He Is Not There
He Is Not There
Why did Mary Magdalene visit the tomb of Christ? the Gospel of John on Easter Sunday (John 20:1-9) doesn't tell us why, and neither does Matthew. Maybe it wasn’t important, maybe it didn’t matter. The other two Gospels go into detail that the women went to anoint the body of Jesus as soon as the Sabbath was over.
Mary's Act of Love
Visiting the tomb was an act of love. Mary's love for Jesus did not die with him on the cross. But like all true love, Mary's drives her to serve the one she loves in the only way she can, by an act of tender reverence.
This is the same reverence that drives us Christians to pray for those who have died. For the same reason we give them a respectful funeral, we tend their graves, and long for the day we will be re-united with them. We don’t pretend that death is nothing at all – yes, it is a tragedy, but our love is stronger and deeper.
Mary comes to perform an act of love for someone who has died. But she discovers something strange, something hard to grasp. She discovers the truth that is the center of our faith: he is not here, he has risen. The tomb is empty. Yes, Jesus was buried there but he is not there anymore. The Lamb, once slain, now lives. Forever.
At that moment Mary doesn’t understand what the empty tomb means. How could she? For her it makes sense that his body had been stolen which must have been frustrating; it must have felt like her love had reached a dead end. But we know that it hadn’t. Mary would later encounter the risen Christ in the garden and he would call her by her name. And at that moment, she realized that her love for Jesus had not ended but had resurrected.
The Empty Tomb
But what about the missing body? The empty tomb is important and Jesus’ body matters, not just because it was a living body, but because it had become a life-giving one. The oils and spices that Mary brought to anoint his body were no longer needed. The loving service she wanted to offer would take her far and beyond this garden of the dead. Mary Magdalene would go on to serve Christ in the new garden of Eden: The Church.
'Go to my brothers and tell them', Jesus will later say to Mary. Jesus called her by her name which in turn called her into a new act of loving service, one that gave her the title Apostola Apostolorum, the Apostle of the Apostles. We too my friends are called into this loving service. We are called to go and find Jesus' brothers and sisters. We are called to tell them of our encounter with the risen Christ.
And we must go and tell them of the empty tomb. We must tell them of the life giving body that takes us far from the gardens of the dead and into eternal life. We must go and tell them, not just today but every day. It is important because it matters. It matters that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son. It matters that he died on the Cross and was buried in that tomb two thousand years ago. It matters that the same tomb, which could not hold his body was empty on the morning of the third day.
Love is stronger than death and if these historical truths are to prove to us what we so desperately long to believe, then it matters that we too have encountered the risen Christ. It matters that those of us who meet Jesus in the Eucharist and in the life of our Church should go out and spread the Good News to the entire world: See and believe, he is not here, he has risen, Alleluia! Amen.