Rev. Katherine Todd
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you — unless you have come to believe in vain.
For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to someone untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them — though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
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 round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?” 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.
Nightmare of all nightmares, here was the singular man who had loved them like none other. Here was the singular man who had opened hearts, minds, and souls. Here was the singular man who had healed the sick and brought the dead back to life.
This man was re-making the world as it SHOULD be. This man was calling each person to be the most whole person they COULD be. This man showed them what LOVE looked like. He showed them what faith felt like.
Everything that meant anything, he had touched in healing, in mercy, in grace, in truth, in forgiveness. Everywhere he had gone, he bestowed blessing. People ate because of him. People drew near to God because of him. People were restored to community and family because of him. People lived because of him.
This man was nothing but Love. This man was nothing, if not Truth. This man had shown them the Way.
And they were utterly heartbroken.
The one they loved…
The singular one who’d loved them so well!…
The One who say both who they really were and who they could be…
THIS ONE the institutional leaders had set out to destroy.
They looked for opportunity,
in order to take him down.
They could no longer bear the insults,
being called out,
being exposed for the sinfulness of their hearts,
having their rules and teachings challenged,
all the changes he incited,
having the lowliest among them exalted,
being passed over in the shadow of this exalted prophet…
But of course these lay below the surface. Then there were the party lines:
He blasphemes God!
He presumes to be God’s own son!
It just wouldn’t do.
And so they hatched a plan.
The leadership happened upon a turncoat – Judas –
and they seized their opportunity
for insider information.
They carefully avoided the crowds.
Heck, they avoided the sun!
They came – like a thief in the night –
for this servant who had always come before them in the light.
They came – armed to the teeth –
for this servant who they knew possessed no weapons.
They came to silence him.
And so it was that Jesus was betrayed by one he loved,
and handed over to those who wished him harm.
And all his disciples – named and unnamed, men and women all – were left in the confusion and darkness of what had transpired. They were left powerless, to a system much more powerful than them. They were left in mourning for the truest Love they had ever known.
And it was a living nightmare – ever worse, day by day.
Perhaps some hoped for justice to win out in the end.
Perhaps some hoped for truth to come to light.
Perhaps some hoped Jesus would set himself free and disappear from the crowds, as he’d done amidst that angry mob who lost their illegal pig industry due to this prophet setting a tortured, demon-possessed man free.
Perhaps they imagined him speaking in power over the elements of nature – commanding an earthquake or storm – and taking over the establishment, taking over the government.
But everyday turned darker and darker
until it was clear
that nothing would divert the establishment
from its will.
He must cease to be.
He is handled most haphazardly – handed over to the government on accusation of treason. His innocence is known, and yet, the will of the religious leadership presses the government powers. And so in true government fashion for the day – a wager is put forth, a flip of the coin; the fickle will of the crowds will decide if Jesus lives or dies.
And the religious leadership is so very determined that they advise their own constituents to vote to release a murderer, rather than release the prophet.
What kind of rationalization do you think that took?
…They really had to convince themselves of Jesus’ utter harmfulness in order to justify their backing the prisoner known for murder.
The trial was never really a trial. If it had been, it would have been carried out in the light….rather than in the night. There was no decision to be made. It had already been decided. These leaders were merely deciding their point of attack – and they decide to co-opt government forces to do their murderous work for them.
THEN they’d have plenty of scapegoats –
The government condemned Jesus!
The crowds condemned Jesus!
It wasn’t us!
And all the while, his family, friends, and disciples look on as the horror unfolds into a full-blown public crucifixion – designed for it’s pain, reputed for it’s notion of curse.
And they stand, looking on, watching his pain, hearing his words, seeing his flesh torn and ripped open, watching him struggle at last to take even. a. final. breath.
Jesus’ disciples are in shock. They are in horror.
Perhaps they go to sleep hoping they’ll wake up to find it was only a dream.
Perhaps Jesus will command himself off of that cruel instrument of torture.
But alas, he endures. He stays.
And they cannot avoid their pain, their grief, their fear…their living nightmare.
And so on this morning of Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples are taken fully off-guard. His disappearance from the tomb just feels more likely to be one more effort by the elite, to silence his memory. And Mary Magdaline weeps. She weeps and weeps outside that empty tomb.
She weeps until her eyes are puffy.
She weeps until her nose is stuffy.
She weeps she can hardly see, hardly speak, hardly move. The others have left her behind.
And so it is
that when Jesus himself
comes to her in risen glory,
she thinks him the gardener.
…They are, after all, in a garden, a cemetery. Who else might it be?!
NOTHING Mary has experienced in this life so far has prepared her to imagine this possibility.
Not even Jesus’ words could ready her to recognize him when he returns!
This is far out!
And, overcome by grief,
foggy with tears,
assuming things to be business as usual,
she does not recognize the answer to her prayers,
the One for whom she seeks,
in front of her.
So I am here to say that whatever your grief
- when it feels like business as usual, the same folks going down, the same folks climbing the ladder…
- when it’s more of the same song and dance…
- when justice is denied…
- when truth is silenced…
- when it seems the whole system is out to get you…
We can be blinded by our grief.
We can be blinded by rage at injustice.
We can be blinded by our own mind – expecting only what we can anticipate and control.
But our God breaks our boxes.
Our God shatters our expectations.
Our God could not be held in a stone tomb!
So even as we pray, and work, and yearn for God’s Kingdom,
may we learn to expect God’s inbreaking.
God is flipping the script.
God is turning the narrative on its head.
And if we are not encountering this table-flipping, tomb-escaping, bread breaking God,
then perhaps it is not God we worship after all.