The Resurrection of Our Lord
John 20:1-18

When we last witnessed Jesus on Friday night, he was a desolate soul – broken, tortured, and hanging on a tree between two common thieves. As we allowed ourselves to venture to Jerusalem, stand near the foot of the cross, and hear his last words, we had a glimpse of what real love looks like.

His hands, once tender enough to caress a baby, were now riddled with nail scars and spikes. Those feet that had walked miles and miles around Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Galilee were pinned to a cross.

And when he could take it no longer, that voice that once mesmerized even the greatest scholars whispered one last breath and declared: “It is finished.” He hung his head and died. The light went out. The veil in the temple was rent.

In much the same way that Jesus had entered the world and there was no room to lay his head, he is now placed in a borrowed tomb. That was Friday.

Jesus was not partisan, but it was politics that killed him. He was consistently on the side of the poor, exploited, and disenfranchised. We need to remember that this morning. This is what his real crime was.

All of the false charges, arrest and trial, the scheming and plotting, name calling and mob mentality; the spewing of hate and brutality, the public display and mockery was because he loved the marginalized and all whom society had rendered worthless.

Jesus preached of a new kingdom and a new day with a new kind of king to rule over it. He spoke of a king who welcomed the stranger and showed no partiality; a king willing to take the blow for love’s sake, and not for his friends alone, but also for his enemies and even the vilest offender.

If only Jesus had shut his mouth. If only he had not cared so much. If only he would have chosen another lane and stayed in it, he would have likely lived to a ripe old age. If only he would have let it go!

But Jesus did not let it go and he has not let us go. Aren’t you glad about that this morning?  That Jesus kept going until the bitter end?

Aren’t you glad that he remained true to his real passion that took him all the way to Calvary and beyond? That his love was strong enough, powerful enough, and authentic enough to last all these years later and trickle down to you and me?

Anyone gambling or making a bet on Friday would have said, “It’s all over!” They would have laughed and made jokes, “What a mess!” Even the closest disciples were likely shaking in their boots saying to themselves and to one another something like, “We surely got it wrong this time! We followed the wrong guy!”

You know how it is when things look like a failure? How quick are we to get discouraged, afraid? We are often quick to give in and dismiss all that we have ever known when the going gets rough.

It looked like the political powers of that day had won. It looked like systematic and deeply embedded institutional hatred and bias had gained the victory. Their hopes were dead along with their Lord. That was Friday!

But today is Sunday morning! And we gather because we have another truth. We gather to celebrate the triumph over death and the grave – that despite all we see and all we hear – love is still somehow more powerful than hate. And by God’s good grace love will prevail in the end.

It’s Sunday morning and we celebrate all the little resurrections in our own lives. All those times when we were able to get up. Others had counted us out, but with God’s help we were able to overcome. We celebrate those moments when death seemed imminent: moments of chaos and confusion when we were dead, dry, empty, and hopeless but we did not die. Life was not over; we lived and were raised up – somehow.

We celebrate lessons learned, sometimes the hard way but learn them we did. We celebrate those baby steps that might otherwise have gone unnoticed but have brought us on our way.

We have come to celebrate our faith and all who have been burdened by systems of oppression, indifference, poverty, racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia but continue to find their way in the world believing that change is possible.

It’s Sunday morning, Easter Sunday morning, Resurrection morning! It is this truth of resurrection that has held people throughout generations, people of every tribe and hue, who would not give up regardless.

What we say, is that this is where the real power lies. All other kings and all other kingdoms will be taken down. And we claim our own role in making that a reality. All other powers and kingdoms will someday be replaced by the kingdom of God in which the poor are blessed, enemies are loved, strangers are welcomed, prisoners are set free, and where death – even death – is no more.

If we fail to understand this, then we have failed the message of Resurrection. We have missed it.

And do we not need another kind of power in our world other than what we see? Even as we hear about our brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka celebrating one of their holiest days, churches still being burned to the ground in the South, temples and synagogues being bombed. Do we not need the glory and hope of this morning?

I know I do. I need these hymns of praise and words of affirmation jumping off the page. I need a reminder of God’s power in the world still, even now.

I need to be reminded of God’s power to love, to forgive, to fight for justice and goodwill for people. God’s power for the common good, power to be free – truly free, forgiven and whole.

Mary comes to the tomb. She had been an eyewitness of the death and crucifixion of her Lord. Now, she witnesses a new reality. By all accounts she should have been too afraid to even go to the tomb, but love drew her there.

She wasn’t sure of many things but she went on anyhow. And when she arrived, she discovered that the stone had been removed. Like Mary, we are often surprised, rather shocked when we move forward with faith and courage that the stones – though they appear so large – are often rolled away.

And she hears her Lord call her by name: “Mary!” She runs with haste to tell the disciples and her message is so clear. Perhaps at another time she might not have been believed, but she tells it anyway: “I have seen the Lord!” I have seen him for myself and I know.

If Easter is about anything, it is about announcing this message in word and deed: “I have seen the Lord!”

For it is in those moments of recognition, of knowing, and claiming for ourselves that Easter happens. There in the darkness, amid death, turmoil, grief and fear. There in solitude, there alone and overwhelmed, Resurrection happened for Mary and it also happens for us.

On this holy morning, let us listen for the voice of God calling to us. Let us listen with heart and not just ears for what the heart can grasp, the mind receives in a way that leads to transformation.

Rise up, Beloved. If you have even a mustard seed of faith it is enough to turn the world upside down. Rise up and be resurrected people fully alive in a world crying out: “Christ our Lord is risen. Christ is risen indeed!”