Preached on 1 April 2018 at Church of the Ascension, Seattle, Washington
Easter Day, Year B (Mark)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!
[Christ is risen indeed, Alleluia!]
The tomb is empty. Christ is alive.
God is on the loose.
Last week, we were with Jesus arriving at the seat of power to challenge the rulers, the system. And we went with him to Golgotha to this crucifixion. We waited at the cross with the women – in despair and desolation at Christ’s death. We watched as he was buried.
We can’t get to Easter without going through Good Friday, you see. Death and Resurrection; Crucifixion and Vindication go together. You can’t pay attention to one and ignore the other without missing the whole point.
Today, we arrive at the tomb, again with the women. But nothing is as they expect it to be. We’ve heard the story so many times that we take it for granted. But for them, what they find shatters their understanding of reality; of how the world works.
There wasn’t time for their usual customs and rituals of burial before his body was placed in the tomb on Friday. So they go today, on the first day of the week, to anoint his body and prepare it for proper burial. Their biggest concern is how they’ll open the tomb to get to his body. They saw the huge stone they put in front of the opening. How will they move it?
Their first shock is that the stone is already moved.
The second is that somebody else is already there;
and it isn’t Jesus. In fact, Jesus’ body isn’t even there.
What?! Like I said their understanding of reality is shattered.
The young man gives them a message – the promise that they will see Jesus in Galilee.
We shouldn’t be surprised at their response. I mean, what would you have done?
No Alleluias. No Christ is risen. No, theirs is a very natural response. They flee in terror.
And that’s the end of Mark’s story. It’s abrupt. It’s unsettling. Christ is on the loose. Now what?
We tell the stories to reveal the Truth at the heart of the story. What does this story reveal to us about the character of God? What Truth does it tell?
Mark’s message all through the gospel has been about following Jesus, whose core message has been about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is near.
Jesus’ Passion is not just his suffering on the cross but his passion for God’s Kingdom as opposed to the kingdoms, the powers, the systems of this world. That passion got him killed – crucified – when he went toe-to-toe with the authorities, with those in power, when he challenged the systems of injustice.
But the tomb could not hold him. God would not be contained. The story of the resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus and his message his passion for the Kingdom of God to be manifest on earth, here and now. It is God’s resounding NO to the powers and YES to Jesus.
Easter is about God. The character of God is compassion and justice.
Ultimately, the story of death and resurrection is about a path of transformation with God’s help. It’s a path that transforms our lives; that gives us a passion for the Kingdom of God. It reveals a path for the transformation of the world.
Easter, the empty tomb, is not the end of the story. Resurrection is not a one-time event. Death and resurrection continue in our lives. Mark’s ending is unsettling, but it is full of promise that points to the future.
The tomb is empty. Christ is on the loose.