Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!”
The four gospel accounts of the first Easter morning describe a day that began not in triumph, but in grief. Thus, the first thing to remember about any resurrection experience we might have is that it, too, must begin in death, as when a loved one is taken too soon, a dream is shattered, or a Cathedral burns.
All four accounts agree that on the first Easter morning, the women closest to Jesus went to the cave where his body had been placed. But from there, details diverge significantly about which women went and why, and who else was there, and who spoke to them, and what was said. Taken together, the stories of the first Easter paint a chaotic and confusing scene.
The second thing to know about a resurrection experience is that it’s a not a neat, linear experience. There’s no magic wand, sweeping away the sadness and instantly replacing it in with joy. Life after death comes in fits and starts. We don’t know what to make of it at first. We aren’t sure what to do, where to go, what to think. As on the first Easter, it’s disorienting and messy when God brings life out of our death.
What ultimately gave the first witnesses to resurrection their confidence and joy was an experience of Jesus’ presence with them. Jesus called Mary Magdalene by her name, and immediately she knew that he was alive. Later he met two disciples on the road and while he spoke to them they felt their hearts burning, and they knew he was alive. He appeared to Thomas in the Upper Room, and again to all the disciples on the shores of Lake Galilee, and they knew, not only that he was alive, but that he loved them still, in spite of everything, and would love them always.
“For I am convinced,” writes St. Paul, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:38-39)
This is the Easter message: Nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed to us in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Nothing we do, nothing done to us. Resurrection is not only an event that happened long ago. It is God’s way with us, now, bringing life out of death, and walking with us every step of the way.
This Easter, dare to believe that it’s true. In times of grief, wait and watch for the life that comes to you from God. In the midst of chaos and confusion, don’t be afraid to live the new life given you in resurrection. And remember this: nothing can separate you, can separate any of us, from the love of God in Christ.