April 11, 2009

Seeking Life Among The Dead?

This poignant image captures the moment of Mary's incomprehension, as she hears her name spoken by someone she knows is dead. After all, she has been present at the crucifixion of Jesus, seen his sagging body removed from the cross, and then been the one who laid out his corpse in the tomb. She has no doubt that Jesus is dead. But now, inexplicably, she recognizes his voice.

--from bible-art.info

From John 20: 10-18:

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?"

"They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: "I have seen the Lord!" And she told them that he had said these things to her.

Mary Magdalene, a true follower and disciple of Jesus, remained at His tomb after everyone else was gone. She told the one she thought to be the caretaker she would find His body, take proper care of it, and return it to its resting place. When she heard Jesus speak her name, she knew He was alive again.

In 2009, some have written off the resurrection as unlikely, improbable, impossible, or irrelevant. It is none of the above, and in fact, if the resurrection didn't happen, there is no reason to follow Jesus Christ. There is no wisdom in the tomb. There is no reason to follow a man who lied to and deceived his followers about eternal life and the power of God flowing in and through them. If He couldn't save himself, how could He save them, or anyone else?

Many admire the so-called "wisdom of Jesus", His emphasis on forgiveness, caring for the poor, justice for the oppressed, and embracing the rejected. These are all good and godly things the church should practice. Still, without the resurrection, His claims to forever care for and watch over His followers, to prepare a place for them, and to reunite them with God are meaningless and empty. No dead person can do these things.

This Easter, all of us are confronted by the resurrection, by the God-Man who went into the realm of death and returned to the realm of life. At the tomb, Jesus asked Mary "Who is it you are looking for?" He asks each of us the same question today. If you are looking for a dead man who told great stories, worked some miracles, and grew a following, you are out of luck. If you are looking for God expressed as human, who is reaching out to you, you will not be disappointed. The question still stands: "Who is it you are looking for?"

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