A Sermon on John 20:11-18 (Cyril’s Theological Interpretation in Action)

Update [10/6/13]: Click HERE to listen to my sermon “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall” – a (longer version of the below) sermon that I preached at Fc3 on October 6, 2013.

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“Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” – John 20:15a

The Gospel according to John is a story about creation.  This much is clear.  John invites the reader to follow the bread crumbs when he begins his story with the haunting and enigmatic phrase, “In the beginning.”

However, John’s gospel is not a narrative about the formation of the cosmos.  Instead, it is an account of the life of Jesus.  Indeed, his gospel masterfully details the surprising entrance of the Life of Jesus into our dark world.  This Life, the Light, burst into our presence and dazzled our unprepared eyes, which were only accustomed to seeing the darkness found in the cave of sin’s slavery.  John’s gospel is about a life, a Life that has conquered Death.

The Gospel of John, then, is a story about new creation.

It is at the dawn of this new creation when we read of the reunion of Jesus and Mary Magdalene.  The resurrected Jesus, the one who was crucified, finds Mary weeping in the garden.  She has not yet realized that Life has overcome Death.  She has not yet realized that a new day has arrived.  The scene is pregnant with emotion.  Mary is one of Jesus’ most devoted followers and is making a visit to his tomb in order to grieve privately.  As we read, we find our emotions rising and falling.  We are excited as she discovers the empty tomb, yet sympathetic when she assumes that Jesus’ body has been stolen.  We can feel her confusion and pain even as we yearn for her to discover the remarkable truth of his new life.  We are elated when she directly encounters the risen Jesus, yet frustrated when she mistakes him for the gardener.  Finally, Jesus speaks to her.  Mary’s tears of mourning are changed into tears of joy.

Cyril of Alexandria, an early church father, wishes to remind us that John’s Gospel is about new creation.  Indeed, Cyril is quick to remind us that all of Scripture is always about new creation.  It is for this reason that he consistently speaks of Christ as the Second Adam.  With this title, he draws on Saint Paul’s parallel between these two representative men.  Just as Adam’s disobedience brought death, so now Christ’s obedience brings life.  Behold, the Second Adam.

Cyril invites us to remember the scene in the First garden where Adam and Eve fell into death.  Listen as Cyril explains:

“For by Adam’s transgression, as in the firstfruits of the race, the sentence went forth to the whole world: Dust thou art, and to dust though shall return; and to the women in special: In sorrow thou shalt bring forth children.  To be rich in sorrow, then, as by way of a penalty, was the fate of woman.”

Keep listening, however, because Jesus’ resurrection brings good news.

“It was, therefore, necessary that by the mouth of Him that had passed the sentence of condemnation, the burden of that ancient curse should be removed, our Savior Christ now wiping away the tears from the eyes of the woman, or rather of all womankind, as in Mary the firstfruits.”  

Christ, the Second Adam, is now undoing the curses of our ancient ancestors.  He is now wiping tears away.  He is now freeing men, women, and children from their bondage to corruption.

It is this same Christ, gently drying the tear-soaked face of Mary, who now invites you to participate in his new creation.

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