Easter Sunday (b) 2018
Today we celebrate the Triumph of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is a triumph of life over death, of good over evil, and above all it is a triumph of love. Love that is the greatest of all virtues; that gives meaning to our lives; that teaches us to hope when reason tells us to doubt or despair.
It must be significant that Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb first; she who loved Christ so much. She gets up so early in the morning, when most sensible people are still asleep. Something in Mary urges her to get up early and just go to the tomb. To be there with Christ’s body. But when she gets there she sees the stone rolled away. Seeing this she panics. She doesn’t go into the tomb. She immediately assumes that someone has taken Christ’s body. Such is her anxious state of mind that she runs. Mary cannot walk. There is no time to be wasted. She is still thinking that someone must have taken the body, so she must tell the others quickly before the trail goes cold. When she meets Peter and John she can hardly speak, she is so breathless but eventually she manages to blurt out: “they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him”. Who are ‘they’: the Jewish Leaders, the Roman soldiers, bodysnatchers? Peter and John immediately pick up Mary’s anxiety. And so they run to the tomb; they run as fast as they can. They are thinking that there’s still a chance that they might catch those who have taken Christ’s body away.
When they arrive at the tomb they too are breathless. They both enter. We don’t know what Peter is thinking as he surveys the scene, but we do know what John is thinking because the gospel tells us; ‘the disciple Jesus loved, saw and…believed’. He hasn’t seen the resurrected Christ, that will happen later, but here and now, in the empty cold tomb a light dawns in his heart. A light he cannot ignore; an awareness that something incredible has happened, and he is excited beyond words.
He is the disciple Jesus loved. His heart told him that it was true: Christ’s body wasn’t snatched away, but he has risen from the dead, as he said he would; but no one believed him. That burning in John’s heart convinces him; and no one can tell him otherwise: Jesus is really risen. Mary Magdalene would understand. She too loved him. The other disciples would eventually be convinced when their eyes saw for themselves. But John believed with his heart before he saw with his eyes.
John and Mary loved Christ in a very special way. There is something about love that makes sense of the impossible. He gives you an instinct, a certainty. The lover knows; he/she just knows. Was it Pascal who said, “love has its reasons that reason cannot understand”.
John the Beloved Disciple only saw the empty tomb. But something told him that something beyond his wildest dreams had just happened. Without seeing, without touching he believed. It was love that convinced him. We too, two thousand years later, have not seen, nor touched, ther risen Christ, but the fact that he is risen has changed our lives; it gives us hope, that precious gift, that gift that we all need so badly at times; when we have doubts and fears; when we look at our world today and worry about the future; when all can seem dark and hopeless. We christians do not despair, because of our faith. Jesus Christ who is our life, who loves us, has risen from the dead and he will never leave us again. This is the message of Easter.