In the Lectionary

April 17, Easter Day C (John 20:1-18)

Mary has no hand to clutch or shoulder to lean on.

One of my favorite things about living in Southern California was driving down the Redondo Beach Esplanade on a clear morning. I loved seeing the impossibly blue ocean and the pure white spray of the breakers. I marveled at the curve of the land, how the Santa Monica Mountains and the Palos Verdes Peninsula stretched to embrace across the Santa Monica Bay.

What I loved most of all was the chance to observe the people standing on the Esplanade sidewalk, taking in the seascape. As I kept one eye on the road and one eye on the coast, I caught fleeting glimpses of people who were utterly transfixed by the ocean. Something about being in the presence of something so vast and deep just enthralls people. I’ve heard it said that gazing at the ocean actually causes one’s soul to expand. The soul grows in response to what it sees.

John’s resurrection narrative casts the reader as a witness to the witnesses. The focus of this story is on the ocean, so to speak, but also on the people whose souls are expanding in response to its beauty. The Gospels do not even begin to imagine what went unwitnessed that first Easter morning. Barbara Brown Taylor notes that “the resurrection is the one and only event in Jesus’ life that was entirely between him and God.”