Jesus is MIA
Women went to the tomb to place spices on the Jesus’ body as he had been quickly buried in Nicodemus’ tomb on Friday evening. A stone had been placed in-front of the entrance and guards were posted. John reports that the women found the stone rolled back, the guards gone and John does not report conversations with angels or the risen Lord. John is not focusing on the narrative of the story but the truth of history: Jesus’ body is gone. Was his body stolen? Was it moved? Did he really not die? Mary does not know.
This is a truth that is not private but must be shared. The women immediately ran to the disciples to share the news. In the face of government opposition, the crucifixion and guards, and even in the face of religious opposition, truth must be shared. The disciples arrived and they did not fully understand what was happening either. Jesus is MIA! The historical truth of the missing body found on Easter has changed our lives.
Unlike the night journey of Mohammed from Mecca to the Temple in Jerusalem with the Angel Gabriel, experienced by one and believed by many, the empty tomb was seen by many and the risen Christ was seen by many different types of people. But all that has not happened yet. At this point in time, Jesus is missing.
The disciples returned home because the truth of the resurrection is lived into. The implications are worked out in our lives. Today we may live with the virus but we know it is something that will pass as all illness do, resulting in return to health or reception into eternity. The risen Christ is not something we live through, going back to our everyday life, whatever that will mean after recovery. Belief in the resurrection changes our reality forever. We have a savior who can be accessed at any time now, by any person now, in every place now. He is risen!
What difference does that make in our lives? Do we just hunt our Easter eggs, sing our songs, celebrate and then return to normal? Who are we running to tell today? Is there room in our thinking to grow in understanding God’s presence now? Jesus went MIA but what did that mean?
The angels ask Mary, “Why are you crying?”
John now turns to an angelic encounter. Mary, probably the sister of Martha and Lazarus, lingers outside the tomb and is reflecting on the truth – his body is gone. What happened?
That which cannot be seen, that cannot be touched, that which has disappeared from sensory experience is so hard to grasp and understand. I hear and see about Covid-19 on the TV and radio. I see people wearing masks and social distancing. But how does that impact me? At the mountain top youth retreat outing, I am so overwhelmed by the reality of Christ and the Christian community but then I return to the humdrum of everyday life and feel the loss in the return to normal. I have a fantastic morning devotion and before noon, I have let some disagreeable word come out of my mouth or at least enter my thoughts. As the experience that is processed through the five senses moves to our spiritual understanding, I must reflect and move from historical truth to spiritual life.
I doubt Mary had a little phrase to explain reality, “Jesus died for my sins.” Mary had not seen the resurrected Jesus and in fact, when he appeared, did not recognize him. In that time of disconnect from understanding truth– he is not moved, he is risen – Mary grieves. In the face of death, physical or just the death of our old self that has been affected by the resurrection, perhaps we too grieve. How is Covid-19 going to play out? What will the new normal look like?
Mary bends over and looks into the tomb and there encounters the angels. Perhaps the mountain top experience is inspirational and insightful but we must bend over and look. We have no tomb to look into like Mary but we can look into scripture. Gradually we come to realize that the “lamb of God” was a sacrificial image that John was using at the beginning of his gospel. Gradually we come to grips with our sinful selves and we weep. Faith draws us to a deeper understanding and into a truer self that is called upon to forgive, turn the other cheek, share our cloak – we weep. The joy of Easter truth gives way to challenges to growth.
Jesus asks, “Why are you weeping?”
In the midst of her anxiety and confusion, Jesus appears unrecognized and asks the question, “Why are you weeping?” Please note that resurrection does not mean absence or social distancing. Jesus is not deterred by her confusion, her lack of understanding, or her grief. One of the great messages of Easter for us today is that Jesus is with us as we grieve, as we misunderstand, and as we reflect. He is not unavailable because of our humanness. But perhaps we do not recognize his presence.
Mary asks a question, “Where have you taken him?” Jesus is not afraid of our questions. Into that time, he spoke her personal name. He no longer addresses her as “woman” but now calls into her personal space, her personal name, “Mary.” We are no longer looking at historical truth of the resurrection, and we are not looking for understanding, but we are facing personal truth called forth in our name. Jesus knows us, sees us, is present and cares about us. We cannot hold onto him as our personal commodity but he sees who we are in our very essence. Our tears are met by his presence.
This Easter Sunday we live in the shadow of Covid-19 that makes our future health unpredictable, in the shadow of political unpredictability as we approach elections, and certainly in economic upheaval from the sheltering. I do not think it is that different from Bible truth. We are not hunting Easter eggs and candy nor having festive meals with family and not even gathering in churches with people we love. We sit as the early disciples did.
The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. Jesus is risen.
We seek to understand as we look at the tomb today.
Jesus knows our names and is going before us!