April 4, 2021 Resurrection of Our Lord The text is Mark 16:1-8.
1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said 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. 7 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.” 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! The young man in white, who is assumed to be an angelic messenger tells the terrified women at the tomb that Jesus of Nazareth is not there, he has risen. And he has gone to Galilee where he will show himself to Peter and the rest of the disciples. After hearing this news and seeing the tomb is empty, Salome and the two Mary’s flee in a mixture of emotions; Mark tells us they were overcome with terror and amazement. One can only imagine what they were thinking; either someone stole Jesus’ body or he did rise from the dead, as he foretold. So, I assume the terror was regarding the potential theft of the body and amazement came about at the realization that the resurrection had, in fact taken place. Now, the Greek word the translators rendered as amazement is “extasis”; this translates in English as “ecstatic”. This would seem to be a more accurate description of their reaction to this news.
Yet, in spite of their ecstatic feelings we read that their fear kept them from telling anyone about this revelation. And Mark’s rather abrupt ending to his recounting of the story of the empty tomb on Easter morning is very different from the way John’s gospel describes what happened. In fact, in the alternate reading for this morning, John relates that Mary Magdalene encounters Jesus outside the tomb and he tells her not to touch him, because he has not yet fully transformed. So, what might be Mark’s purpose in relating the story the way he does, with the women not telling what they had experienced? Perhaps it’s so his readers might imagine themselves in the place of the three women, and that they, and we would find ourselves feeling this same emotional mix of fear and exhilaration. Would our elation at the knowledge that Jesus has risen from the tomb overshadow any fear we might otherwise have? Well, it seems that Mary Magdalene wasn’t able to contain her euphoria about the resurrection, for in the final verses of Mark’s gospel we would later read that she told the disciples that she did in fact, encounter the restored Jesus. Alleluia, Christ is risen!
Soon after, Jesus appears to two disciples on the road and then to the remaining eleven; whom he commands to proclaim the Good News to the whole world. Jesus met the disciples in Galilee, just as he had foretold and just as he had told the women at the tomb that he would. So, the two Mary’s and Salome, in spite of their terror ensured that the disciples went to Galilee to reunite with Jesus, who had already gone ahead to meet them there. Thus, fear was defeated by joy, and the Gospel message would begin to spread to the nations, once the disciples encountered the risen Jesus, right there in Galilee. But, why this particular region, far removed from the holy city of Jerusalem and the temple?
Well, Galilee is where the world encountered a human Jesus; this is where his ministry and mission began. Galilee is where he taught, preached, fed, and healed God’s people. Galilee is where he made the promises of hope, forgiveness, and salvation. And in order for the disciples to encounter a divine, risen Jesus, it only made sense that this too should take place in Galilee; the Good News of the resurrection should be first made known in the place where it was first prophesied. In order to experience the miracle of a risen Jesus, his first followers had to meet him in Galilee. Alleluia, Christ is risen!
And if we are to encounter this same risen Jesus, we too must meet him in Galilee, where the coming kingdom of God was first preached and where it has now come to fruition with Christ’s return. Just where is this Galilee, which we read so much about in Scripture? For starters, it’s in the Middle East and is comprised of portions of modern-day Israel and Lebanon. And within the region of Galilee is Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth, which just happens to be 5,507 miles from Quinsigamond Village. This would seem to be a formidable obstacle, potentially precluding us from going there on a group trip to meet Jesus. But our faith tradition teaches that Jesus meets us wherever we are. So, wherever we encounter Jesus, or he meets us, that place becomes Galilee.
The risen Jesus who met the disciples in Galilee is therefore among the faithful at 200 Greenwood Street, for Christ present whenever God’s people meet for worship. This Nave becomes Galilee. He is present every Sunday, when we gather to take the bread and wine; for each Sunday is itself a “mini- Easter”; when the celebration of the Eucharist reminds us that, Alleluia, Christ is risen! Galilee also exists on the other side of this building, where Jesus is encountered as our neighbors come to shop for their families with dignity and respect. The hallway outside the doors to the fellowship hall is a marketplace stall in Galilee, where Jesus is present when the cart is filled with groceries to feed Christ’s hungry children. The narthex is rapidly becoming a neighborhood on the outskirts of Galilee, as items are collecting there; to be distributed to the homeless ones whom Jesus would have us minister to. And every corner where one of Emanuel’s people hands a “We Care” kit of necessities to one of God’s needy children, this is now an intersection of sandy streets in, you guessed it, Galilee. Each and every time the people of God gather together in worship, fellowship, or servanthood Jesus meets them. What was true at the empty tomb is true today; the angel might just as well have been speaking to us when he told the women, “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”. It seems we don’t have to travel 5,000 miles after all; Galilee is all around us, and since Jesus meets us wherever we are, for us Galilee is less a physical place and more a spiritual one. For Jesus abides within each of us; Alleluia, Christ is risen!
The Good News of God in Christ, the Gospel is the keeping of God’s promise to redeem a sinful world, to bring us all back into a righteous relationship with the Father. And this is the very reason we are filled with joy this Easter morning. The Son of God has risen from the grave to defeat sin, death, and evil. We are granted life everlasting by the sacrifice that Jesus made on Good Friday; we are rescued from the darkness of sin and have been made free to enter into the light of forgiveness. Jesus has gone before us to meet us in Galilee, wherever it is to be found; whether 5,000 miles away, in our communities, here in this building, or within our own hearts.
It’s shouldn’t be lost on God’s people that Easter happens in the Springtime, for both are emblems of rebirth, of emerging from the cold to embrace the warmth of the promise of new life; whether that of nature or of our very souls. And this is especially true this year when the normal 40 days of Lent before Easter felt more like the whole twelve months. Yet the scourge of the pandemic seems to be receding and the world is beginning to experience the signs of renewal. Just as Christ rose on Easter, God’s people are rising from the suffering and anguish that have plagued the world for far too long. And his rising to go before us to Galilee should be the promise that reassures us that the kingdom of God will prevail. Let us faithfully hold fast to the hope that the resurrection represents; Jesus leads the way beyond the cross, beyond the grave, to Galilee, and ultimately to eternal life for all who follow him there.
Will you pray with me? Good and gracious and Holy God we give you thanks for the life, death, and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. Help us to trust the promises you have made to your people through his sacrifice. Bless us with a sense of the renewal of the world as evidenced by his rising on Easter morning. And we pray these things in the name of Christ, the One who goes before us; to Galilee, or to wherever we are called. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is risen!