Happy Easter, friends!
I have to be honest with you. I find this ending of The Gospel According to Mark to be more than a bit intriguing, if not downright odd. As scripture says, early in that morning, three faithful, caring, dutiful women go to the tomb. They are following their tradition as religious Jews. They go to anoint a body in a tomb hewn from solid rock. It is the body of her friend, her son, her brother. They go to do what has been done for generations. Out of respect; out of love.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 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. 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.’ 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.
I am a bit puzzled by the question they ask one another,
“Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”
It makes me wonder WHY would they be going to anoint Jesus when they KNEW he is locked away behind a massive boulder?
But, as you likely know, rationality does not always find its way to the surface in times of stress or grief. So, following their tradition, and their hearts, and in faith, they go anyway, to do the impossible.
And as you know, God provided. When they arrive, the stone has already been rolled back. And there “they see a young man … and they are alarmed.” Alarm, in this situation, is an entirely appropriate response!
6And the young man kindly says to them, ‘Do not be alarmed;
Jesus … has been raised; he is not here!”
The young man (who is, by the way, not described as an angel) says, “tell his disciples and Peter” (make sure that you especially tell Peter, yes, even Peter, the deserter!) “that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee.” Jesus will catch up with you when you go to your homes near the Sea.
Now, these traditional people understood the power and meaning of their faith stories. Doesn’t the very first story of the Bible, in Genesis, at the beginning of everything, tell us that God’s Spirit is moving over the deep waters of the sea? Everyone knew that “the sea” is symbolic of chaos and turmoil and struggle and danger. And out of that original churning chaos God brings forth sun and moon and stars and earth; and living creatures of every kind, with beauty and harmony: all one glorious creation teeming with life.
For all followers of Jesus, that young man’s instruction is to return to daily lives, even with their uncertainty and grief and stress. Go forward, even if the future is unsure and unknown. Move ahead. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200 dollars, but go forward, move on. Do not try to bypass grief and misery; do not try to avoid chaos and struggle; do not take shortcuts around sacrifice and suffering.
Go, because Jesus is not in a tomb, not in a garden, not in a faraway big city or a grand Temple.
Go, because Jesus has already gone before you and will be there waiting for you.
He has been with you all along; he will not desert you now.
In your daily life, Jesus will be present.
Look for him there. And everywhere.
As he said, “I AM will be with you.” Always.