Alleluia! He is risen.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!
These are not the thoughts of Mary Magdalene. Not at first. Mary Magdalene’s great anxiety on Easter morning is that
“they have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2b)
That’s her report to the apostles, and so Peter and John race to the tomb, only to find that Mary was right. The tomb is empty.
For Mary Magdalene and the apostles, that the tomb is empty is not yet good news. The good news of Easter is not that the tomb is empty. Indeed, an empty tomb may mean nothing more than Mary supposed: that someone had come and taken him away. Such a message still leaves Peter puzzled, John in half-belief, and Mary weeping. The angels in the tomb ask her “why?” Again her answer: Because,
“…they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” (John 20:13b)
Even the appearance of angels is not enough to drive away the heart-wrenching sorrow from Mary’s heart if she doesn’t know where she may find her Lord.
Mary is asked one more time:
“Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” And thinking she was talking to the man in charge of the garden, she said to Him: “Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” (John 20:15)
Mary was desperate to know where she could find the dead body of her beloved Lord. And the answer was nowhere. She’d never find that dead body again. Instead she would find the body that had been dead, now alive and to never die again. Her anguish and worry blinded her to who was standing right in front of her. Her eyes did not reveal Him to her. Instead it was Mary’s ears that did the job. “Mary,” Jesus said.
And as soon as her Lord called her by name, as the audible sound of Jesus voice entered her ears, she knew. There was only one Who spoke her name like that. That is because Mary knew the sound of her shepherd’s voice, who was now standing in front of her. She finally knew where her Lord was. And joy came flooding in upon her soul. Great relief and then at the same time a sudden rising fear, fear that He might get away from her again. So she lunges and tries to grab a hold of Jesus and to hold him so tight that He’d never be able to leave her grasp again. “I’ve got you, Jesus! I’ve got you forever!” The Crucified and now Risen Lord rebuffs Mary and says “Do not cling to Me,” “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father.”
Mary’s heart must have sunk to her toes. She had thought it was going to be like it was before. Like it had been for the last years on the road in Galilee and Judea: Jesus preaching and teaching, and Mary just being able to be with Jesus and serve him and love him. She thought that His being alive again meant a restoration of the good ol’ days. Jesus must pry her loose and give Mary new vision, a new understanding, even a deeper faith.
This deeper faith that Jesus gives Mary would not allow things to be like they were before. Things would be better than before. Greater than before. Greater than Mary could ever imagine. Better than walking around Galilee with Jesus is the Risen Lord taking up His abode within you. Even more significant than an earthly home is a heavenly one. Unimaginably more than a human companionship with Jesus, is the gift of being made a brother or sister of Jesus and so an heir of the heavenly Father. With Jesus, there’s always more.
“Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God.” (John 20:17)
And so, Mary was sent that day as the Lord’s chosen messenger to the Apostles. She was sent to bring to them the word of forgiveness from the Risen Christ, for He called them His brothers. She was sent to bring a word of hope to the despairing, for Death had not defeated Him, and so death is overcome for those who belong to Him. Mary was sent to bring Good News to the grieving, because Jesus had announced that His Father was now their Father. And off Mary ran to tell the Apostles that she had seen the Lord and to announce to them “that He (the risen Lord) had spoken these things to her.”
Anxiety, fear, worry, grieving…these words apply to many different circumstances. Anxiety over employment. Fear of what will happen next? Worry about contracting COVID-19. Grieving over the loss of fellowship and gathering as the whole body of Christ at Trinity/Our Redeemer. I have good news for you—none of this world’s problems will last. For you have the one thing needful. We will carry on as the Church on earth, one way or another. The Church Militant has been and will always be taken care of. We have our Lord’s promise. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against Her. (Matthew 16:18)
And that is because there is no more anxiety about where to find Jesus, for it is the Lord who does the finding. Only if the Lord had remained dead would you need to go in search of Him. But when it is the Risen Christ, He is the one who goes in search of you. He is the one who finds you. He is the one who drives away fear, who pardons sin, who tramples down death, who embraces you with an embrace so secure that He will never let you go until you feast your eyes upon Him whom you have learned to love only with your ears.
For that is how the Lord finds you today, in the post-Resurrection church. Through your ears. He finds you by sending out His Word, His message. It’s a message from our Brother Jesus, who lives and reigns to all eternity, whom death could not hold. It is the Good News that Jesus was crucified for your sins and raised for your justification.
Our Brother Jesus declares that His Father is our Father and He gives to us His God to be our God. It’s a message from the One who has gone on ahead of each of you to prepare a place for you so that He may one day come again and take you to Himself, that you may be His own and live with Him in His kingdom forever.
Where is He? The One, Who is in heaven, is at the same time the Holy One of Israel whose power is in His Word, words which He places in His chosen messengers’ mouths to speak for the peace and joy of His people. Hear His Word, read His Word, mark His Word, learn His Word and inwardly digest the Word made flesh. For in that Word you have eternal life. By His resurrection, you have Jesus’ guarantee.
Alleluia! He is risen.
He is risen indeed, Alleluia!