March 27, 2016 1 Comment
Dolly Parton’s performance of Don Fancisco’s “He’s alive” is my all-time favourite modern worship song – I can’t listen without ending up crying – ‘He’s alive and I’m forgiven Heaven’s gates are open wide!’ Alleluia – he is Risen! The song takes us back to that first morning, and I want to follow Mary Magdalene.
Imagine, if you will, the consternation – the stone had been rolled away, and the guards seemed not to be there. When she got to the tomb Mary discovered it was unoccupied; at that moment we receive the piece of information which launched Christianity and keeps it vital – He was not there. She ran back to tell the others – and then it was the turn of Peter and John – with the young man outpacing the older, but waiting for him before they went in to see the truth.
We can’t piece together the exact chronology, but whilst they rushed back, Mary lingered, as is the way of women, especially when they have lost someone they loved; she’d set out expecting to anoint the dead Jesus, and now she was at a loss. What could have happened – where was he? As she wept she saw two figures in white who asked her why she was crying – she told them. She turned and saw a man she took to be the gardener, and she asked if he knew. Like everyone to come in the next few days, she did not recognise him, but when she beard his voice she marvelled – it was him, there was no doubt – ‘Rabboni’ she said, and tried to cling to him – but he told her not to, and asked her to go tell the others.
This is what St John tells us, and that one word -“rabboni”, the Aramaic form of ‘rabbi’ locates us firmly in truth – she saw and she bore witness, and that witness is truth. How amazing! In Jewish law the unsupported testimony of a woman was worth nothing – and yet it was this one woman whom Jesus sent to tell the men of the greatest truth of all – that He was alive!
One of the many wonderful things about the song is that it allows us to enter, imaginatively, into that world at that moment – the bewilderment, the tears, the joy and the sheer delight of the Redemption.
The day had begun in darkness and in mourning, before descending into a kind of confused chaos where no one knew what to do or what was what. Peter and John dashed around, but did not stay – they were men of action. It was Mary who stayed, and it was her love for the Lord which made her the first witness to the Good News which would advance even to the ends of the earth. They do, indeed serve, those who stop and wait on God’s pleasure.
And so it was that all the things the wise men of Jerusalem said would come to pass, did not. Of course, they put it around that the body had been stolen, what else could they do? But men and women do not turn from frightened fugitives to fearless evangelists because they have rescued a decaying corpse – the disciples were empowered by the Risen Lord – and, as we enter into the fullness of the Easter joy, let us be so inspired by that great thought – ‘he’s Alive!’