John 20:1-18 Colossians 3:1–4
One of the questions that seem to be popping up in both the religious and secular world is whether or not church holds relevancy anymore. It is a provocative question! But behind this question is something much deeper and powerful and that is how we are connecting or not connecting with the world around us. This is why we have spent most of season of Lent exploring relationship, both within the church as well as in our communities. We cannot be relevant unless we are firmly in relationship with each other and with God.
The two passages that we will explore this Easter hit on the core of the relevancy question because they both emphasize the foundational understandings of what it means to be a Christian and, by derivation, a Christian community. The first reading is the account of Mary Magdalene’s Witness of the Empty Tomb from the Gospel of John. This is a very interesting version of the story since it starts with Mary telling the disciples of the disappearance of Jesus and the Disciples wanting to confirm it for themselves. Interestingly, they went in, but when the scripture says “they believed” it was not stating that they believed that Christ had risen; rather, it was a statement that they believed what Mary said to be true. That is important because as they left, most likely confused, Mary stays.
It is important that Mary finds the empty tomb, it is confirmed, because when Christ reveals himself to her later and then she goes back to witness, the disciples know that they can trust this witness. It seems convoluted, but the story of the resurrection is first and foremost about recognizing and celebrating Christ in all his Glory. But secondarily, the Bible is concerned with how individuals and the community react to this event.
In a very basic way, we see that Jesus knew the disciples were not ready to fully understand the message, so primes the situation by using Mary first to gain their trust, and secondly to appear to her, who would be the most receptive and willing to accept the revelation. Moreover, Mary’s witness helps the disciples to get themselves ready for when Christ appears to them. This helps the disciples to reflect on the whole story and “put the pieces together” so they could come to understand fully who Christ was.
We recognize the importance of witness, community, and relationship within the resurrection story. Without Mary’s unquestioned love of Christ, she would never have been able to recognize him. Without the trust of her community they would have never believed her, and without all of their relationships with Christ and each other they would have never been able to tell the story sharing the salvific witness.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen