Easter 2015–He’ll Meet You There
We come here on Easter Sunday with bluegrass music playing, and Alleluias being unearthed and everybody all dressed up to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. New Life. Second Chances. Kingdom glimpses.
But the very first Easter morning wasn’t anything like this. There was nothing to celebrate. Jesus was dead. Gone. Buried. His last words were “It is finished” and everyone took Him at His word.
The only comfort the people who loved him most could find was at the ancient cemetery. At the tomb where he was laid to rest. We do the same thing today with loved ones we’ve lost.
But when Mary and the other Mary and Salome get to the tomb, they don’t even get the comfort of being where his body lay. They find the tomb empty. Well, not empty, but empty of Jesus. Someone else is there instead.
This stranger in a white robe tells Mary and the other Mary and Salome not to worry. Jesus is alive! And he wants them, a group of women, who have virtually no standing in society to go and tell Peter that Jesus has risen from the dead, and he will meet up with them in Galilee.
Oddly, they find no comfort in this. They react just like any of us would if we went to the cemetery and found some stranger sitting in an open grave where Grandpa is supposed to be and told us, “It’s a miracle! He’s alive. Run on and tell the rest of the family. He’ll meet all y’all for supper.”
Yeah, they got out of there as fast as their feet would take them, too scared to tell anyone about what had happened. That’s it. Roll credits. The end.
Don’t be taken in by those verses that appear after this story in your Bible. Most Biblical scholars have figured out that everything printed after this passage was added by separate authors that were probably writing years and maybe even a couple of generations after the event. Most likely by someone or someones who were unsettled by this, well, unsettling ending.
It was a far cry from a fun and festive day of celebration. It was a terrifying day of not-yet-understood revelation. Why would anyone end a story that way? Perhaps because the idea of resurrection is a little terrifying. Maybe more than a little. Maybe it was because Mark was a realist who knew that the place where the women ended up in the story is a place we all find ourselves some days…or even most days. A place where faith and fear compete for a place in our lives.
I’m going to wager that most of us here know just how the Marys and Salome felt. Contrary to the song we sing on Good Friday, we weren’t actually there when they crucified my Lord. But we know that feeling. When life has just pulled the rug out from under us, and the plans we had get shattered and scattered, and we go looking for some comfort in the arms of Jesus, and he seems to be missing. We just can’t find him.
The Gospel of Mark doesn’t really help with that. Mark doesn’t make the case for Christ. Mark doesn’t leave us with proof that Jesus is alive. Just a promise. He’s not here. He’s alive. Go on and he will meet you. And it is our hope in that promise that keeps us going—even when the tomb is empty, even when our hearts seem empty, even when our lives feel empty.
We are people who hope in the promise.
And please don’t confuse hope with optimism. They are not the same thing at all. Optimism wears rose colored glasses and claims everything will be all right despite the tragic reality that things really aren’t all right. Hope can see reality clearly—that fear and tragedy and bureaucracy are all part of the human condition. But hope insists that these things will not have the final word. Hope leans in to the promise the God made to us through Jesus Christ. That we need not be afraid. That death is not the end. That life here and in the hereafter can and will be kingdom-like. That we should ditch the empty tomb and empty lives and empty hearts and move on. That Jesus will meet us there.
It’s important that we remember that just because Mary and the other Mary and Salome couldn’t find Jesus, it didn’t mean he was gone.
Just because we sometimes don’t feel the presence of Christ doesn’t mean he isn’t there. Jesus doesn’t bail on us just because we’re worried that he already has.
If we really believe in the terrifying reality of resurrection. If we really believe that Jesus is no longer in the tomb. If we really believe that Jesus can conquer even death, surely we have to know that he can conquer our moments of doubt and fear and lack of faith.
So if you are reveling in the beauty and the excitement that is Easter, then party on! (does anybody say that anymore?) We should be celebrating. Christ is Risen. Alleluia. Shout for joy and all that.
But if you are just not in the celebratory mood, know that, contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be cheerful to be Christian. You don’t have to be happy to be hopeful. You don’t have to master the power of positive thinking to lean on the promise. Just know that in those times when fear and faith compete for a place in your life, no matter which one triumphs on any given day, Christ is still Risen. The tomb is empty. No evil deeds, no violent forces, no jaded hearts, no bad legislation will have the last word.
So whether you leave this place singing or sighing, laughing or lamenting, merry or melancholy, get on with the business of following the living Lord Jesus Christ and know that he will meet you there.
–Rev. Anne Russ
First Pres Argenta