John begins the Easter story with these words, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” This is always how our discovery of the risen Christ begins – in darkness.
No one is ready to encounter Easter until she or he has spent time in the dark places where she or he cannot be seen. Easter is the last thing we expect when surrounded by darkness. Perhaps that is why Easter is terrifying; scripture reminds us that Mary was startled. This day is not about springtime and bunnies. It is about more hope than we can handle.
In verse 16 Jesus calls her by name, “Mary.” Stunned, she can only say, “Rabbouni” – her favorite name for her old teacher. She lunges to embrace him. But to our dismay, the risen Christ says, “Do not hold unto me.”
If I were writing this drama, I would have included a long, tearful hug, followed by Jesus saying, “Find the others and tell them I am back. We are getting out of here and going back home.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. The risen Christ says, “Don’t cling to me.”
The way out of darkness is only by moving ahead. And the only person who can lead the way is the risen Christ. The question that Easter asks of us is not, “Do we believe in the doctrine of the resurrection?” but rather, “Have you encountered the risen Christ?”
I get the feeling that Mary was never the same after Easter. Neither is anyone who knows that what matters is not that we be confident on our hold of Jesus, but rather that we be confident in the risen Christ’s hold of us.
The risen Savior is on the loose. Thanks be to God!
The Rev. Dr. Luis León
Appointed readings for today: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, John 20:1-18