Throughout the Gospel of John there is a reoccurring contrast between darkness and light. “God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone” (John 1:3-4).
There are numerous stories of light and dark, of seeing and being blind, of hearing and being deaf. When we come to that first Easter morning, I don’t believe it is an accident that John says that when Mary came to the tomb of Jesus early, it was still dark. It was in the darkness that the light of the glorious news was revealed.
In darkness sin and evil thrives, in darkness there is an absence of hope and even an apparent absence of God Himself. It was in darkness that Jesus called out, “My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?” (Matthew 27:46). And, on that first Easter morning, I am sure it seemed to Mary Magdalene that no light could pierce the darkness she was in—a darkness that was felt by many. It is a darkness of cynical resignation to life and the “way things are” in the world; it is a darkness that convinces us that there is no way for improvement. Darkness doesn’t allow room for belief or for hope.
It is possible these were the thoughts going through Mary’s mind on that long and lonely walk to the tomb; Jesus was dead. Darkness had had its way. And why not. Life, after all, is like that. The good die young, the evil prosper and hearts are made for breaking.
The noble ideals Jesus had taught seemed crushed before the harsh realities of life. His words had loosed the hearts of those who followed Him, encouraging them to live good and honest lives, and to live simply before God—all of it crucified on the cross with Him.
It was her love for her Lord that drove Mary to the tomb that morning. She wanted to honor Him by tending to His body. Maybe she wanted to believe that, despite the obvious, something of the light He had lit in her might be regained just by her being there in the presence of His dead body.
When Mary came that dark morning, she encountered the unexpected… the stone was rolled away. Her first thought was that darkness had yet one more victory, that someone had desecrated the tomb. However, it was worse than she had imagined, as she thought the body had been stolen. The others with her had left, now she was alone, once again alone in her grief. In the midst of her tears she hears two messengers asking her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The literal question was, “Why are you crying at such a joyous time.” However, for Mary, the darkness is too great; she doesn’t believe; she doesn’t see.
Stepping outside the tomb, still in darkness, she sees Jesus, but she does not recognize Him. How could she? He is dead. Jesus asks the same question as the two messengers, “Why are you weeping?” Still—no recognition, just more pleading—“They’ve taken Him, gardener! Where is His body?”
Then a glimmer of light. She hears a voice she has heard many times; a voice that has brought life, hope and fulfillment to her. That voice speaks one word, and her life is forever changed. A word she had heard a hundred times over the past three years. “Mary.” The darkness is pierced! She is shaken. The voice—its tone, its modulation—but it’s more; it is the heart of God Himself addressing her. Her eyes are open and she knows that it is Him. For Mary, it is Easter morning!
The Voice that calls each by name
turns whatever the prevailing darkness
into but a prelude.
The darkness lifts and is replaced by the blazing light of pure joy, of hope realized, of faith in Him who loves her and speaks her name, who was dead but now lives.
The Resurrection is a statement for all time and for all people—that what this man, Jesus of Nazareth, was and did is the ultimate Truth, the unveiling of the Eternal God.
In raising Jesus from death to life, God shows us that evil will not have the last word. He shows us that the worst His creation will do can never thwart His purpose. His Resurrection showed that death could not hold love captive.
He always calls you and me by our names. He calls us out of our dark cynicism. He calls us to make our world a better place. He calls us to reach beyond self-interests to serve others. He calls us to a life of expectancy and hope and joy.
Because Christ is risen, we too, can stand in and for the light. We can believe that goodness triumphs over cruelty, hatred, bigotry and evil—even when it doesn’t appear to do so.
This Easter, I trust all of us will hear His voice and believe, that we will place our trust and lives in the wondrous news that those who follow this Light “won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12).
All because “He is Risen.”
— Commissioner David Hudson is National Commander for The Salvation Army in the USA.