As a family watched the Easter story on television, the child was deeply moved. As Jesus was tortured and killed, tears rolled down her cheeks. She was absolutely silent until after Jesus had been taken down from the cross and put into the tomb. Then she suddenly grinned and shouted, “Now comes the good part!” Brothers and sisters we have journeyed a Holy Lent and walked the way of the cross through Holy Week. Now comes the good part!
Mary from Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome approach Jesus’ tomb on the first Easter morning. They are still devoted to Jesus, doing what ritually must be done, yet expect to find Jesus dead. Their minds are on earthly expectations and concerns. Their anointing of Jesus’ body was a ritual symbolically similar to the anointing of kings and God’s chosen. It was also a practical matter that fragrant spices would minimize the stench of a decaying corpse. They expected to find Jesus’ dead, lifeless body.
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” I wonder why they had not considered this before they arrived at the tomb. It was a “very large” stone.
Someone once asked Joseph of Arimathaea, “That was a great tomb. Brand new. Why did you give it to someone else to be buried in?” Joseph replied, “Oh, he only needed it for the weekend.”
The women arrive to see the great stone rolled away, which is unexpected. It invites us in to come and see. The anticipation builds as we all wonder what has happened here. The women do not find the corpse of Jesus. They find a young man in a white robe. We don’t know who this is. Bible scholars and theologians offer several guesses. There are hints this might be a divine messenger, and what a message. “He has been raised; he is not here.” Other sources offer, “why do you look for the living among the dead?”
We know Jesus died. The High Priests know it. Pilate knows it. The crowd of onlookers know it, the Centurions know it. The disciples know it. Mary, Mary, and Salome know it. We know it. This past week at St. Paul’s we experienced a spiritual and emotional rollercoaster. We celebrated Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem with palms and praise, only to hear the Passion of Christ according to Mark. We walked the way of the cross daily in Beckwith chapel, only to arrive at Maundy Thursday. After washing each other’s feet in love and service as Christ commanded, we celebrated the last Eucharist of Lent. The altar was stripped, all symbols of our Savior removed, except a humble altar of repose containing the sacrament of Body and Blood. On Good Friday we heard the passion of Christ again, this time according to John. We consumed the last of the remaining sacrament. We entered the tomb with Christ. Many remained to to walk the 14 Stations of the Cross, again, in painful detail, recounting the suffering and death of Jesus Christ.
Mary and Mary and Salome are amazed, confounded, they are afraid, and probably paralyzed. They must be told their next step. “Go and tell the others.” This is why we remember and relive the story of Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection. When we last worshipped in this place it was a tomb. Today, it is filled with symbols of our faith and the abundance of life, all because of the love of God revealed to us through Jesus Christ.
After our reading today is the shorter ending of the gospel according to Mark. It is a concise wrap up. Happy ending. But we are not unlike Mary, Mary, and Salome ... we still have questions. Like the abrupt ending of a good book, we want more. Our very life depends on it. The longer ending of Mark includes Jesus appearing to the disciples, the commission of the disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news.” Jesus imparts the power of the Spirit to those who believe, and ascends to heaven, blazing the trail for reconciliation with our Creator, so that we might achieve unity with God. Yet the story of salvation has not ended.
The instruction to the disciples in our gospel today is clear. Jesus is alive and goes before his disciples, and they are called once more to “follow him.” Our instructions are also clear, expanded and elaborated throughout the gospels and all of scripture. We are called to love one another, without limit, as we are loved by God. We are called to include the uninvited, touch the untouchable, love the unloveable. We are called to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. We are called to heal those who are broken, comfort those who suffer, free those who are enslaved. We are called to proclaim justice in the face of injustice, courage in the face of fear, and love in the face of hate. And we are called to do all of this without boundaries and without partiality. We are called to proclaim boundless love to the world as God proclaimed infinite love for humanity in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When the divine messenger speaks the words of life and joy to us, we must overcome our confusion, fear, and paralysis. Through faith and grace, we are to believe the promise of life and joy and go and tell the world. We are to make the gospel of Christ real and credible to the world, through words and actions. We cannot deny the suffering experienced in the way of the cross, but our hope and faith are on the good part. We are challenged and commissioned to go forth into the world and demonstrate that the inevitable scars of this life are not the end, and even after death, there is life. Brothers and sisters, let us go forth unto the world and proclaim together ...
Alleluia! Christ is Risen! ... The Lord is Risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.