14 December 2018
And they said nothing to anybody
If we want a reaction to a person coming back from death we only had to read the NZ Herald yesterday. There are two stories in Saturday's Herald both about people returning to life. One is about the Australian girl, Natasha Ryan, who had vanished from her home four years before. Her family had had their funeral, although the body was never found, her alleged murderer was being tried, then her mother finds out that her daughter is alive, and is totally shocked, - her father could not say anything, - stunned , traumatised, the first reactions to finding their child is alive. The second story was about a man found in Queenstown, his family thought he was dead,drowned, they had had a memorial service, they are traumatised by his return.
So Mark tells us the Easter story. On that early morning, the first day of the week, about two thousand years ago, some women knew their friend was dead, they had seen him die, his broken body had been lifted down from the cross where he had hung and taken to a tomb. They had watched. A huge stone had been rolled against the door to keep the animals out. He was dead and buried. There was one more task. They went about the funeral rituals which helped deal with their loss. The spices for his body, the anointing the last things they could do for their Jesus. So, very early in the morning, they went to the tomb, worrying about the huge stone and how they could get in.
But the stone has gone and they go into the tomb and find instead of a lifeless body, a man dressed in white is sitting there. Like all who meet angels, they are frightened by his presence, what has happened? Where is the body?
The messenger tells them they are looking for Jesus of Nazareth
Ah! We remember the beginning of Mark?s story and find we are being told that this is the same person who showed his power over evil when only the demons recognised him. The angelic figure adds, "the one who was crucified", now Jesus can be identified. He is the one who has power over death. There is no mistaken identity here. This is the same Jesus they knew.
"He isn't here , look see for yourselves, see where he was laid". They've got the right place. Their search in the place of death is not going to find Jesus.
There is more, they are given a commission that makes it clear that the risen, crucified Jesus of Nazareth has more to do.
"Remember he told you he would go into Galilee? Tell Peter and the disciples he will meet you there." This risen Jesus will gather up those who have scattered in fear and failure and gather them together.
They will see Jesus of Nazareth raised from the dead, victor over death and well as evil.
Mary Magdalene , Salome and Mary, James' mother, run from the tomb, terrified and amazed, shocked and say nothing to anyone.
The same words used by the Herald reporter of those two different families [and neither of them had a body]. Listen, to the reactions, traumatised, shocked, silent, say nothing, gobsmacked.
This is where Mark's story finishes.
All the disciples have fled and now the women also fail to communicate the message. From now on Jesus himself will initiate the action.
[John's gospel tells it as the women telling the other disciples who simply didn?t believe them]
We find the empty tomb by itself does not bring anything but shock, amazment and puzzlement and is there as a sign which points beyond to the risen Christ.
None of them believe until they have seen Jesus. Then their closed world [and ours] is broken open by Jesus himself. Something illogical, and impossible takes place when the one who is certified as dead greets them and the old rules about what can happen are overturned.
A new future is opened up a new day has come.
Yet, so many of us continue to focus our energy: on that tomb, on that morning, on what did or did not happen there and how to explain it to anyone who does not happen to believe it too.
Resurrection does not compute with anything else we know about physical human life on earth. No one has ever seen it happen, which is why it helps me to remember that no one saw it happen on Easter morning either.
There were no witnesses whatsoever to the resurrection. No one on earth can say what happened inside that tomb, because no one was there. In every gospel story they all arrived after the fact. Two of them saw clothes. Four of them of them saw angels. Most of them saw nothing at all because they were still in bed that morning, but as it turned out that did not matter because the empty tomb was not the point. The empty tomb does not bring belief just points the way forward.
The living being that had once been inside of it was gone. Certainly, Jesus was not there. He could have stayed, I suppose, sitting there all alive and healthy so that everyone could come in and see him, but that is not what he did.
The story is full of signs. The stone rolled away, they were not left to imagine the decay behind the stone, the blockage to that was gone, they now had to deal with the emptiness. "Don't seek the living among the dead", says Luke's version. "Go and meet him on the open road," the angelic messengers say to the women in Matthew's version. "He's gone before you into Galilee" says Mark. Whatever you do don't get stuck here on the material problems.
Jesus had outgrown his tomb, which was too small a focus for the resurrection. The risen one had people to see and things to do. The living one's business was among the living.
And that is where Mark points us. To the community of those whom Christ has gathered - his church, and the world and it is the same Jesus who initiates their belief and our belief.
The church is always dead clear about that death - it happened - it wasn't pretend. This risen one is continuous with the Jesus who had lived and who had died. The meaning of that solidarity with humanity is only unfolded as we find that death did not have the final word.
Today we are invited by the Risen One himself to make it our story. For the living Christ encounters us still, in places we do not expect, in hope and vision and everyday life, where death is defied and hope comes out of despair and people are reconciled to God and one another.
In the end, that is the only evidence we have to offer those who ask us how we can possibly believe. Because we live, that is why. Because we have found, to our surprise, that we are not alone. Because we never know where he will turn up next.
Today we are promised that the Living Christ meets us here- in the wine and bread and the sharing of that with one another.
For Christ is risen, God has said "YES" to all that gives life
Thanks be to God.
Christ is risen
Barbara Brown Taylor
Texts For Preaching Year B , Bruggemann et al, WJK
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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