How does the empty tomb change us? Today’s gospel shows us how three of Jesus’ followers are impacted and changed by the empty tomb. Their journey of transformation is much like the process of metamorphosis, like tadpoles on their way to becoming frogs. In fact, let’s look at the gospel with that life cycle in mind, because it helps to illustrate how Peter, the narrator, and Mary’s are at different stages of understanding and discipleship.
Now these disciples are not complete newbies. They have already given up their lives to follow Jesus, even before they fully realized what that would mean. If they were born to be frogs, they have already hatched as eggs and become tadpoles clinging to nearby water plants. When they chose to follow Jesus, they developed the external gills needed for breathing. As they traveled with Jesus, they were further changed: their tails kept on growing, hind legs began to appear. They are still water creatures, but they are closer to becoming land creatures.
Upon learning of the empty tomb, Peter finds himself mid-metamorphosis as front legs begin to appear, but his long tail remains. He races to the tomb with the narrator, painfully aware that two nights ago, he denied his Lord three times. He inspects the tomb, observing the linens on the ground, but is unsure of what it means, so he returns to the house where the disciples are staying. Later, when Mary comes to the house a second time, this time claiming to have seen the Lord, he and the other disciples will hide in the house, afraid. Like a tadpole changing from a fishlike form to a frog, he is reluctant to leave the water; honestly he’s just not ready yet, but soon he will be.
The narrator is a bit ahead of Peter in his own metamorphosis, with his tail having already become a bit shorter. While the narrator joins Peter in racing to the tomb, when he reaches the tomb, he hangs back. It's as though he remembers Jesus’ words that the disciples are to be servants, not contenders in a race to be the greatest disciple. He remembers his job, is not to lead Jesus’ flock, but to care for Jesus mother, Mary. So he shows respect to Peter, by waiting outside the tomb while Peter runs in to investigate. While the narrator believes Mary’s testimony, he doesn’t yet understand that Jesus has risen from the dead. John is lifting his head above water, but is still not quite ready to hop out.
Mary is like a young frog, fully out of the water, yet still changing; eager and ready to become an adult frog. She earnestly waits for Sunday morning to arrive, when the Sabbath will be over and she’ll be able to visit the tomb. Yet when she arrives, she finds the tomb empty and runs to tell the other disciples. After Peter and the narrator left the empty tomb, Mary remains, holding vigil, weeping. As she bent over to look into the tomb, she notices two angels who ask why she is weeping. A bit startled, she explains someone has taken Jesus away, and laid him elsewhere. In a flash, the angels are gone, and she sees another stranger, this time a man she supposed to be the gardener, and he asks her why she is weeping. She explains again: Jesus has been taken away and laid elsewhere, does the stranger know where? Yet when the stranger calls her by name, she immediately realizes this was no stranger, but the risen Lord, who instructs her to go and tell the other disciples.
Like Peter, the narrator, and Mary we are all in our own metamorphosis as the empty tomb impacts us in different ways, depending on where we are in our relationship with God. If you had to describe your relationship with God by pointing to one of the life stages in the metamorphosis from a fish like form to an adult frog, where would you be? If you are early on in your metamorphosis, you likely hope that resurrection is real. You hope that God loves you and forgives you for your mistakes, but you still aren’t quite sure whether it is really possible. Honestly, you don’t spend much time thinking about it all, and it doesn’t have much impact on your daily life. If you are a young frog, you believe with all your being that Jesus is the Christ. The resurrection has changed everything for you, and guides the way you live your daily life. If you are an adult frog, you have spent much of your life in service to God. The Good News of the resurrection has defined and shaped who you are as a person. You have mentored other, newer Christians as they seek to find their way. You’ve encouraged them to lift their heads out of the water and hop onto land.
Several years ago, someone came up with a saying, that got way over commercialised and made to be a bit cutesy, yet there is a deep truth behind it-so let us ignore the cutesy. F.R.O.G. can not only symbolize our metamorphosis as we seek to follow Jesus, but also is an acronym of how to live our lives as followers of Jesus: Fully Rely on God. Has the empty tomb led you to fully rely on God yet?
Wherever you are on your journey know that God is there with you, delighting in your metamorphosis. Know that unlike a real frog’s metamorphosis, sometimes life events will send us backwards a step or two, and that is okay. The process of metamorphosis is a reminder within nature that resurrection is all around us, and it changes everything. When have you experienced metamorphosis? When have you experienced resurrection? This Easter, we are invited to see the world with eyes changed by the resurrection--a world that Jesus has turned upside down and inside out. Amen.
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