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. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
In today’s Gospel reading, Mary, the beloved disciple, and Peter discover that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. St. John opens the story with Mary, walking to the Lord’s burial-place early in the morning before sunrise. We’ve studied John’s gospel well enough and long enough to know that he intends to convey a double meaning when he tells us that she walked to the tomb “while it was still dark”. I’m certain that for Magdalene and the other disciples, this was a terribly dark time.
St. John begins the story with a mystery: the body of Jesus is missing. The disciples first encounter only the physical evidence of what looks like a grave robbing. Someone has rolled the stone away, removed the body of the Christ, and left behind only the burial linens. Mary runs to get the other disciples. Peter and the beloved disciple confirm the absence of Jesus’ body, but none of them yet understands what this might mean. Mary then meets a man she assumes to be gardener, and without understanding it, she has encountered the risen Lord.
I’m struck by Jesus’ question to Mary, “For whom are you looking?” We’ve heard Him ask a similar question before. Jesus asked John the Baptist’s disciples, “What are you looking for?” John 1:38. When the soldiers come to the Garden of Gethsemane to arrest Him, Jesus asks them, “For whom are you looking?” John 18:4,7. We also recall in John’s Gospel that some Greeks came looking for Jesus. John 12: 20-21. I suspect that this Easter Sunday, our churches will be full of people who are looking for Jesus, even though some of them may not even know it.
Consistent with John’s repeated theme of misunderstandings, Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener. Without knowing it, I believe she is right. I think St. John intentionally calls us back, not just to the garden of Gethsemane, but also to the Garden of Eden. Through his resurrection, Jesus has conquered death and re-made creation. That morning, Mary met Jesus and encountered the fulfilment of God’s directive: “Let there be light.” (Gen. 1:2).
It also strikes me that the tomb wasn’t really empty at all. That tomb was full of the visions and hopes of God’s people: dreams of a better world, dreams that they would be better people, dreams that death would not prevail, and dreams for reconciliation with God.
In a sense, that tomb resembles the stable in the Chronicles of Narnia: it is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. The tomb contained God’s dreams for our life with Him. Within that tomb, the disciples will find the revelation that God’s promises were not empty. Those dreams they had weren’t in the tomb any longer; they were walking around and were alive! The shackles of sin and sorrow and death have been broken.
The passage ends with Mary’s affirmation of faith, despite the darkness of the horror on Golgotha: “I have seen the Lord.” I hope that, on this Easter Sunday, you are looking for Jesus. I’m certain that He is looking for you. And I hope that, like that good saint, we can tell the world : “We have seen the Lord.”
Happy Easter! He is risen!
James R. Dennis, O.P.
© 2012 James R. Dennis
Brother James, you intrique me with your insight and exegesis of experiences in the Word. Thank you for today’s. I am most moved and informed, as it has not been a good Holy Week for me otherwise. Praised be our Lord.
My Father and my brother,
I’m sorry it’s been a troubling Holy Week for you. You’re very kind to say these things, and I appreciate the support and encouragement.
Blessings on you and your house,
I have not been keeping up with your writings this week (insert end of term excuse here) but have stolen some time from my studies to read through your Holy Week posts before heading out to the Vigil. I am deeply touched by your words – thank you for sharing your gift and your insights that draw me and others closer to our Risen Lord.
Grace and peace be with you this blessed Eastertide.
My dear Nancy,
I think, given the nature of your workload, the unnamed excuse will suffice.
Your encouragement means a lot to me.
A holy Eastertide to you,
I’m looking for the chocolate 😉
He has risen indeed! Alleluia!
Amen, Charles. Amen.
Thank you for your ministry of words this Holy Week, Br. James. You have been a big part of making this an exceptionally meaningful Holy Week for me this year. Jesus Christ has risen today, Alleluia!
Your words this week have also touched my perspective in many ways. The way You describe how Jesus’ ressurection from death “remade Creation” is awesome indeed! Your writing adds a certain freshness to The Word of God and The Gospel that I certainly do indeed appreciate. Blessings to You and Your House Sir. Alleluia………………….
God bless you, my friend and brother.
I love how you connected the dots back to Creation! What a beautiful concept to ponder this Easter day of celebration of the risen Lord we serve. And may those who do come seeking, find themselves with their eyes wide open to the light that tomb contains.
Blessings to you and yours this Easter Sunday,
Blessings to you and your house during this Eastertide.
He is risen, indeed. Well done, brother.
Many thanks for your encouragement. God bless you richly during this Eastertide.
Amen brother James.. “we’ve seen the Lord.” Salvation has appeared to all men.The Lord bless you
God bless you, and your blogging work, during this Eastertide.
We have seen the Lord, indeed. Happy Easter, Brother James!
Happy Easter, Katie!
The peace of Christ,
I love these pictures, bcsuaee through them I see LOVE,HOPE, TRUTH and EVERLASTING LIFE WITH MY SAVIOR. The pictures of his CRUCIFICTION tells me that if he could endour all the pain and humiliation, then so can I. You are not worshiping the pics, but seeing what our LORD went through for all of us. We were made in HIS IMAGE and COLOR HAS NO MEANING IN HIS EYES. I am Native American and in our language that He gave us, HE is Wanka Tanka, The Great Spirit, Our Creator. All he wants EVERYONE to do is LOVE ONE ANOTHER and TELL OTHERS ABOUT HIM. Thank you Great Spirit for your Unmerciful Treatment, I am waiting for you to return. God Bless Everyone.
I’m glad you like them. I’m a great fan of icons.
God watch over thee and me,