Positive Signs of Resurrection

John 20:1-18

Empty tomb

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.

 

Thoughts on the passage:

“Woman, why are you crying? Who are you looking for?” Jesus asks Mary these questions when they meet in the garden. Still, even as she looks right at him, Mary cannot see Jesus. When I think about this story I am left to wonder, have I ever looked into the face of God and yet still not recognized it?

Throughout Lent we have been talking about giving up negativity. I cannot help but wonder if negative thinking is part of what keeps Mary and the other disciples from understanding the resurrection.  When Mary first sees the stone rolled away she goes to tell the discples and two of them return with her. They investigate the empty tomb. We are told that they believe, but it seems like what they believe in is that the tomb is empty, not that Christ is risen. In fact, they don’t do anything more to investigate this mystery but simply return home. The scriptures make it clear that they do not understand what this resurrection means.

Mary seems to have a little more faith or curiosity than they do. While they return to where they are staying she remains. When she encounters someone, she stops and asks him if he knows where the body of Jesus can be found. Like the other disciples, she does not understand that Jesus has risen from the dead. In her negative thinking, she is unable to see Jesus as being alive because she knows in her heart he is dead.

What finally awakens Mary to the presence of Jesus is when he says her name. When I hear this story, I am never sure how Jesus calls to her. Is it with joy at seeing that someone has come to find him? Is it spoken with love for her? Or does it come tinged with sorrow? I can imagine that Jesus might be feeling hurt and alone. He has risen from the dead and no one is looking for him. Even when Mary is looking right him she does not recognize him. Maybe he calls out to her, pleading that she might recognize him.

If Jesus is disappointed with Mary for failing to see him, I know that he must also be disappointed in me. Like Mary, I know there are times that I have failed to recognize God’s presence even when God is right there with me. Why do I do that? I think I don’t recognize God because I don’t expect to see God. I am too focused on other things and I just miss the ways that God is all around me.

During Lent I have been struggling with this idea of giving up negativity. I am not good at it. I have not really so much given up negativity as I have started to recognize when I am being negative. I have not been able to fill myself with positive thoughts but instead have been able to realize the negative assumptions that I have.

One of the things I have come to understand however is that all of us have choices. We can choose to be positive or we can choose to be negative. One of my pastors growing up once gave an Easter sermon and used the phrase “beside every hillside of crucifixion is a garden of resurrection.” We have a choice, we can focus on the hillside of death or we can focus on the garden of new life. When we focus on the death, we see an empty tomb and assume the body has just been moved to a new spot. When we focus on the positives we see an empty tomb and we start looking for a resurrected Christ.

The reality is that we do not need to look hard to see signs of resurrection and new life all around us. We can focus on the negatives, or we can see all the ways that God is at work in the world. I have seen God at work in healing people. I have seen God at work in helping people to share love and joy with each other. I have seen God at work in the grandeur of nature. Signs of resurrection and new life are all around us if we just start to look.

Believing in resurrection is an act of faith. Jesus tells Mary to not hold on to him and I think all of us would have wanted to do the same. We want to be able to touch something to believe in it. The reality is that resurrection comes with some faith. When we believe in resurrection we have faith that new life is possible in this life and the life to come.

Our challenge is to open our eyes to the resurrecting work that is God has done in Christ and the resurrecting work that God is still doing in the world. All around us are positive signs.  We need to open our eyes, our hearts, and our minds to greet the risen Lord who is waiting to call our names.

Questions to Ponder:

What signs of resurrection do you see in your life?

When is a time you struggled to see God?

What can you do to open your eyes to the ways that God is working in our midst?

Prayer:

God of resurrection and new life, help us to see the ways that you are there to save us. Help us to call to you for help and help us know you hear our cries. Open our eyes that we might recognize you. Open our hearts that we might claim you as Lord. Open our minds that we might believe in the new life that you offer to us and to all the world.  Amen