My favourite Easter reading is that in John’s Gospel. It’s so full of imagery and gets you to think and look.
Indeed within John’s Gospel I particularly like the scene with Mary Magdalene.
It seems to me to show why everything is suddenly different.
The first person to meet Jesus in the garden is a woman – Mary Magdalene.
You could just take this to mean that she shows her devotion to Jesus more than the others. But there is more going on here.
Firstly, the imagery. Set in a garden. Mary mistakes Jesus for a gardener. Where else does the bible talk about a garden? The Garden of Eden.
Who comes off worst in the Garden of Eden? Woman.
So, what is being said here?
The resurrection is reversing the Fall. In fact the apostle Paul sees Jesus as the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45)
And in this reversing is a woman – Mary Magdalene.
Women are no longer second class citizens but fully restored and valued. Its why Paul can say that
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus
The resurrection means that no longer can we hide behind faith as a reason to treat women badly – or indeed anyone!
Secondly, there is the misunderstanding of who Jesus is. Jesus is not resuscitated. He is transformed. Mary doesn’t recognise Him by sight. Rather He calls her by name and she recognises Him.
For us too He calls us by name and we need to look out for Him to hear Him. This can be in the most surprising of places and times.
Thirdly, He tells Mary
Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.
For Jesus will no longer be physically located. Mary is being asked to realise that she can no longer show her devotion to Jesus physically by anointing his feet. She can no longer hold onto the physical body of his. Rather Jesus is returning to the Father who is also her and the others Father.
Now Jesus is not limited to a particular time or a particular space. Rather Jesus is always there for us. Always available. Not limited. So Paul can write in Romans
It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.
In Jesus we now see the beginnings of the reversal of the work of sin in humanity. Relationship restored with God and within humanity. We now see the first fruits of what one day we shall be.
The resurrection does not take away all that we now endure and go through. But it says that Hope has come and cannot be overcome. That one day all will be restored.
So Paul, who spent his life working out what meeting the resurrected Christ meant could say:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all day long;we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced 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 our Lord. (Ro 8:35-39, NRSV)