5 Apr 2015
“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1)
In the name …
Do you know that for as much as we talk about Jesus’ resurrection we have no biblical account of it? We have stories about what happens after the resurrection, but no one ever sees Jesus actually come out of the tomb. Mark, Luke and John all tell us basically the same story. When the women arrive at the tomb on Sunday morning, the stone at its entrance has already been rolled away and the tomb is empty. Matthew tells us a more dramatic story. The women arrive just as the angels descend and roll back the stone, but the resurrected Jesus don’t need no help getting through a stone, and so again, the tomb is already empty. So no one has ever seen the resurrection, but amazingly archaeologists have unearthed an ancient recording of what it sounded like at the sacred moment when Jesus is dead no longer. And equally amazing is that Jesus was singing with a back-up group.
Is it sacrilegious to think Jesus had a huge smile on His face when Easter happened? Is it wrong to think He sang with out joy and gladness? What a wondrous surprise Easter must have been … even for Jesus. (Kentucky. Hands are in the air like I just do not care.)
We started Holy Week with a reading from Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, with a passage that is even older than the Epistle itself. We’re talking in the 50’s AD. It’s hard to get much earlier than this in Christianity. And we read these words on Palm Sunday: “Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but he emptied himself …” (2:6-7) In other words, Jesus’ divinity was something of a mystery even to Jesus Himself. His humanity was that real. Then on Holy Thursday Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane. He told His closest disciples, “‘I am deeply grieved, even to death.’” (Matt. 26:38) Jesus was scared about what was about to unfold. On Good Friday as He hung on the cross, he yelled out in words so powerful that they were kept in the original language: “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Matt. 27:46) God in heaven felt far away at that terrible moment. And Jesus died. The reality of His torment and His death cannot be erased by pointing to His divinity.
But with that said, can we then even begin to imagine what it must have been like for Jesus at the resurrection? As Peter declares in this morning’s Lesson: “‘They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day …’” (Acts 10:39-40) What a jolt that must have been! He died feeling the full weight of His humanity, but He resurrected enjoying the full strength of His divinity. Just as powerful as Jesus’ humanity was at the cross so was His divinity on the third day. Everything that Jesus had emptied Himself of to be born as one of us was returned on Easter. However it happened, when Jesus was tapped on the shoulder in that tomb and He opened His eyes, He now saw with the eyes of God. That’s a mystery we can’t even begin to imagine, but surprise is a good place to start.
But just as the divine was always a part of Jesus’ humanity so His humanity will forevermore remain a part of His divinity. When the resurrected Jesus opens His eyes and sees as God sees, one of His first visions is His own battered body. The resurrected body is glorified. The Bible makes clear that it is real, that there is substance to it. But it’s a body that doesn’t worry about a stone blocking an entrance to the tomb. In a few weeks we will read about Jesus and Doubting Thomas, when Jesus tells His hesitant disciple to put his fingers in the nail prints and his hand in the gash in Jesus’ side. The resurrected Jesus carries these wounds with Him for eternity even in His glorified body. As Jesus sits enthroned in heaven, those wounds are still real. They always will be.
There’s a religious folk song (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOAzobTIGr8) sung by Peter Mayer called Japanese Bowls. The ancient Japanese would not simply discard cracked or damaged pottery bowls like they can go to Walmart and buy another one. They would fuse the broken parts back together again with gold. His lyrics go like this: “When they had a bowl to mend, [the gold] did not hide the cracks. It made them shine again.” The bowls are made more beautiful by their cracked and damaged parts. They’re not hidden; they’re accentuated. When the resurrected Jesus looks at those scarred hands, it’s like the gold holding the pottery together. Those wounds accentuate His love for us and make it even more beautiful than it was before. The resurrection isn’t about Jesus forgetting what happened to Him. It’s about transforming it from defeat into glory.
And Easter is also our chance to sing, to be transformed. It’s our chance to be surprised by the awakening touch of God. We can look at our broken parts and see the gold because Easter is the promise that each of our lives is more than what we see only with our eyes. I have to tell you about a recent conversation with a friend who has cancer. He told me about all of the strength and comfort he gets from the kindness shown to him by others, gifts he would never have known except for the cancer. He’s looking at what is broken, but he’s seeing the gold. Easter likewise gives us all the power to be optimists, that nothing is greater than our God. They took everything away from Jesus, and yet God gave Him the chance to sing again. Easter has the power to change everything or to at least to change me. And that’s why the resurrected Jesus on that old recording dug up by the archaeologists was singing It’s going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day. Easter surprised Jesus, I bet. Let it surprise us still today. And for this we pray in Jesus’ most holy of names. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo