I do not loose things. Items from my life do not go missing. My natural reaction to finding my keys gone or a pair of shoes gone astray is to say, “Who stole my keys?” or “Who took my shoes?” It is never my fault. Invariably, I’ll concoct an elaborate scheme by which someone, usually a family member took said object, didn’t replace it, and now I’m left scrambling for something vitally important to the continuing of my day. Typically, I will demand a full investigation. The facts need to be uncovered. Witnesses will need to be cross-examined. Double standards, particularly when it comes to the utilization of each other’s belongings, will need to be highlighted in the investigation.
One such incident occurred earlier this week. I was leaving for work on Thursday morning. I needed my red cable to charge the family iPad mini. The red cord is the only cord that works. I keep it beside the bed. It’s important I have this cord on Thursdays because it’s the only one which transfers music from my computer to the iPad mini. This helps make my radio show possible. I need the red cord. When I prepared to leave, the red cord was missing. It wasn’t there. I hadn’t moved it. Someone had come into my (our, I include my wife in my indignation) and removed my precious red cord. Who would do such a thing? Which one of my cord thieving children, children who have countless cords of their own, would come to remove my precious red cord? I demanded to know. This was an outrage!
“Who took my red cord?” No one knew. They were all covering for each other. Each of the girls had both a motive and alibi. All were known cord thieves in their own right. My wife said she would ask Donnie when he awoke. The girls all too easily pointed their fingers at Donnie. In the absence of a solution, I took an inferior white cord (with a loose end) and went to the office.
I ran a few errands and finally pulled into the parking lot about 15 minutes later. When I left home, I threw my shoulder bag into the back seat of the wagon. As is my custom, I got out the front and opened the back door to grab my bag. Do you really want to know what I saw on the seat lying underneath by bag? Yes, the red cord. I told you do not loose things. It was right there in my car. I called Mary.
“Hi, it’s me.”
“Yes,” she said.
“You remember that thing I was looking for earlier?”
“I found it, call off the investigation.”
“Oh, I see.”
Mary thinks Jesus is lost. Something has happened to Jesus. Jesus isn’t where she last saw him. Even in death, we still have this urge to control him and tell Jesus where he should be and what he ought to be doing.
She could have sworn he was right there, right where she and those who came to anoint his body left him. Where have they taken him? What have they done with MY Jesus? Can you hear the righteous indignation in her voice? “They have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve put him!” Is Jesus a commodity, a thing, an item, a tangible quality like our keys, a charging cord, a pair shoes, or anything else which can be misplaced?
As Mary Magdalene comes to realize, Jesus is not lost. You can’t lose Jesus. Jesus knows where He is. When we think Jesus is lost, Jesus knows exactly where Jesus is. If we believe Jesus to be lost, we’re probably the ones who’ve wandered from the path.
We don’t get to decide when Jesus is lost or found. It’s not up to us to make the determination on whether Jesus is in the right place or not. Wherever Jesus is, is the right place. Whoever Jesus is with, is the right person. Whatever Jesus is wearing, is the right thing to wear. Whatever Jesus is doing, is the right thing to do. Jesus is never in the places we think he should be; like church. Jesus ought to be in church Sunday morning. If he’s not, we accuse our neighbors (be they liberals or conservatives) of stealing Jesus and using him for their own agenda. Jesus is not where we think He should be because he is not “property” we lay claim to, own, and make decisions on his behalf. Jesus is an idea that knows no bounds. Jesus has no agenda other than his own.
For the early church, this story, written seven decades years after the event it describes, the resurrection was never about the “body”. These early Christians believed in an idea. You can crucify bodies. You can’t kill ideas. To them, Jesus was not a disembodied man lingering by an empty tomb. His words were the embodiment of truth; a truth for which they were willing to die as martyrs.
Had Mary lost Jesus’ body? No. Did the gardener carry Jesus’ body somewhere else? No. When she found Jesus, was she talking to a “zombie Jesus” resuscitated from the tomb? No, she wasn’t.
These stories, told by the early church aren’t about losing Jesus’ physical body or talking with a version of Jesus who cannot yet be touched or hugged. The resurrection is about ideas that will not die or be contained in a tomb. Rome can crucify him, bury him with guards, and still you can’t kill the message. You know the message (what got him killed): giving food to people without a background check, a weird water dunking ritual called Baptism, forgiving people for sins big and small, loving people everyone in their right mind hated, healing people without a co-pay, talking to women and minorities like they were equal to men, and generally ignoring the religious rules people said he had to follow.
It’s that same message, Jesus’ ideas, we’re sharing this morning. Those ideas, they are alive. I can’t tell you what happened to Jesus’ body. But I do know this, His ideas and teachings will only die if we choose to kill them. Jesus changed the world for the better. Our challenge is not to let Christianity (and United Methodism) get in the way of Jesus’ ideas staying vibrant and alive. The reality of the Resurrection, whether it survives one more day, is up to us.