Jesus, Mary and the “They”
Lance Stone shines a light on a shadowy presence in the Easter story
The scene from John’s Gospel of the first Easter morning presents us with the usual array of characters who play their part in the drama: Mary Magdalene, Peter, John, the angels – and, finally, Jesus. There is, however, another party in these proceedings, referred to by Mary, who are strangely present even in their absence. They are not on the scene and yet their influence upon Mary is enormous.
So, the breathless Mary exclaims to Peter: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb… and we do not know where they have laid him.” Again, the angels ask Mary why she is weeping and she replies: “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have laid him.”
Who are these nameless “they”? Who are these people who so trouble Mary even though they are nowhere to be seen? Could they be grave robbers? Could they be the Jewish authorities who have heard claims that Jesus would rise from the dead and who may have taken the precaution of removing his body? Might they be the Roman authorities with concerns about the body of an insurgent, crucified because he was a threat to law and order, and who have removed it for safekeeping?
Whoever they are, the sum of Mary’s grief-stricken world on that Easter morning is “they” and “we” and “I”. Her world comprises on the one hand the anonymous “they” who have taken the body and laid it somewhere, and on the other hand the helpless, desperate “we” and “I”, who know not where they have laid him…
Lance Stone is a minister of the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam. This article is an edited version of a sermon he preached at Emmanuel United Reformed Church, Cambridge, on Easter Sunday 2014
This is an extract from the April 2015 edition of Reform.