Mary. One word. That’s all it took for Mary Magdalene to recognize Jesus outside the tomb. She thought He was the gardener. She thought she could be led to Jesus’ corpse and take care of the body herself. When Jesus spoke her name, everything changed.
Just one look. That’s all it took for Peter and John. They ran to the tomb after Mary Magdalene told them they have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him. John outran Peter to the tomb. Both went in, saw the scene, and believed. They believed what Mary told them, but not what Jesus told them about His resurrection. John writes, seemingly an afterthought, the disciples went back to their homes. Game over. Time to get back to their old jobs. One look into the tomb doesn’t do anything for them, at least for now.
I have seen the Lord! Mary Magdalene gets the privilege of announcing Christ’s resurrection to the disciples. A woman telling what she saw to a group of men and women. This should be the disciples’ job, but they are either at home or gathered with each other in shock. Shock is a good word to describe the scene in today’s Gospel. Everyone mentioned here heard what Jesus said about His death and resurrection, but it seems to make no impact with them until either they see Jesus or hear that Jesus has risen from the dead. Even then Thomas, one of the Twelve, would not believe until a week after the resurrection. He wasn’t there that night when our Lord rose from the dead.
What we have before our eyes is a comedy of surprise. A woman is the first to see an empty tomb. Two disciples race each other to the tomb to see if Mary Magdalene is a liar. Note how John kind of takes a dig at Peter by saying he beat him in the footrace to the tomb. Two angels in white ask her why she weeps. Mary finally sees Jesus, but not after mistaking Him for the gardener. The scenes are like watching a Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey film. There’s lots of running around and not paying attention to what people say or what comes out of their own mouths.
That’s a welcome sight compared to how our Lord’s resurrection is greeted today. Cynicism and rank hostility greets our Lord’s resurrection these days. Those first few verses of First Corinthians chapter 15 are unbelievable to many because they don’t make sense. Over 500 witnesses can’t be wrong, unless you think there’s a conspiracy at hand. 500-plus people are a small sample of people. You can certainly brainwash that many people into believing something happened. Bigger numbers are expected if you really want people to believe. Even better is for the resurrected Christ to park His flesh and blood in front of me so I can give Him the Thomas treatment. His hands, feet, and side have to match what is written or I don’t believe it.
The real comedy of this scene in John chapter twenty is that Jesus told them exactly how everything would happen…and it didn’t make sense to them, even when He all but puts Himself before their faces. No wonder people today are so cynical about the resurrection, let alone the existence of Christ or His Father. You would think that our Lord’s hand-picked group of followers would get it without needing constant reminders. You would be wrong, for our Lord only deals with sinners.
Sinners forget things. Sinners don’t let what is said about their eternal welfare cling to their short-term or long-term memory. Sinners worry too much about what’s happening now. Sinners look for a backstop in case the current situation unravels before their eyes. Sinners always have a back-up plan for their salvation, even when Jesus tells them He has it all under control.
Consider the Israelites as they literally stand between the devil (Pharaoh’s army) and the deep blue sea (the Red Sea). What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Moses tells them, Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work for you today. Then comes the impossible made possible. The Israelites leave Egypt on dry ground, rescued by the Lord God passing through water while Pharaoh and his horsemen drown as they try to follow. Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.
The same Lord God Who rescues His chosen people through water on dry ground also saves you by sending His only-begotten Son to take on the punishment you deserve because of sin. Your sin, your disobedience, and your missing the mark of perfection sends Jesus to the cross. His blood and righteousness covers you. His resurrection is your hope for eternal salvation. Just as Jesus calls out Mary’s name, so He will call out your name on the Day of Resurrection. He will call out all names of all who have been led through the water of baptism from death into life. You will see your Savior. You will live with Him, in His presence, forever.
This is no comedy. This is Truth. You cling to this Truth in the Word that proclaims you alive to God in Christ Jesus. This Word washes you, feeds you, declares you forgiven, and raises you from the dead. Even after our Lord ascends to heaven, He remains with us in His Gifts of preaching and the Sacraments. There we find Him, where He said He will be. There you see the Lord forgiving and restoring sinners, just as He promises.
One word. One look. One Lord. One faith. One Baptism. One God and Father of us all, Who has raised His Son for your justification. What more is there to say but He has triumphed gloriously. One more thing:
Alleluia, Christ is risen!