The gospel of John is one of four Biblical narratives telling the story of Jesus. Written in ancient Greek, it includes significant metaphor, poetry and references to Ancient Greek Philosophy. It’s because of this theological development that most scholars believe it was the last of the four to be written down is the last of the four gospel books. Each of the gospels tell the story of the Resurrection of Jesus, but do so differently, as four different people who witnessed the same accident might describe it.
One of the oldest meanings of the word “religion” is “to bind together,” that which connects God with us and us with each other. Today a majority of people describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Sometimes critics decry spirituality as individualism. Spirituality is personal. Think of when you’re overcome by the wonder of the presence of God in nature, in life events, or in reflection. The problem is that, in the last two centuries, religion has actually allowed itself to become privatized. In the same way that our political and economic concerns contracted from “we” to “me,” so has our sense of God and faith. In many quarters, religion abandoned a prophetic and creative vision for humanity’s common life in favor of an individual quest to get one’s sorry ass to heaven. And in the process, community became isolated behind the walls of buildings where worship experiences corresponded to members’ tastes and preferences and confirmed their political views. (quoted from p. 237 of Grounded by Diana Butler Bass).
Mary comes early, as the sabbath has ended and it’s now religiously permitted to come to the tomb to finish the embalming work for the body of Jesus. Bound to her tradition, she expresses her love for Jesus as teacher and friend by caring for him in this last possible way. Having been forever transformed by his teaching and friendship, having lived for him, she comes to show her total respect, gratitude and love. In her shock of not finding the body where it should be she runs to those to whom she’s been bound by her existential choices and confession of faith. She returns to her community, those with whom she is in communion (a relationship of mutual sharing of gifts and interdependence). Rev. Dr. King Jr referred to such communion as “our inescapable network of mutuality” in which we all live. It’s not a theory. It’s the reality that Jesus invites us to. It’s the reality made aggressively real in his death and resurrection, his life-giving love that overcomes evil with good. In his life, death and resurrection, Jesus makes plain what we take for granted: we are not alone.
The deepest sense of life is realized when we serve others, out of empathy, in compassion, learning to love our neighbor as God first loves us. Maybe escaping the death star magnetism of our own egos and the pull of our selfie-culture is what resurrection life is all about….learning to live, realizing that maybe we weren’t fully alive.
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What shimmers for you in this story?
- How have you experienced the power and purpose of resurrection in your life?
- How do we need resurrection to bind us to each other and unbind us from other things?