Reflection on Easter Sunday

– Paul Coleman, Leeds North and East Methodist Circuit

The story of Easter Sunday leads us to joy, to thoughts of Jesus’ victory over death and sin, to images of a stone rolled away and an empty tomb. Yet I suspect our experience of Easter is very different from that of the disciples. For the disciples, that first encounter with the resurrected Jesus must have stirred mixed emotions ranging from disbelief and fear, through to joy and wonder. We know that they were in hiding and were marginalised from mainstream community, and that the resurrection did not immediately change that.

For me, the person most evident in the story of Easter Sunday told in the Gospel of John, is Mary Magdalene. Mary, who after Simon Peter and the others had left, stayed outside the empty tomb, in tears, distraught at the disappearance of Jesus’ body. This grief was so strong that it overcame her fear and took her back to the tomb. In his compassion, Jesus does not leave her lost in grief but instead calls her by name. This seems a small detail but is so important to the way in which Christ relates to all those who are marginalised.

So I wonder how Mary was affected by the seemingly simple act of being called by her name. I suspect that there is also something important in the way in which Jesus spoke her name. The reading from John does not say anything about the tone of Jesus’ voice. Yet, the way in which someone says your name is important. The tone used when talking to or about someone speaks volumes about the way in which they are perceived and valued. In this encounter between the risen Christ and Mary Magdalene, the use of her name, and way in which it was spoken, turned her sadness into joy. It meant that she was recognised and valued as an individual, as someone with her own hopes, dreams and passions. Someone who was important to Jesus. In some ways Mary could be said to represent each and every person who has ever existed. The risen Christ calls each and every one of us by name with love and compassion.

Mary was the first person Jesus spoke to after the resurrection. She was not the most powerful or the most influential of his followers, but she was the one who most needed his compassion. As with all his ministry on Earth, here too Jesus went first to the margins. Today, as we celebrate the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, how can we show compassion to those on the margins?

This morning let us pray that the risen Christ will help us reflect his compassion in the way we speak to and about those who are marginalised. Amen.