LOOKING THROUGH THE EYES OF MARY
EASTER MESSAGE FROM GCI PRESIDENT
On a local Charlotte news station, they have chosen to end their broadcast with a Smile Segment. Oftentimes this includes children and pets in playful situations in the fresh green grass of spring. I have noticed how the news anchors are intentional about smiling more throughout their news show as well. In this time of global crisis, we need more smiles and hope.
As we’re recording this, the coronavirus is affecting 184 out of 195 countries around the world. This is more than a slow-moving hurricane hanging out over the state of Florida or a sleeping volcano that erupts in Tagaytay, Philippines. This virus doesn’t just affect one region, it is affecting the entire global human family.
Not only is this a major health risk and enormous strain on the healthcare systems, the disruption to industry from travel and tourism to restaurants and retail are greatly hit. This all equates to lives being disrupted – kids not being able to attend school and pending graduations; parents not having jobs to go to and needed income to pay the bills, and on and on it spirals. The disruption is far-reaching and overwhelming.
What are we to make of all of this? Especially as believers of Jesus Christ?
Instead of rehearsing a long list of worst-case scenarios playing out in the here and now, can you travel with me back in time to a Sunday morning to a garden tomb outside the walls of Jerusalem? And can we stretch our minds even further to put ourselves in the sandals of a woman who has gone to this garden tomb with the intent of anointing the dead body of a Rabbi who changed her life?
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20:1-18 (NRSV)
There are multiple scenes that happen on Resurrection Sunday.
1. Mary and a couple of other women go to the tomb in the early morning hours to pour oils and perfumes on the dead body of this prophet/preacher from Nazareth.
What is their mood and posture? Loss, and the grief that comes with loss. Confusion – their Lord and Master has died? How could this be?
The celebrated Messiah who rode into town just one week before to praises and palm fronds is laying lifeless in a sealed tomb. Mary’s worldview is turned upside down.
2. Upon arrival at the tomb, the stone is rolled back, and the body is missing – so, the reaction is to run tell Peter and John.
What has Mary assumed? She says, “They have taken him. And we do not know where they have laid him.” Instead of thinking about the words of Jesus, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” The first thought was that the Roman guards had removed the body.
3. Peter and John race to the tomb, and the women are coming along as well.
John wins the race but waits outside the tomb. Peter gets there and without hesitation goes immediately inside the tomb. Seeing only burial linens inside and no body, they both return home.
The awaited scene four
4. Mary stood outside the tomb, weeping. Mourning the loss of Jesus and exhausted from the turmoil from the past three days, notice this – Mary lingered.
Through the haze of her tears, she peers inside the tomb once more. To her shock and surprise, two angels are seated on the burial platform. The angels question her tears of grief.
Mary then goes out of the tomb and sees a figure of a man she believes to be the gardener. The supposed gardener also questions her about her tears of grief. Then to her much-needed relief, Jesus simply calls her by name – Mary.
It’s in the recognition of that familiar voice that everything changes.
Can you feel the turning of overwhelming grief to indescribable joy? Can you surmise how her confusion has now turned to an understanding that can only be divine?
All through the story, Mary has referred to Jesus as “My Lord.” Her Savior lives and she has spontaneously moved from a world that was fallen apart to a new world with boundless hope.
Brothers and sisters, the COVID-19 with all of its spiraling effects is completely and totally trumped by an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. Hallelujah and Amen!
My parting advice is for you and me to linger; to linger in the presence of the risen Jesus and listen for him to call our name.