Sermon for Easter Sunrise, C 2016
Text: John 20:1-18
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.
What a tender way for the Lord to reveal Himself to Mary. Even now that His humiliation has ended and the glory of which He did not make full use nor give full revelation is taken up again, Jesus does not reveal Himself to Mary by striking the earth with bolts of lightning. He does not give the cry of an archangel and awake the whole of Judea on the sleepy morning following the high Sabbath. Mary doesn’t feel the earthquake that Matthew tells us frightened the soldiers standing guard at the tomb. Mary, whose grief is still sharp from the loss of her teacher, master, and rescuer, the one who liberated her from the power of seven demons now has added to her grief the indignity of her master’s body being stolen from the grave. In her hurt, her confusion, her misery Jesus comes and reveals Himself in a word: “Mary.”
That same voice that cast out the demons, had cried out in agony on the cross, now speaks her name. The little lamb recognizes her shepherd’s voice when He calls, and bleats out in joyful response, “Rabboni!”
Tears of sorrow instantly turn into tears of joy. The confusion of where the body of her Lord has been taken gives way to marvelling that He is now alive. The desire to carry away the dead body of Jesus to honor Him in His death is replaced with the overwhelming desire to cling to His living body that she might never be separated from Him again.
The gentleness of the Good Shepherd is manifest in the way He deals with His distraught lambs. Even when Mary will not let go of Him, Jesus does not shake her off of Himself. The old translation of “Do not touch me” fails to capture Jesus’s meaning and tone. It is not that He cannot be touched by Mary, but that she should not think to keep Him to herself. She is not to cling to Him as though letting go would mean losing Him. For He who has conquered death will never be lost to those who seek Him. Jesus will not let Mary keep His body in her grasp. For even though He has accomplished our redemption, His work is not done. He will ascend to the Father and reign over all creation for the good of Mary, and the disciples, and every one of His little lambs.
Remember that in your moments of grief. When Jesus does not seem to stay in your grasp, but tells you He must leave, know that it is not you who must cling to Him and keep Him with you, but it is He that clings to you. It is He that rules all things for your good.
But Jesus does not rush off either. He spends forty days appearing to His flock on earth. How many of those times Mary was present I do not know, but I doubt that this was the last time she saw her Rabboni on this earth. Jesus tarries before He ascends. He continues to teach those whom He has redeemed. He continues to reveal Himself to those whom He has taught. He continues to strengthen those who doubt. He continues to forgive those who sin. He continues to love those who are drawn to Him and those who hold back in fear and doubt.
And when He departs, it is with the promise, “I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” If His Father is our Father, then we are truly His brothers. Therefore Mary and the disciples and you are heirs of God’s Kingdom. You will not be left out of the household. Your Rabboni will come again. He will stand upon the earth and you and Mary and each dear Lamb of the Shepherd’s flock will see with your own eyes your living Redeemer standing upon the earth. And you will recognize His voice calling out your name just as Mary heard Him that day in the garden. Only on that day instead of Mary hearing the voice of One she thought was dead, the dead will hear the voice of Him whose lives and reigns to all eternity. And all who have been named by Christ in the waters of Baptism and have loved His voice in this life will share His life with Him.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria