Today is Easter Sunday!
Today is the day that we celebrate Christ’s triumph over death, his resurrection. Today we look back on the terrible events that lead up to this day, and rejoice that they are over, that the doubt and fear of Holy Saturday has become the light of Sunday morning. In the resurrection the ancient promise of the messiah is fulfilled. We celebrate that Christ not only returned from the grave, but that when he rose again he raised us up with him, restoring us from sin, something only he could do for us.
Today we remember how the disciples and followers of Jesus doubted as he lay interred, only to be bewildered at how he came to reveal himself to them. It is told this way in John 20:1-18:
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have take the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead).
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’.”
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Though Christ went to the grave alone, all of humanity was raised out of sin when we ascended.
We may never truly grasp the enormity of this single event.
Instead, we can only celebrate God and what he has done for us, and refresh our hearts and souls for the year ahead. When we next take the communion cup, may we remember again for the first time what it means to be in community together, to be part of a global humanity saved through God’s grace. Let us carry the meaning of Easter with us everywhere, remember in the darkness of the soul that the most devote disciples had doubts and fears, and carry the light of the message that God rose again, for us all.
Let us remember the disciple Thomas, who even after all he had seen and done while he travelled with Jesus, and the words of the other disciples that had encountered the resurrected Jesus, could not believe that he had truly returned to life. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” (John 20:25) Only when Jesus met him, and let him see and feel with his own eyes and hands did he cry out “My Lord and my God!” Let us renew our faith in God, knowing that all that he promised has been fulfilled.
He is risen!
Holy Father, thank you once again for the wondrous gift of your one and only son, who walked among us, lived with us and died for us. Today we rejoice that you are a living God, that your grace and compassion are available to us every moment. May we keep this blessed truth close to our hearts every day, and with that knowledge, be through our words and actions reflections of your mercy. Though we are made mortal and tempted to sin, may we live in compassion and grace, as you have for us. Thank you once again for the cross, and all that it represents. May it shape our hearts and minds, so we may be more like you every day. In Christ’s glorious name, amen.