Rembrandt’s Christ and Mary Magdalene at the Tomb (1638).

God's Word on Sunday: A hurting world needs this good news

  • April 5, 2020

Resurrection of the Lord, April 12 (Year A) Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18

When is good news truly good news? When it comes at the right time, giving people hope and comfort.

The world into which Jesus came was just as messy and scary as our own, but on a smaller scale. Wars, massacres, outrages, corruption, enslavement, natural disasters and, yes, pandemics and plagues, were not uncommon experiences. To make matters worse, they were often seen as either the wrath of capricious and angry gods or the workings of inescapable fate.

Jesus did not fix that chaotic world, but during His short ministry He did something more important. He showed that God was present and that God cared. This is the core of the news about Jesus that spread throughout the land.

He spent His ministry doing good, healing and liberating people from all negative forms of bondage. Some might object that it was insignificant in light of the enormity of the world’s suffering. But what He did was a sign of God’s compassionate presence. All those who dare to claim to be His followers are to take up the torch and continue the work.

What we do matters a great deal to others, the world and to God, even if we can’t immediately see it. The fact that God raised Jesus from the dead was a divine confirmation and approval of all that Jesus had done and taught during His sojourn on Earth.

Jesus waits at the end of history to judge the living and the dead, but that includes His continuous guidance, teaching, encouragement and supportive presence.

That is good news indeed — so why does it seem to fall so flat in the world today? Perhaps we have heard it too often but have not really experienced it on a personal level. Our enthusiasm may have waned and, in a world defined by science and rationality, it sounds naïve to many.

We need to find a way to recapture our excitement and joy at the news. The message has to be communicated in a credible manner to a world that yearns for hope and meaning.

Perhaps the present crisis that we are experiencing will bring home to us the fact that we can’t control everything. It might also bring us closer together, showing us how much we need each other. We can only proclaim the good news through life-giving community and the works of mercy and compassion.

Setting our minds on the things that are above does not mean having our head in the clouds. It is not a call to ignore the world around us and its people by giving in to other-worldly spiritual self-absorption.

When we stand on top of a very tall building or a mountain, we can see a great distance — we get the big picture, a bird’s-eye view of our surroundings. When we set our minds on the things that are above, we view the world and its problems through the eyes of God.

We make fewer judgments; we do not separate and label; we respond with compassion for all. We lose ourselves by becoming part of the infinite loving reality that is God.

When the disciples raced to the tomb on Easter morning, they didn’t know what to make of the fact that it was empty. The cloth covering the face of Jesus was carefully rolled up and placed to one side. It was a deliberate and significant act, signalling the end of death.

The disciples returned home a bit bewildered by it all. Their own world was still shrouded in grief and ignorance. Even Mary Magdalene stood weeping at the tomb.

She was asked both by the angels and the unrecognized risen Jesus the reason for her weeping. They seemed to be saying, “Don’t you get it?”

When recognition of Jesus finally turned Mary’s grief to joy, He gave her a mission. She was to carry the news that now all were bound to one another, to Jesus and to God the Father in a communion of love. There was no need for fear, division or separation.

God is as close to us as we want God to be. This is the gift that we pass along to a hurting world whenever we take the words of Jesus seriously and apply them to our lives. Then we can truly say, “Christ is Risen!”