Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb weeping.
She wept as you and I have wept at the merciless savagery of death. Death, which severs the embrace of love, wrenches friends and family from us, and offers no comfort. This death seemed the rape of virtue, a terrible mistake, a cruelly broken promise. Fatally final.
We who also have been pillaged by death reach back through history and empathise with Mary's tears.
Jesus was dead. That much we readily understand.
What followed was unprecedented, bewildering, marvellous.
Impossible! She had witnessed his death. Now his voice and appearance demanded she discard her assumptions about the cycle of life. Demand we do the same.
If we empathise with Mary's sorrow, can we also empathise with her shock? He was dead. He is alive. Hundreds of others had the same shock. They saw him die. They see him live. A real shock to our closed, mind-made-up views of the world. "Miracles don’t happen, do they?" And then Jesus walks out of the tomb and speaks our name!
Empathise. Hear your own name being called and stagger and reel, and struggle to fit the now living Jesus into your ‘death wins’ grid, and fail, and recognise God has done something glorious. And tell everyone!
That is what the hundreds did: "He said he was God's Son. They killed him. We thought, ‘He must have been mistaken.’ God raised him. We hung out with him, and worshipped. He really is God's Son."
"And that was only the beginning. This risen life never ends. He ascended to heaven. We saw that too. He sent his Spirit. We were there. He is with his church. And we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard."
Today we also tell people who have never heard of Jesus that he died and rose again. That's our message. What hope do we have of being believed? What hope did the church have of growing beyond those first witnesses? None. If our message is that Jesus died for our sins and rose again then the church is as good as dead. But God raises the dead. People actually believe the message and are transformed by God’s power like they'd personally seen Jesus die and rise. The church grows. It's a modern-day miracle. By rights it should have died long ago, when Christian martyrs were shedding their blood.
"Mary!" Today the living Jesus continues to speak people's names. In turn people call on his name. He is with them. He is Lord. Risen. Alive. Right here, right now.
Name by name, person by person, he is working towards a greater resurrection. When Jesus rose his body was future-proofed. He was made ready for the age to come when death will be no more, and God will live in glory with those who love him. In the new heavens and new earth, the restored creation, there is room for all who have heard him speak their name, and who love his name. He will raise us too. We will share in the life to come which has been guaranteed by his own resurrection.
The resurrection is history.
Like treasure that really was hidden in the ground long ago. Those who find it today know its ancient burial was a historic fact, but especially rejoice in the riches it brings them now.
The "X" of the resurrection of Jesus marks the spot where you and I can find the treasure of abundant life for ourselves.
Rev. Roddie Rankin (Kyle and Plockton Free Church)