Friday, April 17, #6: John 20:1-18 (We recommend you read this passage in full before reading the devotion.)

Written by Rev. Lauren Lobenhofer, Pastor, Cave Spring United Methodist Church

“While It Was Still Dark”

In many churches, Easter celebrations begin with a worship service at sunrise, commemorating the first proclamation of Christ’s resurrection by Mary and the other women. This beautiful tradition, early as it seems for those who get up to attend, is running a bit behind the timeline of that first Easter morning, however. In John 20:1, we hear that Mary came to the tomb, not at sunrise, but while it was still dark.

Mary had gotten up in the wee hours of the morning, when the sun had not yet risen. She had arisen, likely, between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., to go keep vigil at Jesus’ tomb. This is a time of day when most of the world is still in peaceful slumber. In these pre-dawn hours, the folks who are awake are the night-shift workers, the food-service workers preparing for the breakfast shift, those who are keeping vigil with the sick and dying, the parents of colicky infants—in short, weary people doing difficult, often thankless work to care for others.

The people who are awake at 4 a.m. are not alone, however, for God is also at work at that hour. In order for Mary to discover an empty tomb early in the morning, the resurrection, too, must have occurred while it was still dark. Christ rose from the tomb, not in a blaze of light as the sun climbed into the sky, but in the shadowy pre-dawn hours. Jesus’ work of resurrection began in the darkness. God brought new life when humanity was most weary. God brought hope when those keeping vigil were most desperate and despairing. God didn’t wait for the brightness of dawn to usher in a new day; God conquered sin and death when the shadows were deepest.

God is still working to bring hope and new life even, or perhaps especially, when we are weary and despondent. Jesus didn’t wait for the sunrise. He didn’t wait for the world to be better or worthier. He rose in the darkness, working alongside those who keep vigil through the night, and giving the promise of new life even for those who were asleep. The God who does not slumber or sleep, rose in Christ with the night-shift workers and exhausted caregivers to bring renewal and hope. The good news of resurrection rings forth not just at dawn, but while it is still dark. Thanks be to God!

If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!