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 towards 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,
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.
For some reason, it seems to be unsettling to read through the account of the resurrection of Jesus away from Easter. Like thinking of shepherds and the Magi in summertime, being reminded again of that first Easter morning separate from the sways of springtime flowers seems to create disorientation. But that comes from a resident of the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, where the seasons are flipped, Christmas is accompanied by beach BBQs and sun cream, while Easter comes with the browning leaves of autumn. It all depends on what you’re used to.
Perhaps any unsettling, then, comes because we encounter the account on a cool Friday morning in December – a perspective we’re not used to having on the text – rather than the warmth of Sunday in spring? Or perhaps we’re used to it speaking the mystery of the Resurrection as part of the whole narrative from the Triumphal entry through to the Ascension? Or maybe it unsettles not so much because of the date, but because it can actually speak to us of that mystery? – here it can speak anew where it is laid bare of the distractions of the season.
As Advent looms, maybe we need to be reminded of the mystery, majesty, and glory that the Resurrection encapsulates for Christians. The watching and waiting of the disciples was rewarded by the new life of a resurrected Christ – not just brought back from the dead but transformed by God into one who was unknown to even his most devout followers, yet instantly recognised in the calling of a name. God turned death, decay, and destruction into renewal, revival, and refreshment.
As we turn on Advent Sunday to start a new liturgical year, maybe we can aspire to think of every Sunday as a ‘little Easter Sunday’ – where hearing again the story of the glorious Resurrection of Christ, our Saviour and Lord, doesn’t disorientate but inspires. Perhaps we can become more used to hearing again the account of resurrection and appearance, trusting that through God’s grace, Christ’s presence will be known to us anew – a true renewal in the Church and in our lives.
Speak to us anew, Lord; unsettle us with the mystery and majesty of your Resurrection, and help us to hear your voice of renewal as we seek to be your people, not disorientated, but focused on your glory.
The Rev’d Dr Matthew Prevett, Minister, St Andrew’s URC, Monkseaton and Northern Synod Minister