ has won the victory over sin and death not only for the life to come, but right here, right now! And absolutely nothing in all of Creation will be able to separate us from that love in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Thanks be God that Christ is Risen then, now, and forevermore! Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Guest pastors will lead us in worship during St. John's pastoral vacancy
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon