A Tale of two Marys

Jeremiah 31:1–6
Psalm 118:1–2, 14–24
Matthew 28:1–10

Reverend Dr. Stephen R. Caine

 

28:1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10, NRSV)

 

Let us pray: O God of Grace and God of Glory: on this day, you won victory over death, raising Jesus from the grave and giving us eternal life. Amen.

 

Years ago, three 10-year-old boys were in a carpool on the way to a baseball game on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  Some of them had just been to the Easter egg hunt at church and their baskets were filled with plastic eggs.  Of course, they wanted to go through the eggs and pick out the candy and divide it up between them.  But mixed in with the candy were little cross necklaces and Jesus tattoos and toys with Bible verses on them.   One of the boys, who didn’t regularly go to church asked, “Why is all this stuff inside of the eggs?”

 

The mom replied, “Well it is Easter. Do you know what Easter is?”

 

The boy said, “Yea, when the Easter bunny comes and brings stuff, I guess.”

 

Another boy piped in and said, “Easter is Jesus’ birthday, right?”

 

And then the third boy had to add his two cents. “No Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Easter is when Jesus rose.”

 

And with a confused voice, the first boy asked, “Jesus rose?”

 

The mom responded, “Yea, Jesus rose,” “He died on the cross and then three days later he rose.”

 

There was a moment of silence and then the boy said, “Cool!”

 

To a 10-year-old who does not know the story like we know the story, it is cool.  I have thought about that conversation, and the boy’s exclamation that Easter was “cool.”  I have thought about it as I prepared to preach today, how to proclaim this story that we all know so well.

 

I have thought about it as I read Matthew’s account of the resurrection and how Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to Jesus’ tomb.  I thought about all the things I wish those boys in the carpool knew about Easter, about the resurrection of Jesus, about how faith in the resurrection affects their lives, and changes everything.

 

What is it about us and this idle tale, looking for some sense of understanding what Jesus rising from the dead and the miracle of resurrection and salvation really means to me, to you, for our lives.

 

You see, I think most of us long to feel that awesomeness of a ten-year old hearing the story of Jesus’ being raised from the dead and thinking it is “cool”.

 

We want Jesus resurrection to mean something, not just some idle tale that really does not matter in the long run.  Not something that happens each spring when we break out our new clothes and delight in the pretty flowers and enjoy Easter Brunch with the family.  Wouldn’t it be great if we too could stand in awe of this day, this event, and this truth!  We ache to believe this truth; because we want our lives, our world to be transformed.  We really want to live differently; and Jesus resurrection demands that we do!

 

Matthew’s version of the Easter story focuses on Mary Magdalene and the other Mary.  It’s significant that Matthew focuses on these two women.  These two are some of the people who had been moved by Jesus.  They followed him.  They served him.  They stayed with him to the end.  These two Mary’s were two of the women who did not desert him, even at the darkest and most threatening of times. And now they are here, at the tomb, at the break of dawn, coming to pay their last respects.

 

What is it about these two women that gets them out early on that first Easter morning?  What is it about them that they kept showing up, even in the most heartbreaking of moments, always there to support their friend even when their own hearts are broken?   It must be love.  They love Jesus.  They love Jesus and their love for him forces them to face his death head-on, even when everyone else around them is consumed with hopelessness that keeps them in as the sun rises.

 

What about the rest of us?  Would we go?  Would we get out in the dark morning and go to the tomb?   Or would we give into the hopelessness of the reality of that morning, of every morning?  Unable to face what the light of the morning reveals?  It is the hopelessness of the reality of the morning that keeps us in, so we don’t go to the tomb or the hospital, the soup kitchen or the homeless shelter, or the neighbor who is grieving or any other of the difficult places of life.  But the Mary’s do – even though their hearts are broken, they go.

 

Jesus is dead and buried.  They saw him die on the cross.  They knew where he was buried.   But, they showed up, despite the pain and loss, because they love Jesus.  Their example is something we can model our lives on.

 

In this Easter story, we may not be able to relate to angels and earthquakes – or even, the Risen Jesus, but we can all relate to the Mary’s because we know them.  They are the ones who show up, they are the men and women who volunteer to cook the meals for our guests from IHN.  They are the ones who serve meals to MEAC and volunteer for Saturday Hoops.  They are the ones who sit vigil with grieving families at the hospital awaiting the grave news.  They are the ones who join the family as they gather at the church, or the graveside as they bury a loved one. They are the ones who sit by the bedside, visit in the hospital, place phone calls, write notes and pray without ceasing.  I know Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, don’t you?[1]

 

We know them and we can relate to them. We may even be like them.  It is through the faithful witness of the Mary’s, ordinary people of faith who love Jesus, that simply show up.  We are reminded by the Mary’s and their relentless showing up is not a small or insignificant thing.  On good days, we may be able to emulate them and show up in those difficult places, those challenging situations, be with those difficult people, those graveyards of despair, if only for the love of Jesus.  On not so good days, we may have a Mary who shows up to sit with us.

 

It is strange, isn’t it?  How those places we least want to go are often the places where we meet our Risen Lord?   Odd, isn’t it?   That it is often in places of pain where Jesus meets us?  Maybe even when we visit the sick, give food to the hungry, clothe the naked… sounds familiar, doesn’t it?[2]

 

The message of this Easter story is this: Do not be afraid.  Go and show up. And that is what I want the boys of that carpool to know and each of us to know: Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to go, to show up, for you never know you just might meet the Risen Christ!

 

Let us pray

 

 

[1] Reverend Jill Duffield, Presbyterian Outlook, Matthew 28:1-10, April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday

[2] Reverend Jill Duffield, Presbyterian Outlook, Matthew 28:1-10, April 16, 2017 Easter Sunday