Sermon for Easter Day (Year B; John 20.1-18)

Note: This sermon was written and published for Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021

  • The angels said to her: … why are you weeping?
  • Jesus said to her: ‘Mary!’

These two moments, separated by a brief account of mistaken identity, sum up the journey of this last week.

  • With an increasing sense of doom and tragedy we have witnessed the dire consequences of human self-interest, anger and fear.
  • We have seen the religious authorities seize the opportunity to crush their most vociferous and persistent critic.
  • We have seen the closest of companions turn into those who betray and deny.
  • We have seen adoring crowds transformed into baying mobs.

Surely the question of the angels (Why are you weeping?) was a question that could have been asked of many on the days between the first Good Friday and the first Easter Day … the time between Jesus’ brutal execution and his triumphant resurrection.

Then, in an instant, Mary turns from the tears of despair and loss to be confronted by her risen Lord.

Furthermore, that risen Jesus still called her by name.

Despite the revelation of his true divine power … how else could he have conquered death? … Jesus revealed the truth of all that he had done by addressing Mary by name.

Jesus’ sacrifice was not some sort of blanket quick-fix … Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was for each and every person who ever lives out a human existence on this earth.

It is not surprising that it took the disciples some time to come to terms with what had happened.

Jesus had certainly warned them of what was to come, but consider the ‘unbelievable’ nature of those warnings … people do not come back from the dead … or so they thought!

But … those same disciples did come to believe and to understand, just as they went on to share the Good News far and wide.

As we heard Peter say in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles: I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him (Acts 10.34-35). In those words Peter declares all that the risen Jesus revealed by simply saying Mary’s name as they stood outside the tomb that could not contain him.

And for those who feel unworthy of Jesus’ sacrifice, we hear Paul, the one who had persecuted Christians to death, say:  … he appeared also to me (1 Cor 15.8). Despite the unworthiness he sees in himself, Paul comes to understand that, in Jesus, there is redemption and forgiveness for all who turn from the evil path and follow in faith.

So … here we stand at the end of our Lenten pilgrimage, a journey that seemed, for those who were there on the day of the crucifixion, to have come to the bitterest and most futile of ends … here we stand in the sure and certain knowledge that crucifixion was not the end but the most amazing of beginnings.

But … what does it mean for us as we stare a different world in the face? Where do we stand in this amazing picture?

The answer is given in our reading from the Acts of the Apostles …

He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10.42).

The warmth and consolation we feel when we hear Jesus call us by name is not the end of the matter. The reassurance of knowing that he knows us is just the beginning. That gentle calling of our names does give us reassurance, but it also gives us strength and certainty.

Today is Easter Day – a day of indescribable joy. It is also the day when we are challenged to share that joy through every word we utter and through every action we carry out.

The fully human Jesus has gone to his Father in heaven … what he leaves behind is the command that we should carry on the work he started.

So … let us show how much Easter really means to us … not by eating just one more chocolate egg, but by sharing the love and the certainty of our knowing the risen Jesus with all who we meet every day of our lives.   Amen.