Weekly Bible Devotional
“The Bible: New Beginnings”
April 4, 2021
Scripture for Sunday: John 20:1-18
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. 2So 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.” 3Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. 4The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10Then the disciples returned to their homes.
11But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12and 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. 13They 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.” 14When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15Jesus 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.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). 17Jesus 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.’” 18Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.
Notes on The Text:
The resurrection of Jesus gave his followers the hope and vision they needed to carry out his mission, which showed how the deep experiences of faith of only a handful of followers can have a worldwide impact. I imagine that it would have been hard for his disciples to comprehend the impact their faith would have on the rest of the world. Their experience of the resurrection of Jesus seemed small and inconsequential compared to the powers of the world around them. In addition, the first witness to the resurrection was a woman. In that time and culture, the witness of a woman would have been discounted by most of society as unreliable. Even the male disciples could not imagine such a thing to be a possibility.
There was a lot of hesitation and uncertainty among the disciples about the resurrection. They struggled to find their way through this new experience of faith and they of course had no idea that people around the world would be inspired by their witness. Their doubt, their uncertainty, and their courage were all important parts of the story. All of it was used to turn the wheel of history in the direction of love. After the crucifixion of Jesus, it was hard for his followers to know what to do. That seemed to be the end of their journey with Jesus. They seemed to have lost their hope. In fact, in our Bible story for today from the Gospel of John we see Mary Magdalene going to the tomb to mourn. But even when she and some of the other disciples did not find the body of Jesus there, she was not expecting to see Jesus at all. She thought that he was the gardener. She was in such mourning and pain. Even though in that culture the appearance of the dead was to be expected for the first 40 days after death, Mary who was one of the close disciples of Jesus, somehow did not recognize that possibility. After she saw the angels in the tomb, she still was not expecting anything beyond that. What she was expecting was that somebody had stolen the body of Jesus. The imagery in the story gives us a huge clue about the cosmic impact of this event. First, we have the image of darkness: “While it was still dark.” This was a reminder that a new thing was going to be born. In the Gospel of John, Jesus brought light into the darkness of the world, just like God in Genesis brought light as an act of creation. The second clue is that of the gardener. Mary thought that Jesus was the gardener. The garden was a foundational image in the story of creation in Genesis. There are many other symbols in this story, and they all point us in the direction of a new creation, a new beginning for the whole world.
The resurrection is about always trusting that a new beginning is always possible, even when we find ourselves at the tombs of the world. Each of us has the capacity to be a part of those new possibilities for our whole world when we focus our energies on love.
We rarely get to know the impact of our faith on the world, but Easter reminds us that each act of love and care has a tremendous impact on the lives of others. The story of God’s love is not finished yet! And the resurrection of Jesus is not about a distant event in the past that we admire and remember. It is about the hope and love that are being born in and through each of us. This is the hope which Mary Magdalene and the other disciples received in their experience of the empty tomb. Each one of us is invited not just to get or give information about the great story of the resurrection of Christ. Each one of us is also called to practice resurrection every day of our lives. Easter reminds us that whatever challenge we are going through, it is not the final phase. Love continues to unfold and our work is to be conduits of that love.
Prayer by Ann Braithwaite:
When I peered up from the hole
and saw no way out…
When what was taken
away gave no warning…
When I didn’t think I
had the courage
(or even the energy)
to live into a life looking
nothing like it did before…
Something was happening.
The thing I thought would break me –
that did break me –
is now making me.
Great is the mystery of faith…
The pieces of life’s puzzle
come together here and there,
or shockingly in a big patch at once,
and I see you…
active and good in all things.
Your power to redeem –
to take the most painful deaths
and birth from them living, breathing gifts,
taking my own breath away in awe.
You do not create pain for me to grow
or cause the heartache of my soul,
but are the expert Shaper of life’s ashes.
Somehow this terrible thing –
when given in earnest to you today
(and many tomorrows from now!)
becomes an open channel where
something amazing will flow.
A passage echoing
with a tender Voice –
You can trust me
with all the things….
in all the things…
You will lift me from this hole.
I will wail and wonder with gratitude.
I’ll begin a new kind of dance,
letting my limp remind
my soul and world
how broken bodies
learn exquisite new rhythms.
With you, pain finds a home
in something larger than itself.
And sacred scars hold haven over
wounds which will someday bless.