Reflections from The Hill – Leaving
– John 20.1-18 Normal
Every day someone, somewhere, receives hard news from their doctor. Every day someone, somewhere, is told to clean their desk out because the business is finding it hard to keep them on. They wonder what on earth they’re going to tell their kids.
Every day someone, somewhere, hears the words “I never loved you”. Every day somewhere, an elderly couple’s only child phones to cancel his holiday visit to them after all.
Every day somewhere, someone’s hopes get dashed. Every day somewhere, someone’s dream gets snuffed out. Every day somewhere, someone’s reputation gets crucified. And the darkness is overwhelming.
In that same darkness, one particular Mary came with spices to complete a job of burying someone, one who had given her so much hope. Ever since, all over the world, things haven’t been the same.
We’ll never know that the Light of Christ has come until we’ve known the darkness of disappointment and hopelessness in some form or another. The absolute last thing we’re expecting is resurrection; the last place that we might look for it is in a cemetery.
We all know Easter’s not about rabbits, endangered bilbies or magically-painted (or just plain chocolate) eggs. Easter is really about having more hope than we ever knew was possible.
Picture Mary walking along the road to the tomb: thoughts of her last few days tossing in her head; thoughts of
Galilee; thoughts of that fragrant moment in her home when the perfume pervaded the house; thoughts of the time when He was popular. There was hope then. Not now.
She was horrified to find that the body had gone. She reckoned that someone had pinched it. Of course, she was scared and overwhelmed, so she went looking. It’s amazing how much running around there is when dead bodies go missing.
In the end, it’s all too much for her: falling by the door of the now empty tomb, the dribbles of tears begin their sad descent. Was it madness that led her to ask the angels? No matter; their answer didn’t impress her anyway.
Then she supposed a gardener appeared. But he was not. All she wanted was for him to give her back the body but all he did was call her by name. Heart recognition wanted to embrace him but he said no. Heart break followed again.
Every time we think we have him in our arms, hands, captured, he slips away because every effort we make to nail him down is just another effort to put him back in the tomb. It’s futile, because he won’t go.
Then we find him again, in an even more unmanageable form this time, almost unrecognisable. Don’t we understand yet that the very thing we are looking for is dead – and Easter doesn’t alter that?
We can’t cling to the hope that he’ll take things back to the way they were, not only because he can’t but also because that’s not the way out of the darkness.
The old Rabbouni we once knew has been left behind like yesterday’s clothing and until we discover the new Christ, the new saviour who alone has risen out of our disappointments, we’ll never really understand what Easter’s about.
It’s never been a matter of just believing the doctrine of the Resurrection. If it were, it wouldn’t be long before we found ourselves conforming to the darkness and making gooey claims about the “spirit of Easter” or about “new beginnings.”
It’s not a matter of belief in the historical event itself, either. (I can hear you sucking air between your teeth even as I write this, but stay with me.)
What each of the Gospels asks is not “Do you believe this?” but “Have you met the risen Christ?”
There is no doubt in my mind that Mary was the same after that first Easter morning. Her normality had been shattered the very minute she discovered that her hold on him wasn’t the issue.
What did matter was the confidence she had in his hold on her. It’s an easy step, then, that when it comes to our turn, the story is the same. It’s not about us holding on but of him holding on to us.
After the resurrection, things didn’t return to normal: they never could. It’s basic to everything else the New Testament talks about. There is no ‘Normal’ anymore. We can’t even rely on the darkness.
What we can rely on, the only thing we can know is that the risen one is out there somewhere. And he knows our name.