31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 4, 2021 Easter
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
Mary Magdalene wept. Peter and John ran. Thomas doubted.
Early in the morning while it was still dark, when the Sabbath was over and she was finally allowed to go, Mary Magdalene went immediately to Jesus’ tomb. Mary knew she would not be able to see Jesus’ body for a variety of reasons including the stone blocking the entrance of his tomb. Mary just wanted to be close to Jesus, to be where his body lay.
And that is a perfectly understandable reaction to loss. Many of us continue to visit the cemeteries where our loved ones are buried or sit in their favorite spots. We simply want to feel close to them.
On that first day of the week, while Mary was going to the tomb, Peter, John, and the other disciples were at home. They were grieving as well. They were just grieving differently.
In the third book of his series, Journeying through Grief, Dr. Kenneth Haugk, writes about how we should share and not compare our grief. “Thinking you should grieve a specific way or for a certain amount of time to match another person’s grief will only make you feel worse. Losses are never comparable. Spare yourself the added pain.” (Journeying through Grief, “Finding Hope and Healing”, Kenneth C. Haugk, pg 6)
Each of these disciples had a different reaction to Jesus’ death. Each grieved in their own way as we each grieve in our own way, and that is normal.
When Mary came to tell Peter and John that the stone had been removed from Jesus’ tomb, when out of breath and panicked, she told them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20:2), Peter and John then jumped into action, running to the tomb to see for themselves.
John, “the one whom Jesus loved”, runs faster than Peter, gets to the tomb first, but just cannot bring himself to enter. Simon Peter does not hesitate. He goes in right away when he arrives; however it is John who first believes. Even without understanding the scriptures yet, John still believes in Christ’s resurrection.
In the continuation of this passage, Jesus appears to the disciples that Easter Sunday evening. Jesus appears to them where they are- in a locked house, afraid that those who killed Jesus will be coming for them. Jesus appears to the disciples and says, “Peace be with you.” and he shows them his hands and his side (John 20:19). And they believe.
Thomas is not there that Easter evening, and when the disciples tell him they have seen the Lord, Thomas outright says, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) This statement has lead to Thomas being labeled as Doubting Thomas; however Thomas just needed to see Jesus for himself.
Each of the disciples took their own journey to belief. It took John seeing the empty tomb and the neatly folded burial clothes to believe. It took seeing Jesus for the other disciples to believe. Thomas needed to touch the resurrected Jesus Christ. And Mary Magdalene? Mary’s path to belief came through sorrow and tears.
After Simon Peter and John saw for themselves that the empty tomb was not the result of robbers or the authorities taking Jesus’ body away, after they saw the reverently folded grave clothes, Simon Peter and John returned home believing, not totally understanding, and yet still believing.
Mary stayed and wept. The journey of grief cannot be rushed. Mary needed to journey through her grief before she could believe, journey through her grief before she could understand the wondrous thing God was doing through the empty tomb.
Even when two angels appeared to her, Mary did not understand. She wasn’t ready yet. Even when Jesus appears to her himself, she still does not understand and believe. What Mary needs, what it takes is Jesus saying Mary’s name. Hearing her name spoken in the familiar voice of her teacher, Mary immediately recognizes Jesus, and she believes.
She believes even though she does not fully understand exactly what is happening right before her eyes. She believes even though she does not comprehend everything about what Jesus’ resurrection will mean. The journey to fully understanding the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, the wonder of God’s unconditional love, and the gift of salvation, this journey of understanding takes a lifetime for most of us.
For now though, Jesus says to her “Do not hold on to me” (John 20:17). In her grief, in her relief, Mary Magdalene might have been reaching out to take Jesus’ hand, to hug him close. Jesus isn’t telling Mary she cannot touch him. Jesus invites Thomas to touch his hands and side. Instead, Jesus is telling Mary not hold on to the old relationship that they had, to not hold on to things as they were before; because with Christ’s resurrection, all things are new. On this Easter Day, all things are made new.
And Mary believes. In that moment, Mary Magdalene understands what has happened, that God has raised Jesus from the dead and that God will raise us too, that the world has been transformed, death no longer holds us captive, nothing can ever separate us from God’s incredible, unconditional love.
All things are made new through God’s love and Christ’s resurrection.
Mary Magdalene understands. She believes and understands, and excitedly, she goes again to the disciples; however this time she doesn’t go in sadness, panic, and fear. This time she goes rejoicing, telling them she has “seen the Lord” (John 20:18).
Each of the disciples had a different reaction to Jesus’ death. Each of the disciples had a different reaction to Jesus’ resurrection. Each of the disciples had a different journey to faith and belief.
And so it is with us. We grieve differently; we come to faith differently; we connect with God differently. Jesus knows that each one of his followers needs different things to embrace and walk this life of faith. Some upon hearing of Christ’s resurrection instantly believe. Others need to study and understand the scriptures. And still others need to have a personal experience where Jesus calls their name. We each come to faith in Jesus Christ in our own time, in our own way.
What is the same is Jesus’ love for each one of us. Jesus meets us where we are and loves us equally. Through Christ’s resurrection, God shows us that nothing, absolutely nothing can separate us from God’s love, that no matter who we are, no matter who we love, no matter where we live, no matter how we connect with God, no matter where we are on life and faith’s journey, God loves us and always will.
And through the good news of God’s incredible, wondrous, overflowing love for each and every one of us, we are made new. Our world is made new. All things are made new through God’s love and Christ’s resurrection. Hallelujah! Amen!