Easter Sunday, the climax of the Christian year where everything comes together. Every year the Easter Acclamation, “Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!” is joyously proclaimed by congregations, small and large, in churches all over the world as God’s people unite together in celebration.
But not this Easter. There can be no shared worship with Believers standing shoulder to shoulder or sitting side by side because Church buildings are still closed. It’s a situation with which many struggle; being unable to join as one. We are left to share the Easter story on our own or in small family groups.
So, today, whether we are in ones or twos or just a very few in the household, turn with me if you will, to share in reading that Easter story again as John recounts it at 20:1-18.
The story picks up after the dead body of Jesus has been placed in the tomb on what we know as Good Friday and the entrance sealed by a large stone.
Early morning on the third day and before sunrise Mary Magdalene, alone and still grief stricken by the harrowing events only a few days earlier, makes her way to the tomb.
At the sight of the open entrance and the heavy stone lying to one side she fears that the grave has been desecrated and immediately runs to find Peter and John.
When they see the empty tomb and the folded grave clothes, realisation dawns. John now understands what has happened. Jesus has risen, just as he said he would. Death is not the end. This is a new beginning. There is new life and they have experienced it for themselves.
As Peter and John depart the scene, Mary, standing outside crying, still believes that her friend is dead, and his grave violated.
When Jesus calls her name, she turns around to face him and for the first time in days, lifts her head up. She sees Jesus stand before her, alive. There is new life for Mary. There is joy. As she excitedly told the disciples later (20:18) “I have seen the Lord”.
It is at this point as we share in the good news of the Resurrection that all God’s people join in the acclamation, “Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”
Now, while we are accustomed to this being a collective proclamation, either being together or apart as we are today does not alter the fact of Jesus’ resurrection and the new life he brings.
Remember, the reality of the resurrection was initially experienced by only a few. It was Mary. It was Peter and John. That was all! The news of the resurrection would only come later to the handful of disciples who were a small group.
This year is a very different Easter from what we are used to, but it gives us the opportunity to better engage in Easter in a different way, in a personal and individual way: like Mary, like Peter and John.
Jesus came to the world for all, but his approach is made individually. (John 20:16) Jesus said to her “Mary”. He called her by her name.
It is a personal invitation he makes to each one of us. It is not a ‘blanket’ call; it is a personal call. He calls us by our name. It is up to each one of us how we respond.
Today, on this Easter Sunday, while we may not be united together in a building, we are united in spirit with countless millions of Christ’s people all over the world to celebrate His Resurrection.
This Easter, whether in a family at home or self-isolating in our ones and twos, as we read the story again let us also join with those first witnesses and accept Jesus’ offer of new life. “Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!”
Let us pray.
Almighty Father and Loving God, as Mary rejoiced at the sight and knowledge of the Risen Christ, let us too experience in our lives, His presence with us.
Let us be strengthened and sustained by his Risen Life in these difficult and strange times so that we may come alive in Him.
This Easter, may faith come alive and be real in every part of our living. Through Jesus Christ, amen.
With Easter blessings to each one of us.