Some people have a favorite line from the Bible that they have memorized. “Let the children come to me, for such is the kingdom of heaven.” “For God so loved the world,” or “Love one another, as I have loved you.” My favorite is the first line from this story.
“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed, and it was empty.”
I love that everything happened “while it was still dark.” Most people don’t like darkness.
People are afraid of the dark. The years after the collapse of Rome, when learning, culture and industry all went downhill, when 1/3 of Europe died because of the Bubonic plague, we call The Dark Ages. And Bubonic plague is also called the Black Death. Then there is the sinister Batman movie, ‘The Dark Knight’, dark matter, the dark web. Dark times.
In Charles’ Schultz Peanuts’ cartoons, Snoopy was always writing novels that started with, “It was a dark and stormy night.” A dark and stormy night gives us a sense of foreboding, of terror, or grief or knowing something awful terrible is going to happen.
That’s how the friends of Jesus felt. Jesus had just been killed. They saw their Messiah, their brother, friend, leader, and hero betrayed, arrested, tried and unjustly condemned. One of their own buddies betrayed him. Then he was publicly humiliated, whipped and nailed to a cross. While all that happened, most of them ran away, and Peter, one of the men he most relied upon, denied that he even knew him, not just once, but three times. Then, after another day with very much stress, and very little sleep, they went to bed. It truly was ‘a dark and stormy night.’
BUT, while it was still dark, for us, God was at work. While it was still dark, God created life again, out of nothing. But not just new life, like God does all the time, every Spring, and with each babies’ birth, but God breathed new life into Jesus, the one they loved.
We experience dark times. The world itself is threatened with many things: war, nuclear armaments, famine. We just need to open a newspaper, look at aol news, turn on the tv or listen to the radio, and we are accosted with so many terrible things that threaten or hurt individuals or entire nations.
We know we are the hands and feet of Jesus now. We know that it is up to us to do what we can to bring new life to individuals, and to situations where people or creation is threatened.
The UCC encourages the three great loves: love of neighbor, love of children, love of creation.
We MUST take care of our family: the family of God, the vulnerable, humankind, animals, birds, insects, plants, and the earth itself. We must love everything with life-giving actions, but when we do what we can, we could still fall short. We are limited, and we have limited resources.
But when it was still dark, Mary found the place of death empty. Death wasn’t there anymore. While everyone was living through a dark time, and had given up, God started new life. That’s one of the reasons that Mary found Jesus in the garden. The tomb was actually by a garden, but symbolically, Jesus has new life, and is surrounded by new life.
That might be why Mary couldn’t touch him. She addressed him by his old name – how she new him, “Rabboni,” “Rabbi” but that’s not who he was anymore. He was new. She couldn’t embrace and hold onto the way he used to be, the way she wanted him back. He was new, and everything now is different. Life is different.
Jesus is here like he’s never been before. Once, he walked the streets of Galilee, and touched the lives of a few hundred people. Now, his Spirit is like the wind, and it blows over the whole earth. Each of us are the hands and feet, the body and voice of Jesus. But try as we do, to make things good, it’s not only up to us. We don’t bear the weight of the world.
Even when things are dark in our lives, now we live in the light of Easter. There will never be unending darkness. Jesus has risen, and our lives will never be the same.