The Easter Gospel: John 20:1-18
Very often, my wife, Connie, will see me growing cranky looking for something. She says, “What are you looking for?” And no sooner than I name the elusive thing, she finds it. And often it had been hiding in plain sight, right in front of my nose.
Mary Magdalene pulls the same trick here in this Gospel. The two chief male disciples of Jesus, Peter and the Beloved Disciple, hear her dire declaration that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb, and nowhere to be found. They run to the tomb. They see only the empty grave clothes. Then at least the Beloved Disciple sees and believes. What he believes is not explicated here.
But Mary sees more, and her seeing turns quickly to action. First, she looks at the tomb where the two disciples had seen nothing but grave clothes. She sees two angels there. The Greek word is angelos, which is a messenger, who, if sent by God, is obviously special. These two don’t get to give their good news, only to ask her why she is weeping. Perhaps, as more typical of women, she gets especially personal, as well as emotional, and says through her tears, “They have taken away my Lord. And I don’t know where they have put him.”
Then she sees even more. She turns behind her and sees someone who looks to her like a gardener or watchman, who also puts her emotions to the test: “Woman, why are you weeping?” But, when he then calls out her name, she realizes who he is and calls out to Jesus as her Teacher.
Then Mary Magdalene becomes the angelos to the disciples–the verb used is angelousa. She carries the simple but profound Truth to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” She adds Jesus’ equally simple but profound explanation : he is ascending to the Father God we all share. With the good news she carries Mary thus becomes the first Easter Evangelist and Angel.
So often my wife has rescued me from my frustration, seeing what I cannot see. So often she has blessed my life by being an angel of God’s grace that I have been missing. I hope I have done the same for her half as many times.
And how often the male-dominated hierarchy of the Church has impoverished itself by quenching the Holy Spirit charismata of women. In a church that in its infancy cherished women as patrons of mission, apostles, prophets, and leaders of house churches, the men, anxious for their own imagined prerogatives, and quick to conform to the patriarchy of the mainstream culture, turned their backs on angels among them.
For those who see current openings for female leadership as innovative, just remember that the abolition of slavery was also innovative in the life of the culture and of the church. Viva compassion-inspired innovation!!
I am proud that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, along with a number of other “woke” denominations, is trying to hearken now to the fuller implications of Mary’s message. May the awakening continue. After all, Easter means Christ is changing everything!