Sunday

21 April 2019

John 20:1-18

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, 'I have seen the Lord.' (v. 18)

Psalm: Psalm 118

Background

In the darkness of the night, we find Mary at the place of Jesus’ burial, the place of death. Mary isn’t looking for life; but rather, deep in the agony of grief, she has come to be with her Lord. In encountering the empty tomb, she runs to tell others the dreadful news: his body has been stolen. In typical Johannine (those that followed the teachings of John) tradition, the text is full of detail: the stone is rolled away, the linen wrappings removed, the clothes of the grave lie neatly folded. Like Mary, the evidence leads us to believe that Jesus has been taken from us, an intentional departure.

Mary is left alone in her despair, as the other disciples, confronted by an empty tomb, return to their homes. Mary sits and weeps. All she knows is pain and grief, the despair of not even knowing where Jesus’ physical body is located.

Into this scene of despair God breaks in, unrecognisable to Mary until he speaks her name. Death is not the final answer. The illogical, the impossible, the unimaginable has taken place. The one who was dead is alive. The established rules are forever changed. Mary’s closed world is broken open.

Jesus’ response reveals our deep desire to hold onto the risen Christ. His response in verse 17, "Do not hold onto me", reveals something instinctive about our humanity: our desire to possess, to cling to what we have discovered, our deep fear of letting go. Mary is told something we all need to hear: the risen Christ cannot be contained or controlled. The instructions from Jesus are incisive: Mary is commanded to tell "my brothers" of his impending ascension.  

Mary goes to the disciples immediately, her confession is simple and profound, "I have seen the Lord". As we hear these familiar words again, we are invited into this altered reality. As witnesses to the resurrected Christ, we are invited to see differently, to embrace a vision of new life. The old story of death, grief and emptiness is not the final word. The resurrection of Jesus is not simply a creed that we recite. It is God's address to us as we face our present circumstances. The resurrected Christ is God’s ‘Yes’ to the world.

 

To Ponder:

  • In what ways as individuals or as a church do we ‘hold onto Jesus’ in unhealthy ways?
  • Where have you seen signs of the resurrected Jesus?
  • What ‘new life’ is the risen Christ inviting you to embrace?

Bible notes author

Deacon Eunice Attwood

Eunice is a Methodist deacon. She is a tutor in Pastoral Theology at the Queen's Foundation in Birmingham, and a member of the Centre for Ministerial Formation since 2012.

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