John 20:11-15 Someone has stolen Jesus* – Good Friday Meditation
Mary was in deep grief and loss. Her future hopes were taken away. She’d been traumatized by what she had seen. Why hadn’t heaven intervened? Why hadn’t avenging angels come? Why didn’t God’s army descend upon the Earth and defeat all those who hated and mocked him?
Now, he was not only dead and gone, his body was missing. His precious body. She had waited the proper time, set aside the Sabbath. Those hours had been terrible. There was so much she wanted to do, yet she was placed in lockdown. Now, she could finally go to him, the remains of Jesus better than no Jesus at all.
What terrible grief to go where he was supposed to be and find nothing. Have you ever done that, gone where Jesus was supposed to be and found nothing?
Some years ago, before I was a pastor, I participated in Lent soup suppers in people’s homes. I was asked to read this passage, as Brenda did. As I read the words, “they have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have laid him,” my voice caught in my throat and I fought tears to finish the reading. Everything Mary trusted was true was taken away.
Sometimes we Christians fall into a pattern where we think Jesus is dead and missing, too, and we have to find him. The Jesus we thought we knew is suddenly gone. The Jesus we thought we understood, the Jesus we believed in has done or said something that shakes our foundations and we long for the Jesus we used to follow. Like Mary, we want to hold on to the Jesus we used to know.
In these days of Covid 19, I am sure a lot of people also want that, and are asking, “Where did Jesus go?”
And scores of people are lined up, sure that they know where he is! “He’s here, just follow us,” they cry. “He’s here, he’s the plank in our platform, the banner that goes before our battle!
He hates the same people we hate! He condemns the same people we condemn! Follow us and we will show you eternal life!”
But nobody gets to run off with Jesus. Nobody. Nobody claims the remains of Jesus and animates him for their own agenda, their own preference or their own comfort. Nobody makes him their own puppet. Nobody.
The living Christ never hangs out long where death is. He is there, yes. He is surely there where death is. But he does not stay there. It is not his nature, nor his lifestyle. Death is a threshold to a whole new life, not a place to dwell.
Jesus is in that threshold right now. We are in that threshold with him right now, just as Mary was in lockdown during the Sabbath. Just as Jesus does not dwell in this place indefinitely, neither will we!
Come early Easter Sunday, we will each go out seeking him in newly. There will be people who will call to you and say, “Follow us, we know where the real Jesus is. Adopt our ways and accept our rules. We will show you the way to God.” Don’t worry about them.
Go, expecting to find something new that you did not know before. Because that is how Jesus moves, on his own, utterly out of our control, utterly mysterious, utterly impossible to anticipate or domesticate.
For now, we wait just a few more hours until dawn. We are yet a people unborn, but we will be delivered in due time.
*Thanks to Yvette Flounder, “Where the Edge Gathers: Building a Community of Radical Inclusion, 2005.”