don't cling. break every chain.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who 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 returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:1-18)
“Nothing’s impossible!” says the Doorknob in Disney’s animated classic Alice in Wonderland. Tea parties are celebratory. What is discovered through the looking glass depends on what we bring to it. The journey of faith is a commitment to lifelong learning, recognizing the signs that when we fall through the mud, walk down the hall, get lost a little, and eventually make our way through the narrow door, we find a tea party. We are lost in wonderland. God opens the door, rolls away the stone at the tomb’s entrance, and invites us to jump beyond the clouds into the heavens.
Easter is the day when everything we think we know about how this world works changes. God’s resurrection hope, and our Easter challenge, is that you and I are willing to change with it. Mary, Jesus’ best friend, had no idea how this very morning would transform everything you and I think we know and believe about death and dying.
It was early morning. Mary probably hadn’t slept much. Her eyes were heavy. Her tears were many. Her grief was overwhelming. All of us who have lost a spouse or partner, a friend or a beloved, know that feeling of grief that knocks it all out of us, everything, everywhere, all at once. Mary was probably walking around lost within a trauma-induced stupor. Her best friend had been crucified. She had known Jesus for a long time. She had been his companion and walked the way with him. She was so proud of him. And she loved him.
Jesus had grown up to be a teacher for the people. But not the type of leader they were expecting. Although Jesus was a faithful Hebrew, he challenged the laws, particularly laws that robbed people of their God-given dignity. If someone needs to be healed, do it now. If sight needs to be restored, open their eyes now. If people are hungry, feed them now. If someone feels dead inside, give them new life now.
God isn’t about the business of creating victimhood. God notices the victim when we do not and called on Jesus and calls on us to set them free. God is about freeing the victim from death to new life. Resurrection.
“I once was lost, but now I’m found, as blind, but now I see.”
Jesus taught that nothing could separate us from the love of God, not even laws prescribed by holy teachings or penalties imposed by the government. Jesus met people where they were. He went to them, walking on water, ducking through roofs, climbing up mountains, drawing lines in the sand. Wherever people were robbed of their dignity and found themselves falling through the looking glass into victimhood, Jesus answered by setting them free.
Go. Wash. Be opened. See. Eat. Live. Love God. Love others. We are people created for life, not made for death.
Mary witnessed this as she traveled as a friend and as a disciple of Jesus. She witnessed Jesus unlock every chain. There is power in the love of Jesus to break every chain. In our life’s work, in our ministry to God’s people, do we create more victims or release God’s people from what binds them? This is how we claim resurrection truth and resurrection life.
Catholic theologian James Alison, Anglican theologian and former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, and Evangelical theologian Rob Bell have all implored us to remove victimization from the world. Our victim, the crucified Lord, rises up, and breaks the chain of oppressor-victim by reaching out to the oppressor with open arms and resurrecting them to new life. All are loved. All are within the loving embrace of God. All are part of God’s resurrection promise. From beyond the grave, Jesus, our Lord and savior, invites us to explore, to have a closer look, to come and see the goodness in all of God’s people beyond our judgments, beyond our vanity to play God. The path to loving God, loving self, and loving neighbor as God loves us is to quit victimizing the other.
The world tells us that we are unworthy, incomplete, inadequate, and even unlovable. But, in the midst of a violent, destructive, and often unforgiving world, Jesus, from the cross, calls on God to forgive. Forgive. Don’t judge and create victimhood. Redeem and give new life. God raised Christ from the tomb of death and resurrected him to new life. We want to keep people in their place. Humankind can continue to create victims by killing, subjecting, and destroying the world God created, but God loves us, and through Jesus Christ, invites us to be ministers on Earth to fulfill God’s hope for us. “When I resurrect you, love as I love. Serve my people and break every chain.”
From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat, “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice. “You must be,”said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Despite her grief, on that early morning, just before the sun came up, Mary awoke, gathered up oils and spices and linen cloths, then moved from door to door, waking up the women, to go and finish preparing Jesus’ body for eternity in the tomb. Together, they would roll the tombstone from in front of the entrance. Together, they would light torches and enter the darkness of the cave. Together, they would mix the spices and anoint the body, paying particular attention to the wounds from crucifixion. Together, they would carefully wrap the body. Together, they would cry and weep and fall to the dirt floor, crying, missing their friend.
At dawn, when they arrived at the tomb, the stone was already rolled away. Not having the resurrection hope that Mary has passed on to us, she was alarmed. They have stolen her friend’s body! A terrible morning has just turned beyond horrific. Struck with grief, Mary’s friends just fell to the ground, overwhelmed by the circumstances of the moment.
From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by James Carroll: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to. I don’t much care where.”
Clinging to the walls of the village, Mary made her way back through town and told Peter. I imagine Peter was in a depressed state. Not only had his friend been crucified, but his last memory of Jesus alive was of him denying he had ever known him. He had betrayed Jesus’ love. And now, Mary was saying that Jesus’ body was missing. What else could possibly go wrong?
Peter traveled with Mary and made his way to the cave. With trepidation, they entered the tomb. Jesus’ body was not there. But it didn’t appear the body was stolen. The burial linens were collected, sitting neatly beside where Jesus had been laid to rest.
Mary is overwhelmed. She seeks solace in the garden. She probably believed that she had lost her heart and mind. This was nothing at all like how she thought the morning would go.
The gardener comes to console her. She probably can’t see straight. Her eyes are so full of tears she sees only shadow. The energy has left her body. She is at a loss for words, trying to explain the events of the past few days.
Suddenly, the gardener addresses her by name.
Suddenly, an eternity passed quickly in Mary’s reality. She knew that voice. She had heard it all of her life.
“Rabbouni! Teacher. Friend.”
Her tears dried. Her heart filled up.
And she reached out to hold on to him. She doesn’t want to let him go.
But Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me.”
Do not cling. My work is done here. And now, I am dependent on you to continue it. Keep on doing it until you can say in the face of death, “It is finished.” Go out there and, through the power of my name, break every chain.
Resurrection happens every day when we break the chains of death, releasing the victim from bondage, saying,
Go. Wash. Be opened. See. Eat. Live. Love God. Love others.
“My Lord and my God.”
Malcolm Guite, a Christian poet, writes this in a sonnet called “Easter Dawn:”
He blesses every love that weeps and grieves
And now he blesses hers who stood and wept
And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s
Last touching place, but watched as low light crept
Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs
A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.
She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,
Or recognize the Gardener standing there.
She hardly hears his gentle question, ‘Why,
Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light
That brightens as she chokes out her reply,
‘They took my love away, my day is night.’
And then she hears her name, she hears Love say
The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.