I’m not the most athletic of persons. In fact, I have successfully managed to avoid most gym classes and foot races. But I remember when I was a child that you ran simply because everyone else did. If others were running a certain direction, they must be going to see something - something you didn’t want to miss.
The disciples also ran in today’s scripture passage. They ran not because there was something that they didn’t want to miss, but because they had just heard news they didn’t want to believe “They have taken the Lord.” Ironically, the Roman guards had been scared that it was Jesus’ followers who would steal his body and now, as if a cerul joke has been played, it seems like someone else has taken and hid the body of the one they loved.
So two of the disciples - Simon Peter and the other disciples - took off like a shot. Mary probably ran behind them, to see the event that had just caused her to dash to these disciples through their eyes. To relive the pain of not knowing where Jesus’ body lay. The other disciple got there first, bent down and saw the linens lying there. Maybe he remembered back to just a few days earlier when he had witnessed Lazarus stumbling out of his own tomb in response to Jesus’ voice. He came out still wrapped in all of his grave clothes, but Jesus’ were cast off. Then Peter arrived, and goes a bit further, boldly stepping into the tomb. What were they to make of these discarded clothes? Who would carry a body without them? Especially at this point?
I can’t begin to imagine the questions and emotions that must have been present between the disciples and Mary Magdalene. But I would guess that their first thoughts were simply about the incomprehensibility of the situation. Like most of us, they jumped to a logical conclusion - the body was gone, someone must have taken it. Who? Why? When? Where? How?
We too face questions at the face of the empty of tomb. In fact, some of us may have even come to worship this morning driven by the question - is this even true? Or how is my life changed by the risen Christ? Why does this day matter? The claim of a man raising from the dead seems questionable itself, let alone to say that man was truly God.
But our questions, just like the disciples, are not bad. In fact, without questioning, they never would have ran. Without reaching the tomb they would have never went in. And without going in they never would have come to believe. It’s okay to have questions, even questions that we may never have answered in this lifetime, because questions show that we care. Question shows that something has peaked an interest in our spirit - something that has driven us to look into the empty tomb today as well.
Out of the disciples questions belief did come, but not belief as we may define it. For when the other disciple, the one who reached the tomb first, followed Peter into the tomb we are told that he saw and believed, but that he didn’t understand that Jesus had been raised from the dead. We may go as far as to say his belief was only partial. But he did believe in the glory of Christ. That the cross wasn’t the final word and that it lead to Jesus’ magnification, not death. The message of Christ could not be contained.
It doesn’t matter at what point in our life we looked into the empty tomb, saw, and believed. It doesn’t matter if we have all of the facts straight in our head or can recite every Bible story. What does matter is that we, too, believe. Believe that Christ’s mercy and grace triumph all. Believe that death doesn’t have the final word. For over the years many people have come to faith by looking into the empty tomb. We have faith in the seemingly unbelievable. But in the words of Pastor Clayton Schmit, “Faith comes first as a gift. Sorting it out comes later.”
The other disciple believed. He and Simon Peter returned home. But Mary, Mary who ran to get them in the first place, doesn’t have that same belief. And she cannot leave the empty tomb, which her Lord has been taken from. So she stands outside and weeps. As she is weeping, she bends down again to get another look and sees angels standing there. They question her, “Why are you weeping”. And even after though she has saw angels, she still doesn’t believe.
She stands up, still crying and is met by another person she thinks is the gardner. He took asks her why she is weeping and she begs him to tell him where he has taken her Lord. But then Jesus calls her by name, “Mary” and she grabs him, clinging too him.
Sometimes looking into the empty tomb is not enough to start our faith journey. Sometimes we are so caught up in our own pain, that we cannot see the message of hope through our own tears. We too are asked “Why are you weeping?” and have so many answers. Weeping for the pain that we carry around that others do not know about. Weeping for loved ones gone too soon. Weeping for a world at war. Weeping for children that go to bed hungry. So much to grieve over. We cannot see Christ through our tears.
We need Jesus to call us by name. We need to listen for the voice of Christ, when coming to see is not enough. That voice may sound different for each of us. It may be the voice of a friend inviting us to serve on a mission trip. Or a spouse inviting us to come and worship with them. It may be the voice of a teen asking if there is more to life then what we weep over in the world? Questions and invitations may be placing us in the path where Christ can meet us and speak to us. We may not recognize his voice at first, but slowly and surely over time, we notice that it is a voice that is unlike any other. The voice of our teacher that speaks to us in a deep way.
Rather we see and believe or hear the voice of Christ speaking our name, we are left with the same question - what are we going to do when we leave worship this morning? Are we going to go, like Mary, and proclaim the good news, “I have seen the Lord! He is Risen” or are we simply going to return to life as usual? Are we going to live as Easter people who follow God, no matter how many questions we may have, or are we going to return home and pretend that today never happened? Are we going to go out and let our voices ring? Are we going to live as if we are empowered by the Lord? Will we go on to live victorious? Will you live like the resurrection means something for your life?
Easter people know that while we live in darkness, weeping now, its not the end of the story. Easter people know that while we have questions, they drive us to look even more closely at the tomb that proclaims of the resurrection. May we go forth as Easter People, going forth to tell our brothers and sisters, “He is risen, indeed!” Amen.