As John retells the story on resurrection morning, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb while it was still dark. She returns and reports to Peter that the body is missing.
At this point no one is thinking resurrection, all thoughts are on the enemies of Jesus who might have stolen the body. Peter returns to the place they were staying while Mary Magdalene mourns at the grave site.
Then, the Scriptures record events that Mary Magdalene is unprepared for, two angels, seated at the head and the foot of the location of the missing body speak with her. She doesn’t know what to think of it. Turning, she sees a gardener, at least she thinks it is a gardener. Unprepared to see Jesus, she does not recognize him. Only when she hears the familiar voice does all doubt fly from her.
Clinging, like a child clutching a familiar toy, she will not step back, afraid he might disappear again. Jesus has to assure her that he has not yet ascended back to God’s right hand.
Go tell the brothers…
Perhaps, because we read the story, very familiar with the ending, we see her as being foolish, or thick headed. Why didn’t she and the others know Jesus would reappear? He had promised, taught about it, and foretold the story. Was it a lack of faith?
I don’t think so. I think they experienced what psychologists call “cognitive dissonance”. It means that all of the information they were receiving just overloaded their thinking. It was “too much”.
We have the advantage, having grown up with the story. As long as there have been Easter Sundays, the story has been repeated and many days unassociated with Easter. We’ve become used to the idea of a resurrection.
Isn’t that extraordinary? That we have learned to see as “normal” or a matter of record that one can return from the dead. If you step back and think about it, you may share some of their cognitive dissonance. Rise from the dead?
We’ve been to thousands of funerals and it has never happened. We are surrounded by cemeteries full of dead men’s bones.
But today, amid the Easter bunnies, colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies, people are thinking of an empty tomb. We take it as a given.
What an incredible God we serve.
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