Easter 1B – Resurrection

John 20:1-18

Sometimes we go looking for things that should be easy to find. We trust we will find them because we know what they look like:  Our car keys. Our phones. The eggs we decorated for the Easter egg hunt.

Other things we look for are more problematic. It’s hard to trust we will find them because we are not so sure what they look like: peace, forgiveness, love. The best way to find these things, of course, is not to look for them, but to focus on doing the things that are important to us: the right things, the just things, the merciful things. The things that bring us joy and move us to wonder.

There used to be a grade school science project using paper cups, seeds and some dirt. You fill the paper cups with dirt and put seeds in the dirt. Add a little water and set the paper cups on a window sill where they will be in the sunlight. And nothing happens.  For days, nothing happens. Pretty soon everyone forgets about the paper cups.

One day someone notices that something has happened. In one paper cup, a green stem has started to curl its way out of the dirt. The next day, more of the cups have sprouted.  Soon, in that first cup, the curl breaks free of the dirt and a green plant starts growing straight up, drinking in the sun. Clearly alive.

What changed the small, dry, dead seed into a living, growing, green plant? How did that happen, and when?  How could we have not have noticed such an amazing transformation? Did it happen quietly?  Had we been sitting right there in class when it happened? Had we not noticed because we were busy with fractions and times tables? Or had it made a noise that we didn’t hear because we weren’t there. We were home doing chores, playing, eating dinner, sleeping.  It is impossible to know.

Resurrection is one of those things we hope for, even though we know very little about what it looks like or how it happens.  Mary hoped for the resurrection. Trusting there would be resurrection was a part of her religious tradition. She knew that Jesus had raised Lazarus, but now Jesus was dead. It was hard to know what that meant.

Mary hoped for the resurrection, but that morning in the garden she was busy simply doing the right thing, the just thing, the merciful thing.  She was looking for Jesus’ body, to anoint it for burial. 

She did not find Jesus’ body. She found a gardener.

We don’t know exactly when the resurrection happened.  Maybe it happened quietly. Maybe it happened when no one was there. We don’t know when it was, or how it was that Jesus’ dead body disappeared and Risen One emerged.  

We don’t know and we don’t need to know. It’s not up to us to find the resurrection.

The story of Mary and the gardener tells us that resurrection will happen whether we notice it or not. It is for us to hope and trust and then get on with doing the right things, the just things, the merciful things. The things that bring us joy and move us to wonder. The Risen One will find us.  


Photo by Alin Luna on Unsplash


Dear Readers,

I am taking a few weeks off to enjoy some spring yard work and do some reading. See you soon. Happy Easter to all!


Palm Sunday & Good Friday – Restoring paradise

The Transfiguration, Sixth century apse mosaic of St. Apollinaire in Classe, Ravenna, Italy. From illustrations in Saving Paradise, upon which this post is based.

Passion Narratives: Palm Sunday B – Mark 15:1-47, Good Friday – John 18:1 – 19:42

Early Christianity was not about personal salvation or the promise of life after death.  It was about the struggle to restore paradise in this world – a more complex place than Genesis’ two-personed garden with animals —  by living justly, ethically, generously and joyously.

It was the call of the prophets to restore paradise by doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.  It was Jesus’ mission to restore paradise. It was paradise he referred to when he spoke of “the realm of God” and “the realm of heaven.”  His miracles, healings and teachings are all about restoring paradise by resisting the injustice and abusive power of his age – the Roman Empire. 

Even the Passion narratives are about restoring paradise.  They are read twice during Holy Week. Contemporary Christianity speaks so much about Jesus’ death that we might assume that the Passion narratives are about that too – his death. But they are not.

The Passion narratives are about Jesus’ life and the choices he made when he was personally threatened by the power of Rome.  As Rome did its best to terrorize him into silence and betrayal, Jesus chose to speak truthfully and courageously.  The Passion narratives are about how Jesus lived until he died.

The gospels do not gruesomely dwell on his death.  In fact, according to the gospels, Jesus had no broken bones. His body was removed from the cross intact, soon after his death, and he was given a proper religious burial. None of that was typically done for what was left of the bodies of crucified persons.

The purpose of the Passion narratives was not to celebrate Jesus’ death or valorize his suffering. It was to remind the early Christians listening to the narratives that Pilate would not have the last word. That soon there would be a great sign of paradise restored. And that in the meantime, they needed to get on with Jesus’ mission by healing the sick, loving neighbors, liberating captives, resisting evil, practicing nonviolence, blessing enemies and giving thanks for all that is good.

NB: If you are looking for Easter season reading, consider Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire.