Reading: John 20:1-18
Her feet were drenched from the dew. She had trod this path three times already this morning; once walking solemnly, twice running bewildered. Now, as she inhaled the morning air, its crisp freshness felt coarse in her throat and lungs. Bending to look in the tomb, reeling with exhaustion, she grabbed her knees for balance. She wept long and loud, sweat and tears ran down her face, drops painted the dirt below.
“Woman, why are you weeping?” came a voice from a stranger in the tomb. Her mind had filled with all manner of horrors – Had the tomb been ransacked for valuables? Had Roman soldiers come by night, still giddy from the rush of power, to further violate the body of their victim? In desperation she exclaimed, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him!’ At that moment, still not having comprehended these figures occupying her Lord’s resting place, she heard footsteps and turned. She saw a gardener, sun rising behind his right shoulder. “Woman, why are you weeping?” she heard him say. Perhaps he had said it the first time too? Maybe the tomb was empty after all… “Who are you looking for?” For a split second she had a glimmer of hope, perhaps Jesus’ body just had been laid elsewhere, she asks the gardener if he moved her Lord, if so she will tend to the body. It is such a small request, surely if this man has any heart he will grant her this mercy.
She hears her name. She hears his voice. He has risen. In the calling of her name the voice reaches out to touch her heart, and it is explodes with joy. Where she had asked for the smallest of mercies she has received the greatest of gifts: an encounter with her friend, her hope, her Messiah, her “Rabbouni!”
In that moment, as time seemed to stand still, she remembered one of his enigmatic teachings: “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out… I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” The teaching stood completed before her. He had taken up his life, and in speaking her name, he had taken up her life also. He had led her out – from despair, death, emptiness, into the greener pastures of his steadfast presence.
In the voice of the good shepherd, who in this moment vindicates his teaching, showing her his power to lay down his life for others and take it up again, she hears the truth of her own life: It is the Lord’s. Her life, her name, her self, her past and future is claimed by Christ and entrusted to the heralding of his kingdom and glory. No other voice is able to define or limit who she is – no other voice is able to name her anything but “Mary”, one whom the Shepherd led into life.
She clung to his clothes and pressed her body to his – she wished to never depart from his presence. He lifted her face and she caught the tenderness of his gaze. “‘Do not hold on to me,” he said with a gentleness that allowed her to relax her grip, “because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” In that moment she knew her adoption complete. The Gardener, revealed as the Shepherd, reveals himself as her Brother; who, by his authority as the Son, invites her to live in the household of his and our Father, with his and our God.
She ran off, back to the disciples, commissioned to proclaim the resurrection of their Lord, her feet still drenched from the dew.
May it be so for all of us, whom the Lord of Life calls by name and sends forth with good news. Amen.
Please enjoy a collection of sermons preached in recent months at the Kirk. If you have questions about the sermons, or attending a service reach out using the Contact Page.