Where Do We Go From Here? – Rev. Amanda Wagner
April 5, 2015 (Easter Sunday)
Isaiah 25:6-9, Mark 16:1-8
When the women went to the tomb of Jesus early on that first Easter morning, they were bringing spices and oils to finish the work of preparing his body for burial. This was the work that had been postponed after Jesus died, because he had to be hastily buried before the Sabbath began.
And as they walked to the tomb in the low light of pre-dawn, the women were already expressing their doubts about the repulsive and stomach-turning job they had to do. Jesus had been buried for three days. His body was still covered with blood and dirt that would need to be washed away, he was probably already starting to smell kind of funky, and oh by the way, did anyone think about how we’re going to move that giant rock to get inside?
Maybe that last question filled them with some sense of relief. After all, if they couldn’t roll the stone away, they wouldn’t have to complete their nauseating task. Now imagine that bit of relief replaced by curiosity, confusion, and then terror as they realized the stone had already been rolled away and a young man in white was sitting where the body of Jesus should have been.
Now I don’t know about you, but when I encounter a stranger and his first words are Don’t be afraid, that doesn’t do too much to settle my apprehension. So I completely understand why the women were afraid as they stood in front of the empty tomb. And why, even after hearing the good news that Jesus had been raised from the dead, the women fled from the tomb, not saying a word to anyone.
That’s where Mark’s story ends, with the women fleeing for their lives and keeping the good news to themselves. We know, based on the other gospel accounts, that there’s more to the story, but this is where Mark purposely stops. So the question is: why does Mark end his account of the events so abruptly?
Well the reason is that in rendering the women silent at the mouth of the tomb, Mark shifts the focus from the women, and even from Jesus himself, who is nowhere to be found. “He has been raised,” the angel announces, indicating that something else, someone else, did the raising.
In the early morning hours, the women are confronted by a new truth: the normal patterns of life and death have been disrupted by someone who can undo even death itself. The angel’s announcement is a revelation of God. It is God who has raised Jesus; it is God who has altered the rules of the world.
In the face of such a revelation, we must not mistake the women’s silence as a failure. It is a completely appropriate response, because their silence creates a space for the voice and presence of God to resound. What could they say? Any remarks to fill that holy silence would have trivialized the moment, would have turned it into a story of what they had seen rather than what God had done.
God has altered the rules of this world. Never again will the darkness overcome the light. With the women at the empty tomb, we are invited into this holy moment to stand in silent awe at the cosmic power of God to take away death’s sting, and even its permanence.
Death is not the end. God will always win in the struggle between life and death. That’s the message of Mark’s gospel, and it’s no wonder it took the women a little time to find their voices. The important thing is that ultimately they did overcome their fears. We know that at some point they did tell, because their story was eventually shared with the other disciples.
So what are your stones? What are the things that are keeping you from stepping out in faith? The women went from relief in thinking the stone would keep them from their task to confusion when that obstacle was removed from their path to terror when they realized that God had given them a new mission.
We can use whatever “stones” we want as excuses for not following through on our charge. “I’m not good at talking to others about my faith.” “I don’t know enough about the Bible to share the message.” “My schedule is just too busy.” “I just ate and I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to do any churchy type stuff for at least 30 minutes afterward.”
Whatever your stone is, from the smallest pebble to the biggest boulder, know that God is much more powerful. God can and will remove any obstacle from your path. So I encourage you to conquer your fears and follow the call to share the good news. Christ is Risen!
This world full of death and destruction is not the end. Our hope lies in a good and loving God who raised Christ from the dead. Let us go into the world and share that news with everyone. Christ is Risen! Christ is Risen indeed! Amen.