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Throughout Lent – the season leading from up to Easter, we’ve been talking about the theme of Flourishing. We get to the end of Lent, the story of the Resurrection of Jesus – the sprouting of new life; the burgeoning of new creation, a new way forward.
But the story is funny. I wouldn’t write it this way. Novelist and Presbyterian Frederick Buechner writes that “The [gospel writers] are not trying to describe [the resurrection] as convincingly as they can. They are trying to describe it as truthfully as they can. It was the most extraordinary thing they believed had ever happened, and yet they tell it so quietly that you have to lean close to be sure what they are telling.”
If you listen to the story there are tidbits that speak volumes. The linen cloths that enfolded the body are neatly folded and stacked. No rushing tomb raider would be so thoughtful. Mary is alone but speaks in the plural “We don’t know where they put him.” The angels ask why Mary is crying, when you’d think it’d be obvious. I mean she’s in a cemetery! The men run to and fro, but Mary cries, lingers, and mourns some more. She doesn’t recognize her dear friend until he says her name.
It seems bizarre, but when you lean in, listen, and reflect…maybe there’s a connection between the telling of this story and the larger story of Jesus…. Wasn’t it Jesus who spoke in John 10 saying “I am the Good Shepherd. I know my sheep. And they know me. My sheep listen to my voice.” (John 10:27).
The story of the empty tomb isn’t about absence, but presence. It’s about being present for a proclamation that requires action rather than confession. It’s a message that is future-oriented rather than backward-looking. The two men don’t know what to do with what they’ve seen. They believe. But what? Mary? They don’t understand what’s happening, so they go back and shelter in place where it’s safe, familiar, known. Mary is too broken to do anything but mourn. She can’t begin to heal. She can’t fathom the road ahead of her until she leaves behind this impasse of death.
Questions for Reflection & Examen: