Resurrection! It’s the central pillar of the Christian faith and the big differentiator with all other faith traditions.
While other religious leaders’ remains are enshrined in tombs and relics, Jesus literally, historically, and physically rose from the dead. No other founder or leader of any other world religion or philosophy died and rose again. They remain in their graves.
But the moment of resurrection is not recorded in any of the Gospels, which is surprising given its significance. Nobody sees it. Even Jesus’ birth had angels singing to shepherds and signs in the night sky, but nobody gets tipped off about the greatest event in all of history. It happened sometime in the dead of night—while it was still very dark—and nobody knew until Mary went and looked.
The Moment of Resurrection
Interestingly, scholars believe that the fact that a woman, Mary Magdalene, was the first to testify to the resurrection is among the best proof that it actually happened. Women were not considered reliable witnesses, so nobody would have inserted them as the protagonists if it were merely a story.
In John 20:1-16, Mary Magdalene discovers that the stone has been removed from the entrance of the tomb where Jesus had been laid. She runs to Simon Peter and ‘the other disciple,’ who start for the tomb, where they see the strips of linen lying there.
Mary Magdalene remains outside crying. As she weeps, she sees two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been. They ask her why she’s crying, and she says, “They have taken my Lord away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turns around and sees Jesus standing there but does not recognise him. He asks her why she’s crying and who she’s looking for. Thinking he’s the gardener, she asks him where he’s taken Jesus, and then he says her name, “Mary.”
Can you picture Mary Magdalene stepping through the darkness?
She must have been grieving and in deep sorrow when she went to the tomb. She had watched Jesus die a brutal death on the cross, and in the days since, she’d probably barely managed to eat, drink, or sleep. When she arrives at the tomb, she’s in the midst of grief and horror.
It’s before dawn, and for Mary, it’s a very dark time.
All those who loved Jesus were struggling to make their way through the darkest time they’d ever experienced.
Easter Begins In Darkness
The hope of resurrection does not burst onto the scene but creeps out of confusion, death, and sadness.
For Mary, the first sign of Easter is one she doesn’t understand. Someone has moved the stone, and Jesus’ grave has been tampered with. There’s no longer even the comfort of a grave site.
Grief and loss are like that. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it often does. But we know what it’s like to feel Jesus’ absence because there are times when we lose sight of him. Mary experienced exactly that, and not even the presence of two angels could clear her tears. In her pain, she had become so inwardly focused she didn’t even recognize Jesus when he was standing right in front of her.
Our Hope Is Jesus—The Light In The Darkness
I don’t blame her—sometimes it’s hard to see God at work in the darkness. But this is our hope—Christ rose while it was still dark. He was alive before dawn broke, before those who loved him were able to see him and believe. And hope was alive because in the darkness God had done his best work.
Because Jesus has risen, and no matter the darkness we see in our broken world, we know God’s new world has begun. We know the process of redeeming all creation back to himself is underway.
Most importantly, we understand that his followers have a job to do to join God in bringing heaven to earth in actual, physical, real, and earthly ways. To be bearers of resurrection hope to a world that badly needs it.
And so, may we look for God in the darkness in Ukraine, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Yemen, Syria, Congo, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and so many other places of conflict, poverty and injustice. And may we join with him, our resurrected Jesus, in his work in these hard places—tending, healing, protecting, and bringing equality, justice, hope and peace.
May His kingdom come, and His will be done on earth as it is in heaven, amen.