Losing Jesus

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday

“Losing Jesus”

Scripture              John 20: 1-17

The last few days have seemed like an eternity as we’ve reflected on final meals, foot-washings, betrayals, brutal beatings, crucifixion, and preparation of Jesus’ body for burial. After all of that—and because of all of that—we long for this day when we gather to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as God’s triumph over sin and death, and what a glorious day it is! The stone is gone, and we even stuck our heads into the tomb for good measure. Jesus is no longer in the tomb, nor has he been taken. “He is risen! He is risen, indeed.”

Countless sermons have been delivered on this passage and rightfully so. It contains a series of powerful gospel moments: the footrace to the tomb, linen wrappings without the corresponding corpse, a weeping woman, angels and a risen but unrecognizable Lord. Often lost in these narrative elements, however, is Mary Magdalene’s troubled refrain: “Someone has taken away my Lord.” She expresses a concern for the location of Jesus’ body no fewer than three times throughout this passage.

Mary first reports the body’s disappearance to Peter and the other disciples. This first Easter proclamation is filled with blame, doubt, and uncertainty. Her words prompt Peter and the other disciple to go and see for themselves. Similarly, in tear-laden words, Mary reports to the two angels that “they” have taken away my Lord, never once stopping to inquire of the divine messengers regarding Jesus’ location.

On a third occasion, in the presence of Jesus himself, although she mistakes him for a gardener, Mary wonders aloud about the location of the corpse. In an interesting narrative twist, Mary seeks clarification from the supposed gardener: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” (John 20:15). 

The anxious uncertainty that motivates Mary’s remarks and questions is somehow anchored in her ignorance of the Resurrection.

* It is almost as if the absence of his body exacerbates her grief.

* Mary Magdalene’s frantic search for Jesus suggests that finding a corpse on Easter       morning is preferred to the absence of Jesus’ body altogether.

* She is holding on to the crucified Jesus so tightly that she is unable to grasp the resurrected Lord.

Mary’s frantic search ends abruptly when Jesus calls her by name. Her eyes and heart are opened to his presence as she hears the familiar voice of her rabbi, her teacher. Although the text does not say, it is not difficult to imagine Mary reaching out to embrace Jesus or falling at his feet. Her mind must be filled with relief, confusion, and a lot of questions at this point.

Returning to the text, however, it is striking that immediately after Mary realizes it is Jesus who stands before her, she is forbidden to cling to him: “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father.”(20:17) She is then instructed to deliver a message to the brothers: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”(v. 17)

What! You can’t be serious! What kind of tragedy is this? It isn’t enough that Mary is mourning the torture and crucifixion of her teacher, but now her own expectations in the wake of his death and subsequent resurrection are frustrated as well. Why is Mary being told that she is about to lose Jesus yet again? Granted, she is not losing Jesus to death, but she is losing him to the Father.

Mary Magdalene mirrors many of our concerns and wishes on this Easter morning.

Earlier this week, an old couple received a phone call from their son who lives far away. The son said he was sorry, but he wouldn’t be able to come for a visit over the holidays after all. “The grandkids say hello.” They assured him that they understood, but when they hung up the phone they didn’t dare look at each other. Their hopes were dead. They wanted to hide their tears.

Earlier this week, a woman was called into her supervisor’s office to hear that times are hard for the company and they had to let her go. “So sorry.” She cleaned out her desk, packed away her hopes for getting ahead, and wondered what she would tell her kids.

Earlier this week, someone received terrible news from a physician.

Someone else heard the words, “I don’t love you anymore.”

The circumstances of these and so many other things that happened this week are very different…but the emotion felt is the same … the pain that is felt in the pit of your stomach  when hope died… And the darkness  is overwhelming.

At those times, like Mary we are frantically searching for any shred of proof we can grab on to.

I hope you know those times because no one is ever ready to encounter Easter until he or she has spent time in the dark place where hope cannot be seen.

Easter is the last thing we are expecting. It’s about more hope than we can handle. That hope is for you. No matter what is going on in your life, I hope you find Jesus  today…hope you know the one who loves you…the one who will never leave you.