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Daily Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Monday, April 18, 2022  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  John 20:1–18

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. (NRSV)

There are so many things going on this story that it is dizzying! Mary arrives to find the tomb empty; she runs to tell Simon Peter and the other unnamed disciple, and with Olympiad speed, they race to the tomb to see what Mary saw—the graveclothes rolled up and emptiness. They go home, with the disciple “Jesus loved” believing. Mary returns to the tomb. She stands outside weeping.

How often do we return to the places of confusion, of unsettling news, of trauma? How often do we go with Mary to stand in the face of emptiness, weeping? Through her tears, Mary bends down to take another glance into the tomb, and what is there? Two angels. She does not seem shocked to see them. Rather, the record shows a rather intense, heartbroken Mary’s conversation with them. “Why are you weeping?” is their question. “They’ve taken my Lord away.”—she then senses someone standing behind her. We can’t catch the emotional edge of Mary’s question in what we read. But we can imagine that her weeping has turned to frustration and perhaps to blaming. She assumes the new person is the gardener, the grave-tending gardener. She blurts out, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She cannot see who is in front of her. And then it happens: “Mary,” the person responds, and with the tender, unflinching intimacy, she knows. Yes, she knows that the impossible is possible. That her eyes that were blurred by weeping now see . . . Jesus.

“Teacher,” she says.

This Easter season, I pray that you turn and are astonished by seeing the risen Christ. And when he says your name—and I believe with all my heart he will—you may just rise up from all that has you pinned in a tomb and step out with the good news on your tongue, saying, “I have seen, heard, stood in the presence of the Risen One!” And one thing I can guarantee you: you will never, ever be the same again.

O God, dawn on us; yes, dawn on us with the power of your resurrection. Speak to us with gentle pulsing love that rises from the deepest unknown and is made known in your Son, our resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Written by Lucy Forster-Smith, Senior Associate Pastor for Leadership Development and Adult Education

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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