“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. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 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.” (Mark 16:1-8)
The gospel of Mark gives short shrift to what followed after Jesus resurrection. Some manuscripts do not say much beyond verse 8. Others tell about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene. Later in this Easter reflection, I will talk about another one of these appearances.
But here in this passage from Mark I find it interesting that these group of women were afraid. And so I pondered on this. Jesus was born, lived, and died in very political times. Some commentators believed that his death was a result simply of the political situation – that is, if the times had been different or that Jesus had not taken such a stance contrary to the political/religious institutions of the time, he might not have been crucified.
But we know that “all things work together for good.” And that if Jesus’ death came about because of politics, its deeper purpose was redemption. Each person in the Passion story played an important role. Peter feared to be identified with Jesus. Pilate feared going against the people’s wishes. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus feared being labeled as followers of Jesus.
What fears do we have when we think about telling others the good news of Jesus Christ? Is this current political and/or religious climate a “safe” place to talk about what your/our faith beliefs are?
We know that those who first received the news that Jesus was arisen did tell others, and the news spread. One of the scripture passages in the lectionary for Easter is the account of Peter’s first sermon after Christ’s death. Whether we receive the news of Christ’s resurrection with joy or fear, the news will not be contained. So spread the news, beloved reader! Fear nothing! Christ arose! The proof is all around us!
“Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad.”(Luke 24:13-18)
I do not have to wonder why these unnamed two were sad. They had lost someone who meant more to them than anyone else they had met. And they may have very well not known why this loss felt so tragic. We who live in this modern day know that Christ was never lost to us, or to the world. But they did not know that this was not a loss but the start of something more wonderful than they could imagine.
“Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.” (Verses 19-24)
We read this account, and we may wonder why all of this astonished and confused them. But without the knowledge that Christ rose up from the dead, and the reason why all this had to happen, it must have seemed like their whole world was turned upside. And in a way . . . it had!
“Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.”
Just recently I had reason to think back over my days at seminary. I remember I had composed a meditation based on this passage. As I was writing this pondering, I tried to remember what it was that I had written – I do not think I have a copy of it anywhere. I don’t remember it , but what I do remember was the experience of sharing it with others. There is something very moving in sharing with friends one’s insights and learnings.
“As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight.”
Have you encountered the risen Lord? What was your experience like?
“They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
As I am working my way through this passage, I remember more and more of what I wrote – it seems like so many years ago. It was a reflection based on what might have been Jesus’ perspective of being with his disciples again – kind of a gutsy and slight irreverent topic. But for those who have read me for some length of time have come to know, I can be kind of gutsy and slightly irreverent.
“While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.”
I will ask again – have you encountered the risen Lord? It is gutsy and slightly irreverent to think that one can encountered the Lord in a personal way, and to feel that the Lord Jesus Christ is really there and real.
“Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24: 13-49)
Before I started seminary I was not very gutsy, and very humble and meek in my faith. But something happened during my seminary years. If there was time, and if we were sitting face to face, I would tell you about it. But I am in front of my keyboard, somewhat in advance of Easter Sunday. So the best I can do is tell you that my time in seminary was like being slowly clothed “with power from on high.” How’s that for gutsy talk? And it is because of that experience that I have been lead, year after year, to communicate with you in this way beloved reader.
“Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.”
The writer of I Corinthians is a pretty gutsy person too; and I have more than once taken to task that person concerning some issues where I have disagreed with him. But in this instance I say with him . . .
“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, [at least at the time this was written] though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
The writer of I Corinthians says further, “For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” We all have things, beloved reader, that we have done which have been hurtful to others. I am sure I am no exception.
I have, by current count, lived through 55 Easters; from the time in my life when Easter represented chocolate rabbits and candy Easter eggs to present day when Easter represents for me a chance for renewed life, faith and commitment to God. I have changed and grown with each year, I hope for the better. I say further therefore then with the writer of I Corinthians, . . .
“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.” (I Corinthians 15:1-11)
And so I end my journey with you through Lent and to Easter. What comes next you may ask. With Easter Sunday celebrated and completed, I am returning to posting 4 times a week. After Easter there are 6 Sundays, named as being each successive Sunday related to Easter – i.e. the 2nd Sunday of Easter etc. One of the themes of these Sundays is the emerging new church. May we, with them, learn and relearn what it means to live out our faith in the risen Lord. Selah!