During the past seven days of Holy Week we've all been caught up in the greatest love story ever told. We've been drawn into the lives of Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Beloved Disciple, and all the disciples who fell in love with this man Jesus, promising to be with him until the end. We've been drawn into all the drama, all the intimacy, all the betrayal, of the greatest love story ever told. Today, in our reading from John's Gospel, we are with those disciples again - Mary, Peter, and the Beloved Disciple, as they discover the empty tomb, and as they ask the question: Where is Jesus? That's our question for this Easter morning - Where is Jesus?
Throughout John's Gospel we hear many variations on this question. At the beginning of the Gospel the disciples ask Jesus, "Where do you live?" At the last supper, when Jesus speaks of returning to the Father, the disciples are confused and they ask, "Where are you going?" In several places the Gospel of John alludes to the Song of Songs, the Old Testament book in which two separated lovers ask the question, "Where is the one I love? Have you seen the one whom my heart loves?" The two lovers desperately search for each other through the city streets until they are finally reunited in a beautiful garden.
In today's gospel, Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the Beloved Disciple behave in much the same way. They go running to the garden tomb to search for the one they love. Later in the story we hear that when Mary Magdalene returns to the tomb she actually meets the risen Jesus there in the garden. But just as she thinks her question has been answered, just as she thinks she has found the one she loves, Jesus instructs her that she is not to cling to him in the old way she knew him before. Jesus challenges her to find him in a new way. He challenges her to continue loving him by loving his people. He tells her, "Go to my people and tell them the Good News. Find me there, alive in them."
And so, where is Jesus? Where is the one whom our hearts love? Jesus lives in his people. He's here today - alive, in our midst. He's in this Christian community, in the person sitting to your left, and in the person sitting to your right. He's in the homeless woman on the street corner, and in the suffering people of distant war-torn lands. The risen Jesus is everywhere. Mary Magdalene's challenge is our challenge too: Can we fall in love with the risen Jesus who lives among his people? Can we love his people passionately and fearlessly the way he loves us? Can we forgive each other and say to each other, "Peace be with you"? The Good News of Easter is that we CAN love each other fearlessly, right now, with passion and fidelity, because with Jesus' victory over sin and death, there is no longer any reason for us to fear.
On Easter Sunday, friends and lovers are reunited, tombs are transformed into gardens, living water flows through dry desert lands, and our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh. It's the greatest love story ever told. This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!