He is Risen!
Yet the idea of resurrection was known first in the mind of God. The unfathomable, impenetrable mystery of the mind of the Lord of all creation—resurrection first generated in God’s unknowable consciousness. The resurrection of Jesus occurred beyond our world, first. The bond of Father to Son, Son to Father, reknit itself after 3 days, and an eternity, of death. Then, flesh, holy flesh, lived; a new body, a new Self. Jesus stretched new sinews in the dark, cool tomb—and all the hosts of heaven simply shouted in victory!
What was the first action of Jesus on that Easter morning? We have a tiny, often overlooked clue—it is mentioned only in the gospel of John; but to me it bears the signature of the Son of Mary, the Son of God, risen in new, victorious life. The first thing Jesus did was to make his bed.
John says, “Peter went right up to the tomb and went in. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself.” The small humeral cloth, carefully folded and placed, speaks to me of simple rituals enacted by people everywhere—tiny gestures of order on first awaking.The Son of God arose, removed his burial linens, and neatly folded the cloth of linen that had been placed so lovingly over his face. Placed by friends who were heartsick and horribly afraid. So Jesus, with tender care, folded the cloth and placed it aside.
Then later in the morning at dawn, when Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, she found it open and vacant. She ran to tell the disciples, and they had come and found the cloths, and Jesus gone. When Mary came back to the tomb, she stood at its entrance, weeping. When she looked in, two angels in white sat where Jesus had lain, and asked her, “Why are you weeping?” She said through her tears, “They have taken my lord and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she said this, she turned around and saw Jesus but did not recognize him. Jesus asked her, “Why are you weeping?”—the same question the angels had asked her—and she asked him, thinking he was the gardener, “Where have you taken him?” And Jesus simply said to her, “Mary.” And she was undone!
Another very simple act—Jesus spoke lovingly, directly to the first human who knew him as the resurrected Jesus that morning—he spoke to end her tears, but I would guess they flowed over then—for simple unbelieving joy, not fear. These are simple morning actions—making one’s bed, quietly greeting the first friend you meet, concerned about her well-being—yet this was RESURRECTION!
We can’t know the way, the mechanisms God used to raise his Son from the dead. We hear that the familiar was still familiar to Jesus, but he himself was changed—not recognizable immediately to those who loved him best. We don’t hear details we’d like to hear—about what Jesus experienced in death, about his private conversations with all the disciples. We have only glimpses, little vignettes, of Jesus. But we know why he was raised—to renew all creation—to raise us with him into the life with God we were created for, and redeemed into anew.
Easter is the giddiest, the wildest celebration the world has known. In the immensity of all space, all time, a dark earthy tomb held, and then could not hold, our Lord. Sing with the angels and remember the impeccable care of Jesus folding his burial veil. That care is now lavished on you and me!
This article first appeared April 11, 2004 in The Chronicle, the newsletter of Calvary Episcopal Church, Memphis, Tennessee.