Easter 2015 8am
Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Mary the mother of James brought spices to anoint the body of Jesus. These women were present at the crucifixion: they saw him die. All the hope and confidence they put in him is minimally in question. All that they can do now is take the spices and anoint his dead body.
Early just after sunrise, they went to the tomb. Worried about how to remove the heavy stone from the tomb to get in to do their job, they were surprised to find the stone rolled away. So they entered and found no body.
Outside the tomb, there was a man dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side of the tomb. The women were startled by him, but he spoke to them: “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” Who do you suppose the man was? Was it an angel or was it the risen ONE?
What have we come to see or experience today?
Have we just come to do our duty? Have we come to please some family member who is more into church? Are we trapped at a relative’s house and feel we must come? Are we responsible for something, some role in this service? Perhaps all the above AND deep within us, we know that our deepest longing is to be loved completely, unconditionally, and there is something profound about the death-resurrection of Jesus that conveys that love.
We all seek an experience like the women at the tomb. We want to see the RISEN CHRIST. We don’t rely on the word of a friend, or on the writings of the great philosophers, we need to experience this truth for ourselves. We need to KNOW.
Just imagine a conference of great philosophers debating the existence of God. After all the arguments for and against the existence of God are made, God arrives and says BOO. Aquinas’s proof rests on a quote from God, “I AM” spoken to Moses at the burning bush. God seems to like surprises.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry Jesus used the name God used for God’s self, as if to answer the ancient philosophical question, what is? I AM. Those familiar with the burning bush phenomenon experienced by Moses surely thought such language blasphemous. If all humans ask, what is? We also want to know how we know what is. The first question is about being: the second is about truth. Truth is relative to being: it is the truth about being.
In one place Jesus gives us the answers to our philosophical quest: I AM the truth (Jn 14:6).
Matthew’s account has the women obey the instruction and they run to tell the disciples. In Mark’s telling they went out, fled from the tomb for terror and amazement had seized them. They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
What would you do?
Take a minute to think deeply about being at the empty tomb and being spoken to by a strange young man dressed in white. You have inspected the tomb and he is not there. The stranger said to not be afraid, but when we are afraid, logic often loses its impact.
These women have been through a traumatic experience. Their friend has been tried, beaten and executed. He is dead. But his body is gone. That is all the logic they can muster.
The stranger says he has been raised and goes before us into Galilee. Where in Galilee? Do we go to the seaside where he called the first disciples, or to the home of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, or to Nazareth the home of his mother? Where in Galilee will we go? How will we find him – or will he find us?
I can hear one woman say to the others, you know that the men could not bear to be with us at the cross, so I know they won’t believe us if we tell them his body is gone and a stranger told us he has been raised. Who ever heard of a dead man being raised? Maybe we should just go home.
Did they? Would you just go home and ponder the strange messenger and his words? Would you and did they remember that while he lived among them he said he would die and in three days be raised. Will they then rekindle a little faith and begin to hope to encounter him as the RISEN ONE?
I think Mark has a profound Easter story because it asks us what we will do after seeing that death is overcome in some mysterious way. We will never know what happened inside that tomb. That is between the Father and the Son. What we can know, is that death is not the end of his story.
I believe the women went to Galilee, as we do metaphorically when we leave here today. Galilee awaits everyone with doubt, lack of faith, with questions without answers. Galilee awaits every child hungry for food and human kindness. Galilee awaits the elderly person lonely for human companionship. Galilee awaits when wars, creed, prejudice cause humans to deny respect to any and every other person. Galilee is our city streets early in the morning when men searching for scraps in the trash. Galilee is in our school rooms, our hospital rooms, our hospice rooms, where human beings need a compassionate presence.
Galilee is not only a physical geography where Jesus meets every one of us, reaching out his healing hand to touch us and make us whole. The point is that Jesus as Risen CHRIST is encountered in places of his former and future ministry, where we will see him.
HE IS RISEN.