Our Gospel reading is from John’s Gospel, Chapter 20, Verses 1-18.
This Gospel reading tells the story of the discovery of Christ’s resurrection. After his crucifixion, Christ had been placed in the tomb and a large stone had been rolled in front of the entrance. At the time, this was quite a common way of burying people, particularly those who were well off and could afford to buy a tomb such as had been donated for Jesus’ burial by Joseph of Arimathea. Joseph had donated what was to have been his own tomb to Jesus.
But this reading is the story of Jesus’ miraculous reincarnation. Once Jesus had been buried, the disciples and all those who witnessed the crucifixion must have thought “Well, that’s the end of that” and went about their normal business as much as they could in the circumstances. The Apostles must have wondered what was going to happen next, having followed Jesus and been taught by him for more than two years.
We have been to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, to what is widely believed to be the tomb from which Jesus arose. It is now in a very pretty garden – next to a main bus station! But it gives a sense of what, first, Mary Magdalene and then the Apostles would have encountered on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. It would have been quite a feat of strength to have rolled away the stone that stood in front of the tomb and, clearly, the Apostles didn’t at first believe Mary Magdalene when she told them that Jesus’ body was not there, but only his grave clothes remained in the tomb.
The Apostles must have been as amazed as Mary Magdalene was. She had also had the amazing encounter with the two angels seated in the tomb where Jesus had been laid. What a shock that must have been to her – I think that it’s pretty rare to meet with angels! But then the situation became even more amazing when Mary Magdalene met Jesus and at first didn’t recognise him. It was only when Jesus called her by name that she cottoned-on to who he was and, although she must have wanted to hug him, he declined and told her instead to give the news to the Apostles.
What a message of hope this is. At what must have been the darkest time in the Apostles lives, they were given the hope that Jesus had not just died, but had risen from the dead to come back to them. This message of hope is still with us today, 2,000 years later and it is absolutely right that we celebrate this incredible story on this most holy day of the Christian year. May we all have a happy Easter and rejoice in remembering that Jesus is the risen Christ.