April 4, 2021
John 20:1-18 CEB
Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
Holston Annual Conference
20 Early in the morning of the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 She ran to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they’ve put him.” 3 Peter and the other disciple left to go to the tomb. 4 They were running together, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and was the first to arrive at the tomb. 5 Bending down to take a look, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he didn’t go in. 6 Following him, Simon Peter entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. 7 He also saw the face cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t with the other clothes but was folded up in its own place. 8 Then the other disciple, the one who arrived at the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 They didn’t yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to the place where they were staying.
Jesus appears to Mary
11 Mary stood outside near the tomb, crying. As she cried, she bent down to look into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels dressed in white, seated where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. 13 The angels asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” She replied, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they’ve put him.” 14 As soon as she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she didn’t know it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabbouni” (which means Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Don’t hold on to me, for I haven’t yet gone up to my Father. Go to my brothers and sisters and tell them, ‘I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene left and announced to the disciples, “I’ve seen the Lord.” Then she told them what he said to her.
“Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed!
It Is Always About Relationships
Every Easter morning this is the message we come together in worship to celebrate. As I reread the Gospel lesson from John 20:1-18, I realized something I had overlooked in earlier readings of this text. It was only when Mary Magdalene heard Jesus call her by name that she recognized that it was Jesus, just as we recognize the voice of our loved ones. Easter is when we celebrate that Jesus knows us by name. In the tragic news of the deaths of George Floyd and Breanna Taylor and more recent murders in Atlanta of Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue, Adelaide Ashley Yawn, Paul Andre Michel s, Xiaojie Tan, and Daoyou Feng. It has been important to call their names and remember that Jesus knows them by name. Let us take a moment to pray for the families of these our brothers and sisters.
The gospel of John begins with Mary Magdalene coming alone to the tomb while it was still dark. The other gospel accounts of the first Easter report that the women came early on that first Easter morning. During the past year we have all traveled through much darkness. In the United States there have been over 542,773 deaths caused by Covid 19. Many of us have lost family members and friends because of this terrible virus. Worldwide there have been more than 2.71 million deaths. The pain and grief that the pandemic has brought to the world is unlike anything we have ever experienced.
It is important to remember how John begins his Gospel, “What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not extinguish the light.”
The first Easter was unlike anything that had ever happened. For three years Jesus had walked the length and width of Israel. He had encountered people of all shapes and persuasions. He ate with those who were called sinners and touched those who were considered unclean. He healed many and had cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. She had become a faithful follower and supporter of his ministry. Mary Magdalene knew darkness that we cannot begin to imagine and Jesus had freed her from that. John doesn’t tell us why Mary Magdalene went to the tomb that morning alone, but it reminds us of those tender words, “And he walks with me and he talks with me, and he tells me I am his own, and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.” Mary Magdalene was one of his disciples. As she sat at his feet and listened to his teachings, as she witnessed and experienced the miracles he did, ever since that dark time in her life when Jesus freed her from seven demons, they had been close friends. It is always about relationships.
The darkness of Good Friday reminds us that the Lord of Life has experienced the darkness of this world. However, our hope is always in the promise of Jesus that “God loves the whole world and sent his only Son to show us, you and me, how much the world is loved.” We often spend too much of our lives in the darkness of Good Friday. You may be familiar with the famous line of the late S. M. Lockridge who was the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego for 41years, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!” That Sunday changed everything for all eternity.
Today, may we hear Jesus call us by name as he called Mary by name there at the garden tomb, and may we echo the chorus, “Up from the Grave He Arose!” Yes, we are invited to rejoice on this day that “it’s not Friday anymore, it’s Sunday!” Hallelujah!