When Jesus Calls Our
Sunday, April 16, 2006
John 20: 11-18
Easter is one of those Sundays when I wish I could read your minds to see what you are really thinking. Don’t worry. I can’t.
But I wish I could know what is it that you believe – in your heart of hearts – really happened the first Easter almost 2,000 years ago. I wonder?
Anybody have any reservations about this story that is at the very heart of our faith?
If someone reported a resurrection today, who among us would not be skeptical? They were just a skeptical in Jesus’ day, too. No less skeptical than we would be.
There were things people in Jesus’ time knew less about than we do now, but there were also things most of them knew more about than most of us do today, and one of those things was death.
There were no funeral homes to send bodies away to in those days. People cared for the bodies of their loved ones in their own homes with their own hands. They bathed the bodies themselves, touched them, felt them and smelled them.
People knew then as well as we do today, if not better, that anyone who had been dead since Friday would not come to life again Sunday morning. About this, they were not more credulous than we would be if someone made such a claim today.
I assume many of us have many different ideas about Easter. Some of us, I’d bet, are of mixed minds and feelings. Some of us might prefer not to have to think about it too much. Some of us may find it impossible to believe.
This is okay. There is a lot of doubt in the New Testament Easter stories…doubting Thomas, the rumors that the disciples had stolen the body and staged the resurrection, and Mary Magdalene.
Mary Magdalene, in John’s story, was this far away from the resurrected Jesus. She saw his face and heard his voice, and did not know him…not because Jesus looked different or sounded different, but because she knew that somebody who died Friday could not be alive Sunday. She could not see or hear what she knew to be impossible.
In John’s telling of it, Mary, although she saw the resurrection, did not perceive it. She was staring the resurrection in the face and she could not see it or hear it.
She recognized the risen Jesus only when he called her by name. Jesus spoke one word, her name “Mary,” and she knew him and knew the resurrection.
A lot of us get bollixed up by Easter, if we really think, stop to think about it seriously at all, because resurrection is an idea that we find hard to believe. Of course we do.
Well, I believe Jesus' resurrection isn't so much an abstract idea we need to force ourselves to believe…it is not a factoid of history we need to accept in spite of our sensibilities…it is not so much a doctrine or a creedal affirmation we need to force ourselves to repeat.
Jesus’ resurrection is about hearing the risen Jesus call our name. We know that Jesus lives because he calls our name. He calls us by name and he calls our name.
There is another interesting thing in John’s telling of this story about Mary Magdalene. Did you notice what the Gospel of John emphasized about Mary?
11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white … 13 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." 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?
Do you think that John wanted us to get it that Mary was weeping? He mentions it over and over again.
Jesus calls Mary’s name in the midst of her weeping. It is her weeping that moves the risen Jesus to call her name, just as it is our weeping that causes the risen Jesus to call our names. We come to know the resurrection of Jesus, not so much in our doctrines, as in our tears, when we weep for the pain of our lives and the pain of our world.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, living in Nazi Germany, used to say he or she who does not weep for the Jew cannot sing Gregorian chant.
It is in the midst of our weeping that Jesus calls our name. So if we cannot weep, if we cannot allow ourselves to feel the pain of injustice and oppression, perhaps we cannot experience Jesus’ resurrection.
Let me say this again: No tears, no resurrection. No vulnerability to our own pain and the pain of others, no resurrection. No weeping, no resurrection.
It is the midst of our tears that we meet the risen Jesus and hear him call our name.
Jesus called Mary’s name because he did not want the cross to have the last word in her life, just as God refused to allow the cross to have the last word in Jesus’ life.
Jesus calls our names in the midst of our tears because Jesus refuses to allow the crosses of our world to have the last word in our lives.
I think, for some of us, no matter how much we might want to or think we ought to, we will never see the resurrection, even if the resurrected Jesus is this far away from us and we are staring him in the face. We will never get to it as an abstract idea or a doctrine.
But if we will enter deeply into the pain of our world, if we weep for the Jews of Nazi Germany, and if we listen, we will be able to hear the risen Jesus call our name. We will experience the resurrection, not as a general principle, but in the voice of the risen Jesus personally and specifically calling our very own name in the midst of the world’s injustice, oppression and pain.
And if the resurrected Jesus calls us by name, then we are called eternally. If Jesus knows us by name than we are known eternally…and neither Pilate nor the Roman soldiers, neither the chief priests nor the judicial council will not be able to keep us crucified either, just the way they could not keep Jesus on a cross or in a tomb.
The God whose heart Jesus has shown us did not let the cross be the last word in Jesus’ life and the risen Jesus did not let the cross be the last word in creation or history. And the risen Jesus will not let the cross be the last word in your life or in mine.