Jesus was not resuscitated to pick up his old life where he left off. He was resurrected to new life. Resurrection is not resuscitation. Jesus’ resurrection initiates God’s new creation, it was not a continuation of the old one.
“For I am about to create a new heaven and a new earth, the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind” Isaiah 65:17.
We hear this echo in Jesus’ conversation with Mary in the garden of his now-empty tomb. Jesus’ resurrection changes his story. It’s no longer a story about someone we thought would save Israel but instead died on a cross. It’s the story about the one who will save the world whom God raised from the dead. So, Mary, Jesus almost says -- my story needs rewriting. “Don’t hold on to me” we can’t stand here hugging in the garden, we both have work to do. I am going to my Father and I need you to go tell the rest of the disciples what I’m up to (loose paraphrase of John 20:17-18). And Mary does.
Biblical Scholar and British Bishop NT Wright reminds us that the Good News is not “Jesus was raised; therefore, we’re going to heaven.” The Good News is “Jesus was raised; therefore, God’s new creation has begun and we’ve got a job to do” (NT Wright, 2006, 21).
Mary caught on right away. Somehow, many of us aren’t quite as quick. Or maybe we were at one time, but we’ve grown a bit complacent. The Good News is as comfortable as a warm hug from a dear friend.
The pastor of a congregation I was working with a while back told me that his congregation saw themselves as a ‘warm hug.” They were really good at loving one another. So one day he posed this question to them:
What would you do if you came upon a small group of folks in a warm hug?
Would you join them?
They admitted that no – they would not. In fact, they would find that a bit awkward and try to walk around the group without being noticed – so as not to interrupt their moment. Their pastor affirmed their perfectly natural response and pointed out that this was indeed the neighbor’s response to the congregation.
A warm hug is exclusive and closed. It’s not something that lasts more than a couple of minutes. After that – it’s time to open up and move on. A hug nurtures the relationship between the participants and energizes them to live into the future with confidence. At least that’s what it did for Mary and Jesus. But it didn’t seem to be having the same effect on my pastor colleague and his congregation. It nurtured their relationships but didn’t give them a sense of urgency about their part in the mission of Jesus. We worked together to help them hear Jesus release them from his embrace with the words “Don’t hold on”– we have work to do- “Go and tell.” God is alive and working toward a new creation!
Don’t worry. God’s new creation is recognizable. It isn’t completely unknown. After all Mary recognized Jesus’ voice when he called her name. There is a bit of the old that comes into the new. For Mary, and for us, our relationship with Jesus goes with us into this unfamiliar future. Standing in the garden that first Easter Morning, Mary did not know all that Jesus’ resurrection meant. It was only the first day. She will have time to live into it. We will too. For today it is enough to know that death could not hold Jesus, neither could Mary, and neither can we. God is alive and working and we are called to participate in that work.
Where do you feel God releasing you from a warm hug and telling you to Go?
What are the first signs you are seeing of the new creation in your life? Your congregation?
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