Summary: Our risen Lord thrusts us into a future we’d never choose but we’d hate to lose.
THE FAMILY I GREW UP IN was highly conflicted. You would think that, for all the fighting we did, we would have gotten good at it – or, at least, that we would have seen something constructive come out of it. But the incessant bickering never seemed to bring about change; we just grew farther and farther apart. My dad and my older brother never could seem to get along, and that fueled one quarrel after another between my parents.
It was not what you would call a peaceful environment, and so, I began to seek a means of escape. When I was about twelve years old, I got the notion that maybe religion was my “out.” My family wasn’t involved in church, so I didn’t have a clue how to begin. I found an old crucifix that my brother had brought home from somewhere, and along the way I had come into possession of a Bible. So, I took those things and I made a little altar in my room. I would open the Bible at random and read a few verses out of it. Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I was reading or how it all fit together. I would give anything if I could recover those first, uninitiated thoughts that went through my mind.
It wasn’t until later that I started going to church. I met a girl that I wanted to spend time with, and she went to church every Sunday. So, in order to be with her, I started going to church, too. Over time, of course, I began to understand the faith, and one day I acknowledged my need of a Savior and put my faith in Jesus Christ.
But the truth is: I never found the escape I was looking for. In fact, just the opposite happened. I had originally started exploring religion in hopes of finding a smooth path, a means of getting away from all the contention and discord. It makes me think of the movie, Sound of Music, when Maria comes back to the abbey after being the von Trapps’ governess for only a short time. The Reverend Mother inquires why she has returned. And Maria says, “I was frightened….. I was confused…. I’ve never felt that way before. I couldn’t stay. I knew that here I’d be away from it. I’d be safe.” To which the Reverend Mother said, “Maria, our abbey is not to be used as an escape.”
And she was right. Christianity will never provide the “out” we may be looking for. I can still remember being a student at Baylor and coming back to the dorm one day after class. I had three books in my hands – all of them required reading for an ethics course I was taking. They were Harvey Cox’s The Secular City, Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics, and Thomas J. J. Altizer’s Radical Theology and the Death of God. I threw them, all three on my bed, and cried out for the recovery of a simpler faith.
But faith implies risk. Otherwise it’s not faith. And it was the risk of faith that challenged me. It still does. I wonder how it is for you. Can you imagine falling in line behind Jesus and following him, believing that the road will lead to “green pastures” and “still waters,” only to find yourself one day in “the valley of the shadow of death”? You might raise a protest: This isn’t what I signed on for! I wanted clear skies and smooth sailing, not harsh winds and choppy waters! But do you know what I have learned? Our risen Lord thrusts us into a future we’d never choose but we’d hate to lose.
Take these women, headed for Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter Sunday morning. They had bought spices, and they were going to anoint the lifeless body of Jesus The biggest problem they expected the future to bring them was – what does verse 3 say? – “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” The only future they could conceive of was one with a dead Messiah in it.
But, of course, when they got to the tomb, the stone had already been rolled away. And when they went in to check it out, there was what Mark calls “a young man” – no doubt, an angel. And suddenly the future was beginning to take an unanticipated turn. Mark says, “They were alarmed” (v. 5). The angel, of course, told them not to be. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified” he said. “He has been raised; he is not here.”
I don’t think they found his words very reassuring. And when he told them to go tell the others, they went all right. But they didn’t tell anyone anything. Mark says, “Terror and amazement had seized them” (v. 8). They were afraid.