Woman, Why Are You Weeping? - John 20: 11-23


All throughout the gospels we learn that the main focus of Jesus’ message is that in him and through him, God’s kingdom has now entered history, and is revealed on earth. And so the narratives in the four gospels describe wonderful and miraculous things that surrounded Jesus’ ministry. He announced the coming of the kingdom by way of healing the sick, preaching good news to the poor, setting at liberty those who are oppressed, He worked many miracles - he raised the dead to life, he cast out demons, he violated accepted religious norms, he acted in ways that contradicted natural laws, he reached out to the outcast of society – the so-called “untouchables” – he did all these in the name of God’s love, and to show the God’s love rules over all things and over all nature. In these he demonstrated authority over all things, authority that only comes from the son of God.

The story of the appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene is another luminous example of how the new realm of God that has come in Jesus has reordered relationships within society. Women during the time of Jesus were marginalized. They could not own property because they themselves were essentially considered as property by the culture during that time. They could not start a synagogue; they cannot petition for equal rights because there was no such thing as equal rights for women. They cannot constitute a quorum in any meeting because they didn't count; their opinions were not respected. A woman’s opinion would be the least believable. The proclamation that the resurrection was first  revealed to women stands alone among the resurrection narratives. There is nothing quite like it in the gospels and ancient literature. The disciples could not have invented the story not only because of this social context,  but they had no choice but to tell the story because our text today says that later that same night, Jesus appeared to all the disciples even when they were behind closed doors. Mary was right! It is no coincidence that the most powerful gospel stories of the risen Jesus’ appearances are told around women.

In the resurrection of Jesus into glory, the ultimate purpose of the story of God’s plan for the redemption of the world is now fully revealed. In the resurrection we see the totality of the story of God’s loving intention in history. It begins in creation. The entire created order is good because it comes from God. The Bible says that only persons and every human being are made in the image of God, to be a steward of the non-human world, invited to live forever with creator God. God's purpose is to restore the created order that is now tarnished by the disobedience of people. God chose a people to be a priest to the nations. But their disobedience messed things up, created self-centered and corrupt persons, and self-centered and corrupt persons distort creation and social relationships.

When Jesus announced the gospel of the kingdom, he meant that as you enter this kingdom you enter a new community and start living with new values. Salvation is not only an individualistic concept in the Bible. God is also concerned about the world. The Bible does not speak only about our relationship with God, but our relationship with others and with all of creation.

In Jesus’ resurrection we are reminded that we are created not to die and rot, but to live forever with the Lord. In Jesus, God’s kingdom has entered history. History is moving towards the completion of God's plan to restore all of creation. The good news is that we enter God's kingdom not because of our own abilities, but because Jesus died on the cross. The Holy Spirit’s work of love in the world is not yet finished, but in Christ we live in hope because we know that we live in the intercession of Jesus himself, and in the assurance that nothing - nothing - in all of life and even death, can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. The proclamation of the resurrection is that Jesus is Lord, that he is already Lord of all rulers and kings. With this hope we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world.  We are called to live in right relationship with God, creation, and with each other.

Because the world is not yet perfected, there are still voices out there that are constantly vying to drown out the voice of Easter – these are voices of fear, of hate, of cynicism and apathy; voices of violence and greed. We still see the poor, the weak and the vulnerable continually still being victimized in our world and in our neighborhoods. We still see creation being ravaged by rapacious economics. Hatred and wars still destroy people. And often times the moral and spiritual burden that we bear as a community of Jesus weighs down upon us: what do we do as a church? What does it mean to be the church in a society that is suspicious of faith? Jesus does not value faith that is based on one’s idea of “convincing evidence.” When Thomas made his confession of his belief after he saw Jesus’ wounds, Jesus turned to him and said, have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” This is the reason that apostle Paul said that faith is the evidence of things unseen, the substance of things hoped for. The mystery of the Word becoming flesh is fully embraced in faith.

We must not forget that the light of resurrection burst forth from the darkness and the shadow of the cross. God’s love was laid bare through the ugliness of an executioner’s cross. On that cross, Jesus cried’ “Eloi, Eloi, why have you forsaken me?” He didn’t use the word “Abba”, the customary way he called God, which is equivalent in emotional weight to “daddy.” Instead he used, “Eloi”, in his cry of abandonment. It is the way we would call God in the midst of our despair. Jesus also experienced the abandonment of God in the depth of his suffering and grief. We, too, have seasons of abandonment – we experience it in the death of a loved one, in the betrayal of a friend, when we see and experience great physical suffering and trauma, when injustice seems to prosper over what is just, or in the depths of despondency that comes when relationships are broken and when we lose everything that we know or value. We experience God’s distance when we see evil. In those moments, we feel God seemingly absent and so far away. Jesus’ cry is the cry of humanity.

Then in the midst of these, we hear Jesus’ voice in the way it came to Mary: “Woman, why are you weeping?” The gospels are unanimous in the one essential message of Easter: that the crucified one who was killed did not remain dead but is alive. Jesus the crucified now lives forever with God.  In our seasons of abandonment, we know that Jesus has been there. In Jesus’ conquest of death through his resurrection, we can also say with the apostle Paul, “to die with Christ is to rise with him.” And this is our hope, that whoever clings to Jesus and follows him will likewise live. There is no new dogma or doctrine is proclaimed here; only a new call to discipleship. The risen Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” When Peter said yes, Jesus responded “Then feed my sheep.”  Jesus called Mary by name, and this is when she recognized him. Can we recognize Jesus when he calls us by name in these days? In the midst of the challenges and discouragement that we still face in the world, we hear Jesus saying to us individually or as a community of faith, “why are you weeping?” Without Easter, all of Christendom will have no belief in Christ, no proclamation of Christ. There will be no church, no worship, no mission, and no gospel; without the resurrection there will be no New Testament. The Easter message is about eternal life. God’s love, in Jesus Christ, conquered death. We have no reason to be sitting on a rock weeping. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus in the world that God so loves.

The earthly ministry of Jesus was consumed in the ministry of invitation, “follow me!”, of teaching, preparation, healing, liberating the oppressed; of preaching good news to the poor and the marginalized of society, of announcing that the realm of God and the gospel of love have now entered history fully in his ministry. Now, as we worship on this Resurrection Sunday, we are reminded of the risen Lord’s last words – they were words of mission and promise – “tend my sheep”, go and change the world…”and, lo, I will be with you until the end of the age.”

Where is the weeping in all of that?