Text: John 20:1-18
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
One of the things about Jesus’ resurrection that has fascinated, perplexed, and even frustrated believers through the years is the sheer amount of human chaos that surrounded that first Easter’s dawn. Soldiers are fainting, an angel—Or two? Or perhaps one, then two?—the flock of women named Mary; it’s a lot to keep straight. And that’s before we even get to the Apostles running back and forth, back and forth, stopping, investigating, sprinting back to the house. It’s a cyclone of confusion. And rightly so—it’s not every day that someone rises from the dead. The entire known order of the universe being flipped upside down is a fair reason for a little chaos on the outskirts of Jerusalem.
But in the midst of all this frenetic energy, the Apostle and Evangelist John—ever the gentle one when it comes to those bruised and fragile souls—John turns down the volume on the chaos and zooms in on a quiet scene. “But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.” The Apostles can run hither and yon, shouting to each other in the streets, racing to see who gets where first; but Mary Magdalene will stay right here. It’s too much to process. She lost her Lord and Teacher when He breathed His last on the cross. Now she’s lost Him all over again, as His body has gone missing. And all of this running around and confusion isn’t going to help her get Him back.
John records the scene we’ve heard so many times. After a brief—and perhaps baffling—encounter with the two angels in the empty tomb, Mary Magdalene sees Jesus. She doesn’t know it’s Him, even when He asks her why she’s weeping. She mistakes Him for the gardener. Things would have gone on in this confusing way until something happens. In a quiet moment, with all of the other kinetic events tuned out, Jesus says one word; one word to break the chaos, to cut through the confusion, the hush the tears and sobs. Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
It’s in saying her name that Jesus calms Mary’s fearful heart and troubled mind. This should be no surprise to us though, for Jesus has Himself said that He is the Good Shepherd and that His sheep hear His voice and He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out. And so He has done for Mary Magdalene in those early hours by the empty tomb. He simply said her name and led her out of the darkness that had surrounded and filled her. She was with her Lord and Teacher again.
It is a beautiful thing that Jesus calls His sheep by name. Even today, He still speaks the name of every one of His redeemed. And I don’t mean this metaphorically or symbolically. In the life of a believer, the Lord Jesus—through His called and ordained servants—really and truly speaks the names of His sheep. This is a particular moment in the baptismal rite of the Church, when the pastor asks the one to be baptized, “How are you named?” Then, once the name is given, it’s spoken out loud as the Lord claims this wayward lamb to become one of His fold—one flock, one Shepherd. That’s why we re-live this baptismal rite in a small way tonight. As Jesus called Mary by name, so He calls you.
You are called again by name every time you remember that Baptism: when you make the sign of the cross, when you wash your face in the morning and at night, when the Divine Service is begun in the name of the Trinity into which you were baptized; by whom you were called. You see, your Lord is not interested in having you as a single drop dissolved into a great ocean of humanity or divinity. He has no pleasure in making you only one cog in a synchronized worship machine, as the false god Allah desires. Nor does He wish you to negate your individual self into nothing, as the false prophet Buddha instructs. He has come for you—individual you, with your name, your body, your soul, your mind, your heart.
So it is that you—individual you—have been brought through the entire history of God’s powerful salvation tonight. Again, not figuratively or metaphorically. In Baptism, you have been safely brought through the flood water that drowned all but eight souls in all. In Baptism, you have been brought through the cloud that accompanied Israel in the Exodus from Egypt; in your own Baptism, built on that same spiritual Rock that is Christ, you have passed through the Red Sea. In Baptism, you have been rebuilt from the dry bones of sin and death and had the Spirit preached into your lungs to make you live again. In Baptism, the fountain of the Son of God has extinguished the hateful and envious flames of the fiery furnace and not a hair on your head has been singed.
This entire history of redemption is yours in Christ. He was there through it all; so it’s His to give. And He has given it to you. Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by Baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. Because it’s all His that means it’s all yours, because that’s what He gives you this Easter. He gives you everything. He names you His heir and gives you all that is His.
Your Lord calls you by name; tonight, tomorrow, every day. So whatever chaos or confusion swirls around you, whatever fear and frustration, whatever shades of death and disease are reaching toward you, your Lord has conquered it. It’s finished. You belong to Him, and no one else. You are His, the One He died for, the One He rose for, the One He lives forever for. In the name of Jesus, the Living One. Amen.