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I’m tired of reading the Bible like it’s a just an old book, like it’s Mother Goose nursery rhymes, a book for a different era, that makes no sense but are (maybe) fun to read. I’m tired of reading the Bible like the stories are old and speak to a time that is not mine, like the Bible has no meaning for me today.
Jesus’ life and words are too important to let them die. When we do that, it makes us just like his followers that we heard about in the Gospel of John. In no other book of the Bible is it more clear that Jesus will die and rise from the dead than the stories told in the Gospel of John. In the others, you might be justified in thinking that Jesus is pulling a giant bait and switch. All goes well, then it turns dark in the later passages leading to Jesus’ death. But in John, it’s really early on that Jesus lets his disciples and other followers know exactly what’s going to happen.
Yet, here we are in chapter 20, at the end of John, and we see Mary, standing on the road, outside of the empty tomb, horrified that Jesus’ body is no longer there. She shouts out: “They took the Master from the tomb. We don’t know where they’ve put him.”
We hear her shouts, her cries, and we want to run up to her and say, “Don’t you understand? Didn’t you hear him all the times that he said this would happen? Don’t just cry. Don’t just shout. Go find him. He’s alive! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!”
Then the two disciples, Peter and the one who is never named in the story, have a footrace to go see for themselves. Obviously something is happening, they have the beginnings of belief within them – otherwise, why run? If Jesus is still in the grave, there is no hurry.
Why sprint, racing against your friend if the best case scenario is that Jesus’ body is still there? The answer is that you wouldn’t run. There is a seed of belief there. Their footrace is a sign that they almost get it. They almost understand what God has done in Jesus.
This kind of reminds me of kid logic. There’s the story of the kid who thought lightning was God taking pictures of us. So instead of being afraid, he would look up at the sky and say, “Cheese!”
I’ve worked with kids a lot of my adult life and I know that a lot of kids plant candy in the ground trying to grow a Skittles tree or an M&M tree. The logic is there, right? It’s just a little wrongheaded, doesn’t quite understand the world well enough to know its limitations.
But the disciples are the opposite of kid logic; maybe theirs is the most grownup logic of all. Because instead of seeing the world with wonderment and being open to the realities of Jesus’ life (knowing the miracles that they saw and the people who were brought to life)… instead of being open to Jesus’ life and resurrection, they run to the tomb, and finding it empty, they believe a little, but they go home instead of celebrating what God has done.
Have you ever gone to a magic show? I don’t mean the ones that have the little guy in a top hat with a wand that turns into flowers; I mean like David Blaine level, David Copperfield level stuff. (Why are they always called David?) I mean the kind of magic that makes people jump out of their seat and scream because it’s so amazing. Have you?
I love David Blaine. He’s amazing and there’s a really simple trick that David Blaine does that gets me every time. Even though it’s really simple, it blows my mind. It might be because it’s so simple that it makes me lose my mind. It’s a card trick done on the street outside of a restaurant. It’s a card trick where he has his person pick a card, put it back in the deck, and then, in a completely unexpected fashion, instead of shuffling the deck and picking out the card, he throws the whole deck of cards at the restaurant window. When all the cards have fallen, there, on the other side of the glass, facing out is the person’s card. It’s on the other side of the glass. What? It blows my mind every time.
Every time I see it, I want to see it again, over and over. It’s astonishing. Now imagine that instead of a trick, instead of an illusion, we’re talking about a full-fledged miracle. Your best friend, Jesus, a man you have hung out with and followed for three years, has died and has now come back to life. How could you just go home? I see a dumb magic trick and I can’t stop talking about it for days and weeks, but these guys, their best friend is alive again, and they just go home to sit on the couch. How can they just go home?
But Mary doesn’t go home. Unlike those other two knuckleheads, she doesn’t yet believe, but she also doesn’t go home. At least Mary sticks around and that instinct is rewarded: Angels appear. They ask her, “Why do you cry?” Again she says that she doesn’t know where Jesus has been taken. Then she turns around. Standing behind her is a man. She must not look too closely because, when he says, “Why do you cry?” she asks him where he has taken Jesus.
Of course, we know it is Jesus. We know that things are about to get very different for her. We know that when he says the word, when he says, “Mary,” she’s going to know what happened and her whole life is going to change.
And then it does. Jesus says, “Mary,” and she says, “Teacher,” and nothing is ever the same.
So, how can we be more like Mary than the two who go home? There’s a great definition of the word ‘theology’ that says that it is “faith seeking understanding.” Mary had faith, but she didn’t understand. The disciples had faith, but they didn’t understand. The difference between these people is that Mary kept looking and the disciples went home.
Because when we have experienced the living Christ, the one who changes our lives, how can we just go home? How can we be like the disciples, see the empty tomb, and grab a seat on our couches? The resurrection asks us to keep looking for Jesus until, like Mary, we can say, “I have seen the Lord.”
Grace and peace go with us.