John 20:1–18 (NRSV)
Chapter 20Early 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. Verse 2So 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." Verse 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. Verse 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. Verse 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Verse 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, Verse 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Verse 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; Verse 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Verse 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
Verse 11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; Verse 12and 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. Verse 13They 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." Verse 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Verse 15Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" 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." Verse 16Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Verse 17Jesus 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.'" Verse 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
We come to the conclusion of Holy Week—ending in the excitement of Easter Sunday. A young student friend of mine, Paul, told of his childhood Greek Orthodox Easter celebration, when his priest strode down the aisle roaring “Christ is risen!” The congregation roared back, “He is risen indeed!” When the priest got to the entry doors, he burst them open and shouted to the whole world, “Christ is risen!” The congregation again shouted back, “He is risen indeed!”
That is what we need to remember and proclaim with boldness and joy. We serve a risen Lord who has vanquished death. And, because he lives, we, too, shall live in the joy of Easter.
As I write this with winter and COVID-19 closing in, the future looks murky and conflicted. But one thing I know: Easter always comes on time, in time. Battered though we may be, our Easter faith will revive and renew us once again. “Christ is risen!”
Christ is risen from the grave’s dark prison. So let our joy rise full and free. Breathe, O breathe, your quickening Spirit into the darkness of our lives, and lift our spirits with the hope that only you can offer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.