Easter | John 20:1-18
Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb, the last place she had encountered Jesus, and she cannot find him.
God is dead, in her heart, in what she has seen—Jesus beaten, wounded, dead on a cross, his body placed in a tomb hurriedly sealed with a stone. Now, as she returns to the tomb, she can not even find the body of the man in whom she has learned to see God. Her loss is so disorienting, so crushing, that she does not comprehend that she is speaking with angels and with a resurrected God among us, Jesus alive once more.
Early sources do not deny that the tomb was empty. Even those groups antagonistic to the new Christian faith did not deny that the tomb was empty. Instead, the question was how—what had these followers of Jesus done with his body?
It is odd that the gospels make no attempt to describe the process of resurrection. In each case, the story skips instead from God-incarnate-dead-in-the-tomb to God-incarnate-alive-once-more. Arguably the most powerful moment in the gospel, the moment in which Jesus returns to life, is never described. They left out the special effects.
There is much in John’s resurrection narrative (and in those of the other gospel writers, and in the references in Acts and in the letters of Paul) to cause us to wonder.
When Lazarus was called from his tomb, everyone recognized him, and not simply because the tomb was marked. When the resurrected Jesus appears, the stories include the difficulty of recognizing him. It is only when Jesus calls Mary’s name that she knows who he is.
Why upon rising from the dead does Jesus not parade through the streets of Jerusalem to demonstrate the power of God?
Why were the first witnesses of the resurrection, in all four gospels, women? In the extraordinarily male-dominated first century world, would not men have made more convincing witnesses? And out of all of the women available, why always Mary Magdalene?
I find myself seeking reason and certainty when it comes to God and the resurrection. I wonder why it is that God did not, does not, proclaim God with all of the convincing power of God. Why are we left with only these odd gospel stories and these strange brief passages describing the post resurrection appearances of Jesus?
It is strange, this way of God. The Almighty, creator of heaven and of earth, choosing the path that leads to crucifixion and death. God slipping quietly from death and the tomb to speak to Mary Magdalene. Almighty God, able to catch the attention of all creation in a flash, choosing to leave us pondering stories.
I want answers. God gives us questions.
I want certainty. God offers us faith.
Faith cannot be mapped. It cannot be measured, or even understood, and it is often characterized more by our doubts than our beliefs.
We want answers. God must want something different for us, something that we might not even recognize when we see it. We may only recognize it when we hear God call our names.