This Easter season is unique for all of us, in that we will be not be attending a physical worship service like most of us have done all of our lives. The good news is that the church is much more than a sanctuary, it is a living entity made up of those who are part of the family of God through our faith in Jesus, who was crucified, buried and who rose again in triumph over sin and death. So, this Easter will be different, but the pandemic, which will prevent us from physically worshiping together, can’t keep us from celebrating the glorious resurrection of our Savior.
As we think of the Easter story, we should be reminded of how the followers of Jesus had to deal, not only with the news of his death, but the amazing news of his resurrection. Imagine if the news media today reported on the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. How do you suppose that they would question Mary Magdalene, Peter, or John? What would they say about the stone being removed from entrance of tomb? Would they broadcast from the grave site where Jesus had been buried? Would they make conclusions or raise political questions about whether Mary thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body?
I’m sure in Mary’s mind she must have considered many scenarios regarding the news that Jesus body was missing. Maybe the Jewish leaders had stolen the body, or the disciples had stolen and moved the body. Maybe Joseph of Arimathea decided he wanted his grave site back, or maybe grave robbers were just looking for valuables. Apparently, the idea of the resurrection did not enter her mind. She might not have been privy to Jesus’ teachings about His return from death, but the controversy surrounding Jesus’ trial and execution suggested to her something bad had happened. In any case she expected the body to be there, and in her mind the only way for it to be gone was a theft, or removal by someone. All she could think of was, Jesus was gone. The image of His suffering on the cross, filled her mind, and she had no doubt that He had died, because she had shared in that horror. Her feelings crowded out any knowledge she might have had about Jesus’ predicted resurrection.
Just like Mary, sometimes our emotions in a crisis prevent us from seeing the truth of a situation clearly. Our emotions are all that we can “hear” in our minds. If we allow it, our emotions can “blind” us to reality. If we allow it, the current pandemic will cause depression and disable us from dealing with life. Mary was searching for Jesus’ remains at the tomb but did not find them. If you think about it, we see people searching for Jesus and searching for God every day, but not finding Him. Many people search for God on Good Friday or Easter morning by attending church. Other people busy themselves by doing good deeds to please God. Some try mystical experiences or emotion-filled worship events, because they believe that “there are many ways to God.” Remember the encounter that Jesus had with Mary Magdalene after the resurrection. John 20:14-18, “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” What do you think finally caused Mary to recognize Jesus? Maybe it was His voice, or it could have been just remembering Jesus’ teachings, but ultimately, I believe God gave her recognition. Her response was to cling or hold on to Jesus. She could have been afraid that He would leave again, but just like many people today who are processing the reality of in the news stories of this past week, Mary was emotionally overwhelmed.
When Jesus told Mary to go tell the disciples of His resurrection, this was also part of the “don’t cling to me” command. One of the purposes of Easter is to remind us that we should not cling to old ideas, yesterday’s faith, even the parts of ourselves we wish we could keep forever. There is a risen Christ who meets us in a new form. Because Jesus is alive, God has called us to take the Good News to the whole world about God’s provision for salvation. There simply is no other answer we can offer to people regarding the continued onslaught of world events, including the current pandemic, and the fears and frustrations, which come from all the uncertainties of the world that we live in. So today we rejoice, Jesus is alive and He will lead us through these current days, and all of the challenges we will ever face in the future.