“At the Door of an Empty Tomb” Easter Day

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

In our Gospel reading St. Mark tells us about three women who went to Jesus’s tomb to pay their respects, to anoint his body. They were doing what all grieving friends and family do but that, as we might say, is where the similarities end! Because we’re told, “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)

Now, it’s interesting to pause and think for a moment: THAT is what the first Easter morning felt like: terror and amazement. I mean, small wonder that St. Matthew talks about an ‘earthquake’ happening that morning. Yes, of course they were startled and afraid on finding the grave so …empty. Who wouldn’t be? That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day! But I want to suggest that the real reason they were afraid is that the penny had finally dropped. The reason they were afraid is that they suddenly realised that everything Jesus had been saying is true.

You see when Christians talk about Resurrection, we’re not talking about some idea that gives us a cosy thought that, well, there might be some kind of life after death. No, before anything else, Resurrection is a vindication of Jesus and all that he is. Significantly, it’s the point at which we see God’s new order; his way of being a world breaking in.

One of the great distortions many people have about faith is that its primary purpose is to bring comfort and reassurance. We talk casually about having ‘religious needs’. All of which is but a short step from religious ‘consumerism’ and an understanding of God who is little more than a cosmic Santa Claus; tasked with fulfilling those needs. But from the moment that tomb burst open, we see that the all the rules for being a world have changed… and one of the most important of them, is realising that life is not about getting God to fit in with us…. It’s about our life being re-shaped to fit in with him.

Christ is not going to be relevant to our life… he wants to give us a new one. No longer your life; based on your choices with perhaps a bit of religion tacked on for re-assurance or should we say ‘fire insurance'(!) And what does that life look like…… Well, it’s shaped like a cross… Jesus told us: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9.24)

This is the shape of life Jesus lived and was vindicated… Now, it’s our turn. Resurrection means that things have changed so radically that you hear someone like St. Paul saying to a group of Christians….. “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”. (Colossians 3.3) So no wonder the women were afraid…. Filled with awe… and so should we be.

To say, “Yes” to the Risen Christ is to drop your agendas, assumptions, priorities and choices. It means to quit using God…. or trying to get him to fit in with you….and to start again…… Under new management.  This is what Christians mean when we use the word ‘Repent’.

Again, Resurrection is not a happy ending to the story of Jesus any more than it’s nice thoughts about what happens after we’ve died…  And Resurrection faith begins in fear and trembling at the door of an empty tomb…. Aware that all the rules; all the landmarks have changed. And you’re told to ‘go’….. and you take a step into a new and different world…  It’s what Jesus called the Kingdom of God.

As we say in the Baptism service, “To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him”.

Alleluia. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

2021-04-08