Summary: A sermon for Easter Morning, Series B
The Resurrection of our Lord, April 12, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Today we come before you, Oh God, with hymns of praise as we celebrate your victory over sin and death, accomplished for us though the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, help us to realize the significance of our Lord’s resurrection to our faith and daily lives, and to know his immeasurable gift of forgiving and redeeming love. This we ask in the name of our risen Lord. Amen.
Our Gospel lesson from Mark is, I must admit, not one of my favorite Easter texts. Perhaps that is why for the past 4 times that the original ending of Mark’s Gospel has surfaced to be read on Easter morning, I have chosen the alternate Gospel text from John’s Gospel. After all, don’t we want to come to worship on Easter morning, and hear from the Gospel that at least one of the disciples actually saw the risen Christ? But, having ignored this text for twelve or so years, I believe its time to visit it.
According to Mark, three faithful women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, who were there at the cross to see Jesus die, went and bought spices to anoint his body, which had been hastily buried. We can assume from this detail, that these three women truly loved Jesus, in spite of the fact that he had been executed as a criminal.
Early Sunday morning, these three women set out to the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been lain. They made this journey, not just to give Jesus a proper burial, but to assuage their grief. And as many of us know, grief has a way of causing us not to think too clearly, to ignore the practical situations of life. Thus, in the midst of their journey, it dawns on them that they were not able to roll away the stone that sealed the entrance to the tomb, to gain access to Jesus’ body.
But they kept on with their journey, and when they could see the tomb, they were surprised that the stone had already been moved. And when they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, just sitting there, and they were alarmed. Who among us wouldn’t be frightened to death on encountering such a situation? Even if the man did say, “Don’t be alarmed,” it would take a while for the adrenaline to return to normal levels.
But their shock did not end with the mysterious young man’s admonition to be calm. He also told these grieving women that the body of Jesus that they came to anoint was not there, that he had risen from the dead, and that they should go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where Jesus would meet them.
But instead of jumping up and down with joy, instead of singing joyous hymns of praise to God, as we do this morning, Mark tells us that these women left the empty tomb, being seized by terror and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. And with these words, many scholars believe, the original Gospel of Mark ends.
So what are we to make of this text. First, I believe that we can assume that the women who went to the tomb early that first Easter morning, came in grief, but left in fear. Such an experience would be enough to unnerve the calmest among us. When a person whom you had seen die, is buried, and you go to the tomb, you expect that the remains of that person would still be there. We would not expect to see the grave open, and a strange person dressed in a white robe tell us that our departed loved one had risen from the dead. That sort of thing just does not happen.
Of course, eventually, these three women had to have overcome their fear, and begin to share what they had experienced with others, or the Church of Christ would never have been formed. I believe that anytime we experience something out of the ordinary, it takes time for us to process it, but eventually, we need to share it. And what these women experienced that day, had to be a totally unworldly experience.
But it was, according to Mark, not just fear that these women experience, but also terror and amazement. These words, I believe, really grasp the heart of the situation that confronted the women, and us. Think with me for a moment, about the significance of what the young man in the white robe proclaimed to the women. “You are looking for the crucified and dead body of Jesus. He is not here. He has risen from the dead and will meet you and the disciples in Galilee.”