By: Andrew Moore, Associate Rector
The Second Sunday of Easter
It all began very early on that morning. The sun hadn’t even risen when Mary Magdalene went to the tomb. We don’t know why she was there. Perhaps she was still in shock, unable to believe the events of the last few days. Perhaps she needed to see the tomb for herself to really believe he was gone. Perhaps she just wanted to be there, to be near him as she grieved. Nothing could have prepared her for what awaited her there. The stone had been rolled away, the tomb was empty. The linen wrappings were there but Jesus’ body was gone. Distressed, she fetched Peter and John, who then ran back to behold this new horror, insult added to injury. Even in death they could not leave Jesus alone.
And so, dejected, they returned home. Mary, alone, remained at the tomb, weeping, until a man she believes to be the gardener approaches her. It is not until he calls her by name that she recognizes that this is in fact Jesus, risen from the dead, returned to life again. He instructs her to go to the other disciples and share with them the good news. Joyfully, she runs and tells them “I have seen the Lord,” and describes her encounter with the living Christ.
And what then do the disciples do? Do they run out into the streets shouting “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”? No. They don’t know what to make of Mary’s story. They are still frightened of the authorities, fearful for their lives. And so they gather together that night in a locked room, likely shaken and confused, unsure of what to make of yet one more shocking development in a week that has been full of them. When suddenly, there among them stands Jesus, their friend and teacher, how they had watched be nailed to the cross and laid in the tomb. “Peace be with you” he says. And, as if in response to the looks of incredulity that must have been on their faces, he shows them his hands and his side,the wounds of the cross not erased from his resurrected body. Finally, having seen with their own eyes that this is, indeed Jesus and not a ghost or a hallucination, they believe. And, like Mary, Jesus gives them instructions. He sends them out to tell the world what they have seen and experienced
And they do, beginning with their friend and companion, Thomas, who, for whatever reason, wasn’t there with the other disciples that night. And, just as the other disciples did when Mary told them the good news, Thomas finds this unbelievable. It defies comprehension. He says that until he can see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side, until he can touch Jesus, it’s just too much for him to believe.
And so it is that, the next week, Jesus again appears to all of the disciples. He goes to Thomas and invites him to touch his wounds, to see for himself that this is all real. We don’t know if Thomas takes Jesus up on his offer, if he does, indeed, place his hands on Jesus’ side. But we do know that Thomas breaks down and confesses his faith. “My Lord and my God!” Perhaps it was enough that Jesus cared for him so much that he offered. Perhaps it was enough that Jesus didn’t scold Thomas or show disdain because of his doubts. Perhaps that was enough for Thomas to recognize the risen Christ, our God of love.
Three times we see Jesus appear to his followers in these early Easter stories. Three times he encounters them, shows them what they need in order that they might believe, and, in believing, might go out and share the story of their belief with others. Jesus meets each of them exactly where they are. For Mary it is merely being called by name that allows her to believe. For the disciples it is seeing Jesus in their midst. For Thomas it is being invited to touch Jesus’ wounds. They each come to know and to believe in the risen Lord in different ways. But in each case it is an encounter with Jesus that makes the remarkable, utterly confounding story of the resurrection believable. It is the encounter that convinces them that the impossible is indeed possible. It is the encounter that equips them to breathlessly share the story with the next person and the next and the next.
So it is with us. We tell the story week in and week out: recounting the remarkable stories of Jesus’ life and work, confessing our faith together, sharing in a meal that both remembers him and nourishes us to go out and share the story with others. But deep abiding faith, the faith that transforms our lives, the faith that we feel in our very bones, the faith that leads us to utter “My Lord and My God,” comes from encountering Jesus. It comes from experiencing God at work in our lives, sharing with us in our joys and sorrows. And it is only after we have come face to face with our God that we can truly go out and share the good news with the world. Because then we believe in a way that is truly life-giving. We know the good news to be true in the depths of our souls.
So where have you encountered Jesus in your life?
And with whom are you going to share that story?