“On the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb” (John 20:1).
Why, we often ask, must everything end in death? Is it by some twist of fate that we live because of some cosmic chance? Then we die, also by chance, without meaning or purpose, as if this life was just a “big mistake.” Is there anything that lasts? Is death just an entrance into some kind of oblivion?
Our American culture answers the question by not facing it, by living in colossal denial and endless skepticism. Why, the skeptics ask, did Mary Magdalene go to the tomb “while it was still dark”? Did she lack common sense? Why bother to put expensive spices on Jesus’ dead body? She did it once before, the scriptures tell us in John 12:3. The money, Judas suggested, should have been given to the poor. Dead bodies rot, the skeptics tell us. They corrupt, decompose and eventually turn to dust.
Some claim that the followers of Jesus made-up Easter’s fantastic story simply to calm their own fears of dying. They well knew where he had died; they knew where his body lay buried. Having left their careers and businesses – having left everything in order to follow him – all of their hopes had been smashed!
But for them to construct a fable would have made no sense whatsoever, a foolish gesture mocking the simple truth of what those disciples did in fact report. What does John tell us later in 20:18? “Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: 'I have seen the Lord!' And she told them that he had said these things to her.”
She became, as some have called her, "an apostle to the apostles." Our religious history always remembers that those very same apostles went on to die for what they had witnessed that first Easter. They certainly did not die for a fable that they had made up.
No, the simple truth of the resurrection is that it was God’s unselfish love that has conquered all, even sin and death! It was not the apostles’ selfish fears that form this truth of faith; it is the unconquerable reality of Christ’s unselfish love, a love that cannot die. Death has no dominion over that sort of love, coming as it does from God’s love made incarnate in human flesh and blood. We read in I Corinthians 15:14, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
I don’t know about you, but I can’t live my life without faith that God has given us the greatest gift through the suffering, death and resurrection of his son...eternal life!
In our quest to find answers, we must begin with the love of God, who has taken on our humanity in Jesus Christ. Who has confronted the darkest forces of evil. Who can be found in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Who can be gloriously found in Christ’s resurrection, and found in the power of the Holy Spirit, who comes to us in the risen Christ (as he promised).
Our ancient enemy, Satan, lives in defeat and despair, a condition in which he wants us all to live. God, however, will never be outdone by Satan. God sent us his son, Jesus the Christ, to give us his life-giving Holy Spirit, the gift that Christ handed over to us when he died on the cross, the gift that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and the gift we will celebrate on the Feast of Pentecost, 50 days from now.
Truly, as was said so long ago in the second century by Irenaeus, “The glory of God is humanity fully alive.” And that glory, if we surrender to him who died to give it to us, is ours through faith.
For Christ is truly risen, he is risen indeed! Alleluia!