Updated: Apr 13, 2022
At the end of the Gospel reading last Sunday and again on Good Friday, Jesus' dead body is wrapped in linen cloths and put into a tomb. The tomb is a cave cut into rock. A huge stone is rolled in front of the opening. Jesus' body is buried.
But the people who write the Gospels, St. John and St. Mark, St. Matthew and St. Luke, never intend people to stop reading after Jesus is buried! How is that Good News? People die all the time. People's bodies are buried all the time. Jesus' death and burial mean nothing without Easter Sunday. We have to keep reading! On Easter Sunday morning, we hear the account from St. John of what the Resurrection is like.
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.
That is unexpected. The stone over the entrance should never ever be removed from a tomb. The stone is there both to keep animals out, away from the body of a loved one, and to keep the smell of death inside the tomb. Mary Magdalene does not know what is going on. She believes something is very wrong.
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 toward the tomb.
St. John does not tell us the name of the other disciple who goes with Peter to the tomb. We could imagine that it is us. We could imagining running alongside Peter to the tomb. What will we see?
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.
When we look in the tomb, we can see that it is empty. A shelf is cut into the rock where a body could lie, but Jesus' body is missing. The cloths that wrapped his body are lying there. Perhaps they are in a pile on the floor.
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.
There is another cloth that used to be around Jesus's head. Why is it not in the pile of wrappings, but rolled up separately? What has happened here?
Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;
What do we believe? What does an empty tomb mean?
as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
St. John says they do not understand the scripture yet, but we do. We listen to the Word of God all the time. We know why the tomb is empty. Jesus is Risen from the dead, never to die again.
St. John says that Jesus must rise from the dead. Risen from the dead, he is not just a good person who died. Risen from the dead, Jesus makes Good Friday GOOD, not bad. Risen from the dead, Jesus changes everything forever.
Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.
Oops, we almost forgot about Mary Magdalene.
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.
The angels were not here earlier! At least, we did not see them. Angels we know, are messengers of God. They speak only God's words, and perform the actions of God. If there are angels are in the tomb, we know that the tomb is empty because of something that God has done.
One angel sits at the head--or where Jesus' head has been. We can wonder if it was this angel who rolled up the head cloth. The other angel sits where Jesus' feet have been. Perhaps this angel was interrupted while folding the linen wrappings. Perhaps that is why they are just lying there. The angels sit from Jesus' head to his feet. From head to feet, Jesus belongs to God.
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 around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.
Why doesn't she know Jesus? Jesus is the one she loves! This Risen life seems to have transformed Jesus. She does not recognize Jesus. To recognize something means to know again. Mary Magdalene knows Jesus in his first life that ends in death. Now she needs to know him again in his new Risen life.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?”
Jesus asks her the same question as the angels. Remember, angels speak only God's words. Jesus' words are the same as God's words. Jesus is God's Word.
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, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher).
Now she recognizes him! Mary Magdalene knows him again when he calls her by name. Jesus says that he is the Good Shepherd who,
calls his own sheep by name...and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. (John 10:3b-4)
Mary Magdalene now knows Jesus in his Risen life. This is, of course, the way we have always known Jesus--Risen and Glorified.
Jesus calls Mary Magdalene by name, and he calls us by name, too. (Jesus knows the name of the other disciple!) At our Baptism, when the priest pours water over our heads and calls us by name, deep within our hearts we hear the voice of the One Who is Risen, calling us to follow.
From the empty tomb, where will Jesus lead Mary Magdalene? From the empty tomb, where will Jesus lead us?