I love Easter and Holy Week. I love the pastel eggs and the bunnies and the chocolate. I love the palm crosses and the hymns and minister’s proclamation on Easter morning that, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!*”
At Easter, I always revisit one of my favourite passages in scripture – John 20. It’s the passage that describes that very first Easter Sunday, when the newly risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb.
As you may recall, Mary, having discovered the open tomb, runs to fetch Simon Peter and the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (thought by many to be John the Evangelist.) The men arrive, witness the empty tomb, and then leave. We are not given much insight into what they were thinking at this point, only that they had not been aware of the scripture that Jesus must rise again from the dead. We also know that the beloved disciple “believes,” although the nature of his belief is unclear.
Mary stays behind and continues to weep. When she musters up the courage to enter the tomb, she sees two angels sitting where Jesus’s body had been. I’ve always loved how, when faced with two angels, Mary is not afraid. People were almost always afraid when angels appear in the bible. Often, the first thing angels say when making an appearance is, “Do not be afraid.” But they don’t say it to Mary. They simply ask why she is crying. It’s our first clue that the resurrection changes everything – something that Pastor Bruxy Cavey discusses on this week’s show.
Bruxy talks about how Easter reset so many things. Easter did away with the need for continued sacrifice. Easter replaced the law with love.
I believe that Easter also established a new role for women in the Kingdom; one that was transformed from playing a marginal role in temple life, to being key messengers of the Good News.
I don’t think it was an accident that the newly risen Christ appears to Mary – a woman. He could have appeared first to Simon Peter, who was first into the tomb. He could have appeared first to the disciple he loved. But instead, He appeared first to Mary.
The first word he spoke was “woman.” The NLT translation has him say, “dear woman,” which is familiar and filled with love. Mary had been a friend.
Mary is commanded by Christ to “go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” And this is the part where I want to stand up and cheer because Jesus tells Mary – Mary Magdalene, with her complicated past – to go and share the Good News! In my mind, there were trumpets blasting as she ran off all Wonder Woman-like.
What a radical departure from tradition! In the culture of that time, women were marginalized, and, still, Jesus chose a woman to share the news of his resurrection. It’s yet another example of the upside-down Kingdom and how Jesus overcame the world.
This Easter, between hiding the chocolate eggs and deciding what to wear for brunch, I will take time to think that very first Easter Sunday. I will give thanks for the clarity Jesus provides.
And I will rejoice and be glad in it.
*All scripture is taken from the New Living Translation