From Darkness to Light
From Darkness to Light
We continue our series on the Stained Glass Windows found in the sanctuary here at St. Andrew’s. Our passage today comes from the end of John’s gosepl when Mary discovers the risen Christ in the Garden.
Scripture: John 20: 1-18
From Darkness to Light
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the wars. And God said, “Let there be light…”
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.”
Genesis 1 and John 1, both start in the darkness and we witness light being brought forward. They are both the beginnings of how we know about God.
Our passage today comes from the end of John’s gospel and it is interesting to note the themes that are present. Our reading opens, “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” Unlike the other gospels, John starts us in the dark and has us move towards the light. It is both a wonderful narrative movement and a profound theological statement. John’s gospel starts this way and it ends this way, with movements from darkness to light.
Our passage moves through the emotions of sorrow and despair, feelings that come from the deepest, darkest part of ourselves. The passage rises to hope as Mary declares to Jesus ‘Teacher’ and then seeks out the disciples telling them “I have seen the Lord.” These are the words that are on our window for today: She turned to him and said ‘master’. As we continue our series on the Stained Glass Windows here at St. Andrew’s our attention is on the end of John’s Gospel. With one of the most beautiful and passionate displays of faith. All this through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, she saw Jesus, believed and shared that faith, that belief with the disciples who were still caught up in their own darkness and despair.
When we consider Mary’s words to Jesus, we recognize that the term ‘Master’ sounds foreign to our ears. The window uses the KJV translation, a more modern translation would be ‘Teacher’ or ‘Rabbi’. Mary is greeting Jesus by his formal professional title.
The words that Jesus speaks to Mary also call us back to the beginning of John’s gospel. The first words that Jesus speaks are directed to disciples of John the Baptist. “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38) is the question Jesus asks them. They respond, “Teacher, where are you staying.”
Do you see how John calls us back and completes the themes. Here, in this new beginning, this new creation, Jesus asks Mary the very same question, “Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15) A new ministry is beginning, a new story. (Working Preacher)
Again, a new beginning calls us back to the beginning when there was a Garden. Where was Jesus buried? In a garden. Mary is in the garden, standing at the empty tomb and she identifies Jesus at first as the gardener. A gardener who is responsible for a new creation. In the beginning, in the beginning. It’s like peeling back an onion, there are layers upon layers of meaning in this passage. John’s gospel is not just a bunch of stories about Jesus that can be considered on their own. We are constantly being called back to consider the themes that exist within this gospel account and some very powerful themes within all of scripture.
It was still dark when Mary encountered Jesus in the garden and she didn’t know it was him until he illuminated things for her. Themes of darkness and light, Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness and makes all things plain, allows all things to be seen.
Here at the end of John’s gospel we move from sorrow to hope. The passage begins with an interlude of darkness (reference) before the light is revealed. As Christians we are people of hope. We live in hope.
The hope of the resurrection, the promise of eternal life. We live in hope for these things and here at the end of John’s gospel Mary helps us see that. It’s Mary, not one of the disciples, who first sees Jesus. It’s Mary, not one of the disciples, who tells the disciples “I have seen the Lord!” Powerful testimony. Her words remind us that out of the darkest depths comes comfort, light and hope.
Mary is a fascinating character in the gospels. She holds a key role in proclaiming who Jesus is. I will tell you that there is some fascinating scholarship occurring right now about Mary as it pertains to John’s gospel. If you’d like to know more about that speak to me afterwards.
But let’s shift to those words that Mary speaks to Jesus once she realizes who he is. “Teacher”
What word or title do you use to describe Jesus in your own life?
Is it Teacher?
Lord, Messiah, Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, Son of God, Redeemer.
There is an intimacy to this passage. A reminder that Jesus was flesh and blood, laughed and wept with the disciples, Mary and others. While Mary’s response appears to have an amount of reverence attached to it, I believe it also belies the fact that we are invited to have a personal relationship with Jesus as well.
Perhaps we can call Jesus friend and develop a relationship which is life altering and world changing. We can invite Jesus in and witness a new beginning in our own lives. Amen.
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.