Easter: He Is Risen
- Describe Mary's reaction to Jesus' resurrection.
- Describe our own feelings about Jesus' resurrection.
- Believe that Jesus is alive today.
- Praise God for making Jesus come alive again.
The unique perspective of John's gospel continues in the narrative of the resurrection. It begins slowly and with the footrace of the two disciples to the tomb, builds into the dramatic encounter with Mary Magdalene, and climaxes with Jesus' appearance to the disciples in the upper room.
According to John, Mary Magdalene is the first at the tomb. Seeing the stone rolled away, she runs back to the disciples with the startling news: "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!"
This leads to a footrace between Peter and John (the "one Jesus loved") to see what was going on. Reading carefully, you can see what the writer is getting at. The "other disciple" gets there first and just peers inside, seeing the strips of Jesus' burial cloth. Peter then arrives and, typically, rushes right in. In addition to the strips of cloth, he sees the distinctive head cloth in a separate place. Peter rushes off, and now the other disciple goes in for a closer look. He sees it all, puts two and two together, and "He saw and believed." He is, according to this gospel, the first believer in the resurrection.
Mary comes back, stands outside the tomb, and weeps. When she looks inside, she sees two angels, who ask her why she's crying. Mary rather matter-of-factly tells them the same story, "They have taken my Lord away." Does she recognize that they are angels? Probably not, since when Jesus himself arrives, she mistakes him for the gardener.
Finally, Jesus utters just one word, her name, Mary. At that she understands and believes and cries in her native tongue, "Rabboni." If the "other disciple" is the first to believe, Mary is the first to actually see the risen Lord, and she gets to tell the others that he is risen.
But before she does so, we are party to a touching scene. Mary, once she recognizes Jesus, naturally wants to reach out and embrace him. After all he's been through, he's alive! Lovingly but firmly, Jesus puts out his hand to hold her back. "Do not hold on to me. . . ." It's not because she's unworthy or because it's somehow wrong. He explains, "I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
What does that mean? First, Jesus is telling her, and the others, that their relationship is now changed. He will no longer be among them as before. He is ascending now, and in that is a new and different relationship. But he also assures them that he is going to "my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Jesus, by his death and resurrection, has opened up the way to the Father. He is now truly our Father and our God.
Mary rushes back to the locked upper room and its fearful disciples: "I have seen the Lord!"
What does the other disciple see that causes him to believe?
Why doesn’t Mary recognize the angels or even Jesus?
Why is Mary cautioned not to hold on to Jesus?
The children in your group will not understand a lot of the subtleties in this wonderful story. They will grasp the sadness of Jesus’ followers, like Mary, and identify with their tears. They will then grasp the great gladness of Easter as Mary says, “I have seen the Lord!”
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