One By One
John 19: 25-27
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
One by One
Each day throughout this time of the pandemic, we see numbers that represent those who have contracted the virus and died. Although the total is in the thousands, each number represents one person. One person who had a life and a story. They were mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, grandparents. They were teachers, grocery workers, nurses, and truck drivers. Each one had a particular life. They loved and were loved by others.
On Easter Sunday we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ as the defining event of our faith. It was an event with cosmic significance, for all eternity, and we associate it with the theological elements of our existence – sin, atonement, redemption, reconciliation. To Christ we ascribe the terms associated with his identity as God Incarnate, The Messiah, The Prince of Peace. His life, death and resurrection transcend all creation and through Him we ourselves are given new birth as children of God.
At the same time, the Gospels tell the story of a particular man who had a life, who grew up in a family and who lived 33 years on this earth. They tell us about his mother Mary and how he was sometimes impatient towards her. And they tell us about how she was present at the crucifixion, a witness to his suffering and his excruciating death.
And although the Gospel accounts differ on the details, there is the suggestion that she was also among the group of women who went to the tomb in the early morning and were the first to encounter the risen Christ. If so it would mean that he met her at the point of what was most likely a deep and overwhelming grief. He met her as her Savior but also as her son, the boy she had given birth to, had raised from childhood, and had loved as her own.
Most of us know what it is like to lose someone to death; nearly all of us are acquainted with grief. Some of us know the particular pain associated with losing a child. And so on Easter Sunday, as we praise God not only for the general redemption of all humanity, we also praise God for the redemption of individual persons with individual lives. We praise God for gift of eternity given, one by one, to those who we have loved and who have left this life. We praise God for the promise of Heaven and the knowledge that those who we have lost are not lost to us forever.
Early in Luke’s Gospel, we are told that Mary, newly pregnant, sings a hymn of praise called “The Magnificat.” Among the lines in the song are these:
My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
His mercy is for those who fear him, from generation to generation.
The Resurrection of Christ is both cosmic and individual, both for the benefit of all humanity and for each person. Charles Wesley expressed this duality in his famous hymn “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” Easter, he says, reminds us of God’s overall work, i.e., “Love’s redeeming work is done, Fought the fight, the battle won.” But he also brings Easter to the personal level, to each one of us, when he writes “Made like him, like him we rise; Ours the cross, the grave, the skies.”
One by one, each of us is given eternity. This is the great, good news of Easter, and of who we are as Easter people. Thanks be to God. Amen.