4/1/2018 Easter Sunday The text is Mark 16:1-8.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ is risen! He has risen indeed!
James Moore tells a humorous story about a woman named Carol who was the organist at her church. She was an outstanding musician, but she did something no organist should ever do. She overslept on Easter morning and missed the sunrise service. Obviously, she was embarrassed. Of course, the minister and the church forgave her. They teased her about it a little, but it was done lovingly and in good fun.
However, the next Easter her phone rang at 5:00 in the morning. Jolted awake by the loud ringing, she scrambled to answer it. It was the minister, and he said, “Carol, it’s Easter morning! The Lord is risen! And I suggest you do the same!”
I’m glad that none of you overslept this Easter morning or forgot to join in the celebration of the most important day in the Christian year–the day the followers of Jesus went to his tomb early in the morning and found it empty. To some, the empty tomb must have seemed like a cruel April Fool’s Day joke…but this miracle was nothing to joke about…For Christ is risen! He has risen indeed! And that makes all the difference in the world or does it?
We’ve never been bewildered by the events of Easter. Believing that Jesus rose again from the dead is second nature to us and doesn’t seem incredibly special anymore. Yet, once upon a time people didn’t know that about the resurrection. Even though Jesus had told his disciples that he would be crucified, dead and buried and then, on the third day, rise again, it took a while for this unimaginable event to become real to them. For such an event was something way out of their wheel house. Reality, even for us today, is the simple truth that the dead simply do not walk away from the grave. And yet it happened…Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!
So when the women arrive at the tomb, early in the morning, they come bearing precious herbs and oils to wash the dead and decaying body of their Lord. They come to comb out Jesus’ hair, to sponge away the dried blood, to massage precious myrrh into his skin. They come hoping to engage in the ritual act (the act of care) that is traditionally done before sealing a body in the tomb. They come to anoint the crucified one. And on the way they even discuss how they will gain access to the cave (after all, it is closed by a massive boulder).
When they arrive, they find that the stone has been rolled away. The tomb is empty–vacant, except for some young guy who is definitely not Jesus; and suddenly, they are afraid. For us, Easter begins with the joyous acclamation – Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed! But the first Easter morning begins with fear. At least that’s the way Mark tells it. It’s not that Easter begins with wild panic–no, not that. Easter begins with the kind of fear that feels a lot like heart-break. It begins with the twist in your stomach that comes when the phone rings and you hear the voice of your sister. “Are you sitting down?” she asks–that kind of fear.
The women who have so carefully prepared what they need to anoint a dead body are now filled with fear. They fear that their last chance to pour a little compassion on the broken body of Jesus has escaped. They fear that they are witnessing the final insult of this whole horrible affair. First, Jesus’ life is stolen, and now, even his body has been taken. And, perhaps, they also fear…no, they simply must fear…that death has won. Death, the ever-ravenous monster, has finally, and utterly, swallowed up their beloved friend (adapted from Scott Black Johnston, Deadly Things). For they did not know – Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!
The news they receive from the young man, dressed in a white robe had to be unbelievable, for they did not leave the tomb rejoicing. They left scared to death. They left not knowing what to believe. And, they say nothing to anyone. For who would believe them? Reality, even for us today, is the simple truth that the dead simply do not walk away from the grave. And, yet, it happened…Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed!
This is where Mark leaves us on Easter morning…not with the women running to tell the disciples what they had seen. This is where Mark leaves us today…with the women running away. This is where Mark leaves us on Easter morning…with a mystery and a miracle that instills fear. Hope will come later. Faith and courage will come later. The spreading of the good news will come later. But, first, there is fear.
Unlike the women on that Easter morning, we know the whole story as it has been passed down from generation to generation. So the events of Easter do not have us quaking in our boots. And yet, like the women, we are often silent and fail to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. Sadly, in our secular world, it’s not politically correct to share the Good News so we conform and keep silent like the women blinded by fear. So, the celebration of spring, complete with the Easter bunny, daffodils and lilies, colored eggs and candy, pushes aside the miracle of the resurrection.
And yet, we must never forget: Christ is risen! He has risen, indeed! For whether we realize it or not, the events of Easter make all the difference in the world. And this is no April Fool’s Day joke.
My friends…there was no dead body in the tomb. Jesus had walked away from the grave as he defeated death. And we share in his promise, that on the last day, we shall join him in paradise.
Believe and trust in the Lord. For Christ is risen! He has indeed! Alleluia and Amen! And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.