15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’
On Palm Sunday last week and over the last two days I have tried to draw your attention to the choices Jesus makes. As we reflected on Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey we saw humility. No dashing white charger and a whole brigade of soldiers, just a donkey and a rag tag bunch of disciples.
We also realised that Jesus chose to provoke the powers that be, both the political powers and the religious powers. Presumable both Herod and Pilate heard of the crowd of disciples cheering Jesus on praising him as a king.
Hence I invited you all to embrace humility and to hold it together provocation of the powerful. Hopefully our humble challenge will bring the lofty down to earth form their imagined place of honour.
On Maundy Thursday as we particularly remembered the Passover Meal, the Last Supper we saw again Jesus humility expressed as servanthood. Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. And we recalled that Jesus shared the supper with Judas who he already knew would betray him.
Hopefully we all returned home wondering how we might continue to embrace servanthood in our everyday life, while at the same time including even people who have hurt us or who are likely to.
On Good Friday we reflected on Jesus’ obedience to the Father even to accepting the cross. And we noticed Jesus telling Peter to put away his sword. He chose non-violence.
Hence we were invited pas attention to the word of God seeking to discern the difference between our own thought bubbles and God’s calling on our lives.
As we come now to the resurrection I want to draw your attention to four things: Jesus’ gentleness, his hidden identity, his capacity to be present in our darkest hour and the generosity of his forgiveness.
Jesus called Mary by name. Admittedly he had called her woman prior to that which sounds rude to us but as Jews in the first century that would not have been rude. If we read on just a little further in John’s Gospel we will see Jesus with Peter and Thomas, again with a lovely gentleness.
We are also called to be gentle with our families and friends and even with our enemies. Like Humility, that does not mean we let them walk all over us. We can be gentle and assertive at the same time.
I think it is important also to see the hidden identity of Jesus. Mary knew Jesus well so it is strange that she did not recognise him and assumed he was the gardener. In Luke’s Gospel we have the lovely story of the two disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. Jesus walked with them for miles and they still did not recognise him. That had a sense that this was a special moment of grace, but it was only when he broke the bread at the meal that they recognised him. I guess you could argue that this was not so much a choice as it was something to do with how the resurrection body is different to how he was before. Never-the-less there is a kind of hidden quality to Jesus in these encounters.
I wonder, what are the implications for us in our everyday life? As we deepen our faith in Jesus, our faith becomes a part of our identity. So may be one implication is that we don’t have to boldly proclaim our religious faith at every possible moment. Hopefully all those things I have spoken about, humility, gentleness, servant-hood will be such a rich part of our life that we become an enormous blessing to the people we meet. In time they will wonder what it is that makes this person so special. The study we will be doping this year alongside the Alpha study will help us explore ways to be a blessing to others.
Now If you are sitting there thinking faith in Jesus is not part of my identity. You might have a sense that the stories of Jesus are both attractive at one level but confusing and even mythical at another level. You might be wondering if your life is any different to many of your friends who declare themselves to be atheists. If that is the case I would love to invite you to join us for the Alpha course this year. It is an opportunity to grow in appreciation of the attractiveness of Jesus while at the same time asking as many questions as you like. For some people the Alpha course is like being able to breath properly after spending many years in a stifling suffocating relationship.
Jesus comes in those moments of deep grief. We too are called to sit with people in their deep grief. We won’t always have words that will make any sense in times of deep grief. Often it is better to keep your mouth shut and just be present to the person in pain. Sometimes a hug or gently holding someones hand is more powerful than words.
Jesus brings forgiveness and as disciples we too are called to bring forgiveness to those who have hurt us. However, forgiveness is a journey rather than something that happens in an instance. It is better to take the journey step by step rather than blurt out words that we feel we ought to say. deep forgiveness will bring healing to us and to the perpetrator when we are in a place to truly forgive.
Let’s embrace Jesus’ humility, gentleness, servant-hood and be willing to be present to people in the very dark moments of life, and to offer forgiveness transforming and healing individuals and whole communities.