Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes. But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
I camped in the backyard with my very nearly 4 year old on Monday night. With the calls for Social Distancing and the stay-at-home order, I figured why not break out the tent and the sleeping bags and have a mini adventure. My plan was to get Elijah all snug in his bag around bed time and that I would be able to stay up for a few more hours by the fire, reading a book. But, of course, the minute I zipped up the tent the calls for me to join him started ringing out.
“But Dad, what if I get hungry?”
“Dad, I think you probably need to come in the tent now.”
“Um, Dad, I can’t sleep without you.”
So, at 8:30pm, I willed myself into the sleeping bag right next to him and began staring at the inside of the tent until I drifted off to sleep.
It took a long time.
Elijah was out within minutes, but I had nothing to do but listen to the sounds around me until sleep came for me. And, to be honest, I was shocked at how loud it was in my backyard. I could hear full conversations that neighbors were having in their backyard. I could make out the low buzz of a television sitcom with a laugh track coming from somewhere to the south. And I could hear God knows how many cars and motorcycles driving all over the place.
Which only made falling asleep that much harder.
But eventually sleep came for me, and I embraced it with love.
At around 4am I jolted awake inside the tent. I looked around for a brief moment trying to remember why I was inside a tent in the middle of the night, and then I laid my head back down and tried to go back to sleep. But something felt off.
And not just the fact that I was laying on the ground in the backyard.
It took me awhile to realize where my discomfort was coming from – it was silent.
No cars. No conversations. No birds. It was completely still and quiet and it drove me crazy.
Somehow I eventually tell back asleep in the tent, even with the suffocating silence surrounding me. Until around 5:45am, while deep in in a dream, I heard the faintest little whisper, “Dad, are you awake?”
That’s all it took.
The whispered voice of my son called me out of what was into what is. And I was awake.
The Bible contains multitudes. But sometimes what it doesn’t say is what really stands out. Like one of my favorite and least favorite passages from John’s gospel, “Jesus did many other signs and wonders but we didn’t record them here.” I mean, why the hell not? I would love to know more about what Jesus said and did.
For as much as the Bible tells us, it’s notable that we learn absolutely nothing about what happens from the time Jesus is taken down off the cross until the disciples head to the tomb a few days later.
I would love to know what they were up to. But, we don’t get a behind the scenes glimpse at their grief stricken conversations. We don’t get to hear Mary the Mother of Jesus singing a song of lament to rival her Magnificat.
In fact, we don’t even find out what exactly happens in the tomb with Jesus that whole time.
Instead, Scripture just picks up right in the middle of the darkness with Mary Magdalene traveling to the tomb.
Which is just another way of saying that the most pivotal moments in the Gospel take place not in the light of day but under the cover of darkness. Whether its the incarnate life in the womb, or the upending of creation from the cross, or the resurrection within the tomb, it all begins with and in the dark.
Mary walks to the tomb in the silent darkness. She discovers, unexpectedly and inexplicably, that the stone has been rolled away. And she runs to tell the disciples. They, of course, rush to the tomb, take a peak inside, make some connections, and leave only slightly wiser than when they arrived.
But Mary stays at the tomb. Overcome with grief, she weeps.
Let us just stay here with that word for a moment. Before the joy of Easter, before the Good News truly becomes good, Mary grieves.
Loss is something we don’t often give space for during Easter. We focus so much on the Bunny, and the Candy, and the Eggs, and the hymns, and the lilies, that we don’t make space for people to feel what they feel. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave does not take away the pain of absence in death.
But death has been changed.
The Resurrection gives us eyes to see that death is not the end.
However, Mary has not yet seen the risen Lord. She peaks into the tomb and sees two angels and they ask her about her tears. For what it’s worth, they don’t tell her to get over her grief or start processing her feelings, they just ask her about her tears.
Then she turns around and see Jesus standing there, though of course she doesn’t recognize him. And he, like the angels, asks about her tears. She pleads, supposing him the gardener, to tell her where the body of her Lord is.
And instead of responding to her request, Jesus says, “Mary.”
Easter, for Mary, begins with a whisper.
All it takes is the sound of her name whispered from the lips of the Lord and everything changes forever.
She runs with the Good News ringing in her head and is the first to preach Easter to the disciples with words that still shake our hearts, “I have seen the Lord.”
The resurrection of Jesus Christ happened at night. No one was there when it took place. By the time Mary arrived with her tears it was already finished.
Some of the best and the most important things in the world take place without us have to do much of anything. That is a very strange and troubling word for those of us who feel as if we’re never doing enough. But Easter, Easter is a reminder that the most defining moment in the history of the cosmos happens in spite of us.
That’s why it’s Good News.
Jesus doesn’t wait behind the stone until his disciples have the right amount of faith before breaking out. Jesus doesn’t tell them that he will be raised only when they evangelize enough people. Jesus doesn’t give them a list of to-dos before Easter happens.
Jesus came to raise the dead – not to reform the reformable, not to improve the improvable, not to teach the teachable, but to raise the dead.
The promise of Easter for people like you and me is wild beyond all imagining. It it the gift of life in the midst of death, it is a way out simply by remaining in, it is everything for nothing.
Easter is the promise that God, who has always been with us, will remain with us.
Easter is the promise that God can make something of our nothing.
Easter is the promise that death isn’t the end.
And we don’t have to do anything for it.
So I end with a whisper, not with clanging cymbals or banging drums, but with a whisper of the Good News, the very best news.
He is risen. He is risen indeed. Amen.