Who Are You Seeking?

Posted 4/1/2018

Scripture: John 20:1-18

It’s Sunday morning and the Sabbath Day — the day of rest — is over. The absolute shock of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion is somewhat past. The body has been buried and the grief is perhaps a little less intense. Yet as anyone who have ever experienced the death of someone they love knows, grief doesn’t just go away because there’s been a funeral. And, like so many of us, Mary seeks comfort in her grief by going to the graveside. Who or what was Mary seeking? She was seeking the body of her dearly beloved Teacher. She was seeking to be near her dear friend — even if it was only near his corpse. She was seeking the one she had known these past few years and longing for just one more moment with him. She was seeking and longing for the one who had loved her when everyone else reviled her. The one who had forgiven her when everyone else condemned her. The one who had been her friend when everyone else shunned her presence. 

And so Mary came to the tomb, seeking her Teacher and friend. Perhaps, despite the stone over the entry, she even hoped to do what would be traditional — place more spices with the body. But when she got there, she saw the stone rolled away. Mary quickly jumped to the only logical conclusion one could come to — grave robbers had been there. The body would have been taken. Having come to be at the graveside of her beloved Teacher and friend, here was yet another — a new — grief. Even the body was gone. Even what she came expecting to find was now missing.

And what about the disciples who run to the tomb? Do they expect — do they look for anything more than a body? It would seem not. They rush to the tomb, only to walk away. They walk away, like Mary, somewhat perplexed by the fact the body seems to have been stolen. And probably even more perplexed because this must have been a very strange grave-robber. A robber who not only took time to remove the grave-cloths, but even left them — perhaps the most valuable thing in that grave — behind. 

It would seem the two disciples, like Mary, came to the tomb looking for the body of their beloved Teacher — now dead. Entering the tomb and verifying the body wasn’t there, they too come to the only logical conclusion one could make — the body has been stolen.

That first Easter morning both Mary and the disciples  come to the tomb seeking a corpse. They come seeking only the one who was. They come longing for the relationship that had been to be once more. They came longing for life to continue as it had been only a few short days before. And they come to the only logical conclusion they can make based on the evidence — Jesus’ body has been stolen.

It is this same logical conclusion that drives Mary as she looks into the tomb and then turns to speak with the one she believes to be the gardener. She has come seeking Jesus. She has come seeking the body of a man — even if a remarkable man — who had been crucified and buried. She has come, seeking to be near to the one she had loved — even if it was only near his corpse. She comes seeking only the one who had been. 

Even after Jesus speaks, Mary responds with words that show she still is seeking only the one who had been. “Rabbi” (Teacher), she say. She still doesn’t understand; as had already been noted earlier in the passage, where it is speaking of the two disciples who ran to the tomb. She still doesn’t get “the scripture, that he must rise from the dead.” She still only thought of Jesus as the one he had been.

And this Easter morning, who do you come seeking? Do you come seeking closeness with a great teacher? One whose words give guidance and wisdom for living? Do you come seeking only one whose words inspire? One who gives you new heart and strength to face the next week? Do you come seeking one whose moral example is worthy of following? One who lays out the path for “the good life” and helps you to make “good decisions?” Do you come seeking only the one who had been?

And yet, the one Mary met that morning was not simply the dear friend she had known. He was not simply “Rabbi,” Teacher. He was not simply an inspiring leader or a great moral example. He was not just a corpse re-animated — one who would continue to live just as he had lived up until his arrest and crucifixion. He was not one with whom the relationship that had been could simply be restored so that life would go on unchanged.

No, this was no ghost or zombie. This is the one who is raised from the dead. This is one who lives — and lives a new life. This was the one who is ascending to God. This is the one who receives all power from his Father. This was the one who could no longer be understood by the categories of logic and the power dynamics of this world. This was the one to whom Mary couldn’t cling because her relationship with this one — this Lord — must be new and different from any she has had before. This was the one is no longer simply “Rabbi,” but also “Lord.”

This Easter, who do you come seeking? Do you come seeking the one who is Lord? The one who  quite honestly bursts all the bounds of our neat logic? The one who is not simply Rabbi, or inspiring leader or a great ethical example, but the risen, living Lord? The one whose power is the power of God, whose love for us is the love of God, and whose life is the gift of life for us — the very gift of God?

Do you comes seeking the one who changes not only the “rules of the world” but the lives of all who follow him — making the impossible possible? The one whose forgiveness opens up the possibility of a new life — a life with God that we never would have dreamed possible. The one whose death leads to victory over death? The one whose crucifixion leads to Lordship over all the world? The one whose humble service leads to ever-lasting glory?

Just who do you come seeking this Easter morning? Do you come seeking a re-animated corpse or the one who is the risen, living Lord of your life and all creation?