This is an extract from Rev Sheila Cameron’s sermon on 9 April, Easter Sunday, when she was expounding on John’s account of the resurrection in John 20:1–18:
… It’s Mary Magdalene, forgiven sinner, friend and devoted follower of Jesus, who takes centre stage in John’s resurrection story, and it is to her that Jesus entrusts the message to the community of his followers that he is alive. This is a very poignant encounter. Mary did not expect to see the face of Jesus again; she wept, not expecting consolation, knowing only loss. Her grief was compounded by the loss of Jesus’ body, all that remained of him. Things couldn’t get any worse. Then in the tomb she saw two angels who spoke comforting words of sorts: “Why are you weeping?” Maybe there was better news ahead.
In the ensuing encounter, as Jesus speaks Mary’s name and she recognises him, a profound change takes place in her relationship with him. She accepts with surprising equanimity that she cannot cling to him and must let him go; the important thing is that he is alive, though changed. He is on his way to his Father, and so cannot be with her or the disciples in the same way as before. The new relationship Jesus offers is still one of presence, but now a presence in another dimension that will last for ever.
God’s reassurance is not far off for those who seek him, as Mary Magdalene discovered. God does care about our griefs and longings and asks us to live in faith that our sorrows will be assuaged in him. This very human account of the resurrection invites us to reflect that love comes to maturity after death. We know that love is not limited by mortality; but that there are times in our lives when we can let go and entrust those we love to God. …
Do read the whole of Sheila’s sermon at this link.
This 1835 painting of Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection by Russian painter Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov (1806–1858) in the State Russian Museum, St Petersburg, is made available via Wikimedia Commons at this link.