Failure: Not a pretty emotion to experience. I avoid it, make excuses for it, run away, ignore it, deny it, and all in an effort not to experience the absolute cold ache of failure. Fear of failure can drive me to overwork, and to under trust the Spirit of God. Besides I hate to fail, I hate the feeling falling flat on my face, of hoping for something so much and not having it come true.
When Mary walks to the tomb of Jesus in the early morning, I wonder if she too thought about all the failures that led to the death of Jesus. We do know that Judas failed to trust in Jesus, we know Peter failed to stand up for Jesus, not once but three times, we know that the disciples failed to stay awake while Jesus prayed, we know the crowd failed to chose Jesus to be freed and instead chose Barabas,
And what about Jesus? Mary could have been grieving what she perceived as his failure to run away, to avoid the trial by retreating into the wilderness. What about all his promises, all his teachings, all the miracles, had his life and ministry been a failed mission, the idealistic brought down by the realistic cruelty of death?
As she approaches the tomb, the grief pours out the tears of sadness, the tears of loss blur her vision.
Have you been there? Maybe you too know that feeling? A time when you have felt the pain of failure? A time when you were fired, a time when you failed a test, flunked a class? A time when you were unable to accomplish something you had invested your whole self into?
Mary was going to the tomb to fulfill the task of preparing Jesus’ body for burial, to wash, anoint, and clothe the body. But in the midst of this ordinary task, of the cultural routine of burying the dead, something far from ordinary happens, when she arrives the stone has been rolled away the tomb is empty!
Of course we know the rest of the story, but Mary doesn’t yet.
She does not understand the emptiness, she thinks not of the promises of Jesus who told them that on the third day he would rise from the dead…no she thinks thieves have stolen the body! Now not only did she weep, she panics, runs to tell the disciples who send two representatives, Peter and the other disciple to check it out.
And then the ordinary becomes extraordinary, the other disciple sees the empty tomb and he believes! Before Jesus appears, before Thomas touches the wounds, before Jesus calls Mary by name, before he has breakfast by the sea of Tiberius,
The empty tomb was all he needed.
Soon Mary then the others will come to see the victory of Jesus. What they believed was failure was turned into the greatest victory, love over hate
Hope over depression
Trust over anxiety
Life over death
Failure does not feel good, it feels cold and dark and we feel alone, as the tears well up in our eyes and in our hearts.
But the good news is failure is not the end of the story, it is only the beginning!
Jesus says in 17.4 “I glorify you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do”
Jesus knew that his death would not be the end of his work, because he trusted in God his father to bring to fulfillment the work of Jesus in the resurrection.
Furthermore Jesus saw his death as necessary, in 16.7 he says, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you’
This advocate, the Holy Spirit is the intimate connection we have with God through all our successes and failures in life. The good news is that failure does not define who we are in God’s eyes. The empty tomb means the love of God is not stolen from us ever. Rather the love of God is forever with us poured upon us, until our hearts are full, This everlasting, ever creating, ever powerful love is greater than any failure, greater than death itself.
Yes life is full of dark, cold and empty moments when we feel as though we have failed, but today we celebrate this new day, we celebrate the sun rising, and the Son of God rising. We celebrate that although we will experience failure, and the experiences of life will be full of near death experiences, we trust and believe in a God that is able to transform grief into joy, transform failure into victory, and transform our tears of sadness into tears of gladness.
So next time you find yourself failing, or have failed, do not ignore it, rather enter into the emptiness, face your fears, and your grief, trust that the emptiness will be filled with the love of Jesus, trust in the Advocate to lead you, and trust that God will wipe the tears of sadness and despair away.
Then like Mary we will be ready to follow the risen Christ and care for a hurt and anxious world!
For today, we celebrate Easter
We celebrate with our brothers and sisters all across the world
We celebrate the love of God, which never ends
Amen and Alleluia!