Atgyfododd Crist Alelwia!. Atgyfododd yn wir. Alelwia! Christ is risen! Alleluia! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! At one level, nothing more needs to be said. This one fact has over the last two thousand years changed the world, and continues to do so. Because of what happened today, we have the preaching of St Peter in the Acts of the Apostles:
“They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and caused him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10: 40-43)
In these three sentences, preached by St Peter at Caesarea to a non-Jewish audience, we have a succinct expression of what the Church believes and proclaims. Jesus died, rose from the dead, and will come again to be our Judge. He offers forgiveness to all who believe in Him.
We know this message today, thanks to the proclamation of the Good News, but the first Easter was very different. It was dark, early on Sunday morning. Mary Magdalen visits the tomb, where they had buried Jesus on the Friday afternoon. The heavy stone covering the doorway has been rolled back. So Mary runs to Peter and John and tells them:
“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20: 2)
The disciples immediately run to where Jesus is buried. John gets there first and looks in, but doesn’t enter the tomb.
‘Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.’ (John 20: 6-7)
What we see is a gradual process. Bit by bit, the followers of Jesus are coming to understand and experience this incredible and amazing event.
Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.’ (John 20: 8-10)
A few days ago the disciples saw their Lord and Teacher killed, and now the tomb is empty. The cloths that were wrapped around Jesus’ Body are there, but Jesus is elsewhere. Clearly it is all too much for Mary Magdalene who stays by the tomb, weeping. When the angels ask her why she is crying she replies:
“They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (John 20: 13)
Mary’s words are understandable, she is filled with grief and sadness. She is bereft and confused. At this point, Mary encounters the Risen Christ:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” 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.” (John 20: 15)
Mary supposes that Jesus is the gardener, the person employed to look after the cemetery. She does not yet understand who He is, or what is going on. However, the mention of the gardener is significant. In Genesis, humanity was created by God in a garden, Eden, and given the task of tending it (Gen 2:15). The Resurrection happens in a garden as well, showing us that Christ is the second Adam. Whilst the first Adam brought death to humanity by a tree, Jesus, the Second Adam, has brought life to the world by the tree of the Cross. Humanity falls because of a tree, and because of a tree we are offered eternal life in Christ. Trees matter!
It was on the first day of the week, that Creation began, and now on the first day of the week we see a New Creation. Christ has risen from the dead, and conquered Death and Hell. Our Lord is a gardener, and the plants he tends are human beings. We believe in a God who loves us, who cares for us, and who longs to see us grow and flourish.
Jesus greets Mary Magdalen by name, and suddenly she recognises Him She understands. She believes. Then Christ talks of His Ascension, as though forty days of Easter have condensed into a single moment. Mary now understands what she must do:
‘Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. (Jn 20:18)’
Mary shares the Good News, just as Peter and Paul do in the first and second readings this morning. Likewise, we are called to follow their example, and proclaim the Good News to the world. To tell how Jesus is risen from the grave, and how God offers new life to all who turn to Him.
So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, ‘Pasg hapus i chi gyd!’ ‘A Happy Easter to you all!’ May you, and those you love, be filled with Resurrection joy and strength, now and always. Amen.