April 16, 2017 – Why are you weeping?

Easter Sunday   April 16, 2017   Psalm 126, John 19:25b-30, 38-42; John 20:1-18

Why are you weeping?

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“Woman, why are you weeping,” a pair of angels asks Mary Magdalene. We don’t know their exact tone of voice, but asking “Why are you weeping?” sounds to me like empathy – offering conversation, trying to be of help…

Of course we know (as the angels know) Mary Magdalene’s weeping because she’s come to the grave where Jesus was buried… And found the tomb empty…

And maybe this Easter story’s so familiar… we don’t notice… How Mary either doesn’t notice these angels are angels – or – she’s so focused on Jesus that even angels up-close-speaking-to-her… really makes no difference…

She just tells the angels what they already know – she’s looking for Jesus… and he’s not here…

And as she looks around she sees Jesus… without recognizing who he is…

Perhaps it’s still dark. Maybe there’s heavy misty fog that morning. Maybe tears obscure her vision. Probably he’s dressed differently from what she’s used to… Mary’s thinking he’s the gardener.  Which makes sense, since Jesus is buried in a cemetery that’s also a garden. And Jesus is The Gardener who invites us back to The Garden…

But, “Woman, why are you weeping?” – the same question angels ask – is also the question Jesus asks of Mary Magdalene…

Mary has gone to the tomb early on the first day of the week while its still very dark… Where she finds the tomb open… the stone that had sealed it….rolled away…

She runs to find Simon Peter and the disciple known as “the disciple Jesus loved.” They run together back to the tomb. The other disciple gets there first, but doesn’t enter… Simon Peter arrives, goes right into the tomb where he sees… the empty grave… and the wrappings Jesus had been wrapped-in…empty now. The cloth that was placed on his head now neatly folded by itself…

Now the other disciple also enters the tomb, and he believes… (Though we’re also told “as yet they did not understand the scripture that he must rise from the dead”…)

And having seen the empty tomb…The disciples now return to their homes…

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But Mary stays by the tomb, weeping…

“Woman, why are you weeping,” the angels ask…

“Woman, why are you weeping,” Jesus asks. “Whom are you looking for?”

We know she’s looking for him. Weeping because she’s looking for his body – which is nowhere to be found… in the empty tomb…

We may also know… Over the years Mary Magdalene’s had a reputation as a biblical bad-girl. Many have assumed she’s some kind of mega-sinner. There’s no evidence for this in the bible. But all kinds of assumptions have been made based on one verse in Luke (8), where we’re told Jesus healed her of seven demonic spirits. The bible never calls her a sinner… (Except in the sense we’re all sinners by nature…) And in those days mental illness was considered a form of demonic possession. (And according to contemporary mental health theory, we’re all mentally ill, to various degrees. Consider… And…)

What we should remember most about Mary Magdalene is that she traveled with Jesus, who considered her a beloved disciple, part of the family of Jesus… And she’s the only person named in all the gospels as being there with Jesus both at the  cross and also at the tomb. The only one who stays by the tomb, alone, weeping… For Jesus, her Teacher, Friend, and Lord…. and…

“Why are you weeping?” is an obvious question for Mary. As its an obvious question for anyone suffering great loss, pain, or trauma… When we’re hurting badly we are often going to be weeping…(at least silently, inwardly weeping…)

And one reason John the gospel writer reminds us – more than once – of this question asked both by angels and by Jesus – Why are you weeping? Is to let us know it’s alright to cry… Weeping’s not about our not having faith. Weeping’s not about our not-believing in the resurrection…

It’s alright to weep as we continue learning about this life of faith, with all it’s challenges and blessings…And just as tears serve a natural function, lubricating our eyes and helping to wash away grit and dust in the eye… Just as tears release tension and help us mend from sorrows… So also our spiritual tears can clear our eyes… And help us better see all Jesus gives us to ponder… about God’s time and our time… God’s ways and our ways…There’s a lot we can’t know about the specifics of the mystery of resurrection life… Other than it’s real, its true, it’s for us… it’s a gift from Jesus… Received as we trust in Jesus and follow him…

But we do know the resurrection doesn’t turn every day into blue skies smiling at me…with never a storm cloud in the sky… The resurrection doesn’t make every thing all right on earth… here and now.

And we can be sure many among us are still weeping, like Mary, even on this beautiful Easter morning… Even while deeply appreciating Jesus risen from the dead – even while grateful that ours sins are forgiven – even with great confidence in life forever with Jesus…

Still we may find ourselves weeping…When our hurt or pain is strong… When our loss still hurts more than words can say…

And we know there’s nothing magic about Easter… that cancels all pain and hurt and trauma and loss… The beauty and truth of Palm Sunday didn’t stop terrorists from bombing churches in Egypt last week.

Many still don’t know (and don’t seem interested in knowing)… The Prince of Peace, who was crucified and died – not only for the sake of his native nation – not only for the sake of the righteous – but for all.

The good the bad the ugly the beautiful, everyone in between – the happy the sad the old the young the people of all races, tribes, and nations – Jesus died for all… Even those who put him to death. For their sake also, Jesus chose the crown of thorns, the nails, the cross…

And because Jesus died for all… And because all our particulars are different… The question Why are we weeping? will have different answers… for different people… at different times, in different places…

But remembering back in John’s gospel (ch 11) how Jesus, late for the funeral of a close friend, joins Mary and Martha of Bethany, weeping with them for their brother… Even knowing he’ll raise Lazarus from the dead… Still Jesus weeps with his friends…

So I’m picturing Jesus weeping again now with Mary Magdalene…Picture him weeping… and smiling at the same time… as he feels the love pouring from her eyes and flowing from her heart… I picture Jesus thankful for Mary, his friend and faithful disciple, first witness to the resurrection…Who remembers the pain he’s been through for all of us… Who knows how very real his suffering has been… Who weeps for his pain… Weeps for his death… Weeps and won’t be consoled… for the loss of Jesus… Savior, Lord, Teacher, and Friend…

Till Jesus calls her name…. And now Mary’s hugging on Jesus, wanting to hold him tight – feel his life – hear his heartbeat – look in his eyes… As soon as she hears him call her –  “Mary!” – I see her weeping all the more…But now with tears of joy…and…

No one’s saying this will be the last time she’ll ever have to weep sad tears. I wouldn’t be surprised in fact, if later that same day, after she’s done what Jesus asked – gone and told the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – and they’ve listened to her politely… but reading on, we know… they’re still fearful, still meeting behind locked doors… Still doubting, disbelieving…So… I wouldn’t be surprised if Mary were to be crying again even before bedtime that night… because of the disbelief even of good friends of Jesus…

And yet… I’m sure… by the time she gets to sleep that night… her tears are back to tears of joy…

Because now, after meeting Jesus alive… She knows…

Even when the sick sometimes stay sick… Even when the dead don’t rise in ways  we can see with our eyes… Even when prayers aren’t always answered in ways we hope… She knows… Even if she doesn’t understand… she knows…

Jesus is Alive.

And knowing he’s alive, she also somehow knows – now

Death can’t hold our body down.

Sin can’t have the last word.

Now the dead in Christ are alive forever.

And no matter whatever other tears we cry… We have God’s promise now in Jesus Christ…  Our tears even now, and in fullness, at the last… will be tears of joy…

As we sing the praise of Jesus together….

And share the news by word and deed –

Christ is risen! Christ is Alive!

Thanks be to God.

Let’s sing –