The Holy Gospel: April 24, 2011 (Year A)

Read:  John 20:1-18

Meditation:  “Two Resurrections”

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the central tenet of the Christian faith, and the pivotal reality of history.  The fact that Jesus rose from the dead has split history into BC and AD; even when some prefer the categories of BCE and CE, it’s still the same line of demarcation.  World history is marked in reference to the resurrection.

But as I often do, I came to this week’s text asking, “Is anything else happening here; anything else to note and write about?”  And this year, I got a “yes” to those questions.  I want to report that this is a story of two resurrections.  You may already be ahead of me on this, but even if you are, I hope you will rejoice in this fact as much as I do.

The first resurrection is, of course, Jesus’ resurrection.  He died on the cross.  It is a death beyond anyone’s ability to fully describe its nature or its agony.  The biggest word we can use to describe it is “atonement.”  Jesus died—for our sins.  But one clear dimension of his death is that it was physical.  We say it this way in the Apostles’ Creed: “he was crucified, dead, and buried.”  But on Easter Sunday, he came back to life.  The first resurrection, and the one which makes all other resurrections possible.

The second resurrection took place very near the first one.  It is Mary’s resurrection.  Her body had not died, but her spirit was dead as she approached the tomb, and the discovery that Jesus’ body was missing did nothing but deepen her despair.  When John wrote that she was outside the tomb weeping, she was crying from the deepest place possible—from her soul.  She had her own version of, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  In many ways, she was a “dead woman walking.”

Easter then becomes the story of her resurrection.  The appearance of two angels got the ball rolling, but it took the arrival of the risen Christ himself to complete the process.  We do not know what awakened Jesus, but we do know what brought Mary back to life; it was Jesus calling her name:  “Mary.”

This Easter we have the privilege of declaring to the world what Charles Wesley wrote so beautifully in a hymn, “Christ the Lord is risen today!  Hallelujah!”  The first resurrection.

We also have the opportunity to tell those who will come to the empty tomb weeping and let them know that Jesus is alive and calling them by name!  The second resurrection.  We know that by Noon on Easter Sunday, there will be dead people who have been visited by the risen Christ, and they will walk away from their tombs with new life.  And it is not sacrilege to sing of them, “Mary, the weeping one is risen today!  Hallelujah!”

I pray that you and those whom you know and love will have that kind of Easter—the Easter with two resurrections.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
This entry was posted in The Holy Gospel. Bookmark the permalink.