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Easter Sunday, 2018

Mark 16:1-8

Mark 16:1-8

The women went to the tomb to anoint his body. In the original Greek, it actually says, that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—these three courageous disciples—went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body.

 

Let’s be quite clear—Jesus was dead.

 

I mean, these very same women had watched him die with their own eyes. They were there during the crucifixion—that old Roman lynching. They stayed even after all the other disciples had fled. They stayed after the crowds had dispersed. They stayed until Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross.

 

They never hid their faces from the truth. These women.

 

These women kept vigil during the sabbath after Jesus had died—those long hours of waiting, wondering, not quite daring enough to hope.

 

They spent a holy Saturday—the longest of days—between Good Friday and that first Easter knowing only one thing for sure: Jesus. Is. Dead. Have you ever had a day like that? Where you only knew one thing and it was devastating?

 

And so they go the tomb that first Easter morning—Mary, Mary, and Salome—full of grief. They go to anoint a dead body—the shell of their rabbi. They go with spices that smelled like a mix of funeral and what could have been.

 

And they expect to find Jesus, still dead, right where they left him. It’s a reasonable expectation, don’t ya think? It’s how nature works. How the world works. How life and death work.

 

It’s still a little dark out when they arrive at the garden.
The sun is just coming up when they arrive at the hill where the tomb is.
It’s not quite day yet, but they can see enough now to know that the stone cover of the tomb isn’t where it’s supposed to be.
They can see enough to know that the man dressed in a robe, sitting in the tomb is not Jesus.
They can see enough—and understand enough—to be scared.

 

He is not here, says the angel. He is risen! And we think, hooray! Right? Easter and lilies and chocolate and hymns—O happy day!

 

But it wasn’t so for the women that first Easter—they were expecting to anoint a dead body, and suddenly that body is gone. Suddenly the rules of nature don’t apply. Everything they’ve known to be simple and true is shaken… Jesus is risen?

This was not immediately good news, even to those brave, fierce, female disciples. It was scary.

 

And the gospel of Mark ends with them running off in terror and amazement. “They said nothing to anyone, because they were so afraid.”

 

See, the disciples were prepared for death. But they weren’t quite prepared for life. That was a universe-altering surprise.

 

And we can relate. We live in a time full of death. You need only turn on the news, perhaps look out your window, or check your twitter feed. We’ve almost become numb to it, I think, the magnitude of suffering in the world. We start to take it for granted that bad things will just… happen.

That hearts will be broken.

That people will disappoint us.

We are prepared for a million kinds of death. Walking around, it would seem, with jars of anointing oil at ready. Constantly grieving some loss.

Maybe a very personal one.

Maybe something more communal—like the loss of civility.

This year, especially, there is a sense of mourning for our common humanity, which too often goes unrecognized these days.

 

We are a people well prepared for a million kinds of death, sorrows, and hurts. Accustomed to it, even. Told that this is just the way things are now.

 

We are prepared for death… but are we prepared for life?

Because here’s the thing, church.
Jesus was dead.
And by all accounts he should have stayed that way… But he didn’t.

 

You know what he did instead?
He destroyed death.
He descended into hell and he destroyed that too.
He destroyed every evil that killed him—every injustice, hateful word, unmerciful moment, undeserved condemnation, principality. He destroyed every form of violence and oppression, indignity and silencing. He destroyed shame and suffering and the cosmic imbalance of power. He destroyed hunger and illness, loneliness and anxiety, war and tyranny and corruption. He liberates the captives, makes the prisoners go free. Restores, revives, reenergizes, resurrects.

Do you hear the gospel?

Jesus was dead. And by all accounts he should have stayed that way.
But he didn’t. Jesus doesn’t. Stay. Dead.

And so, people of God, neither. do. we.

 

We may be full of fear a lot of the time, just like Mary, and Mary, and Salome. But just like them, we, too, are witnesses of the resurrection.

 

And we know how the story ends. It ends with LIFE.
So we do not, any longer, move through the world with jars of oil for countless burials. We do not, anymore, live in fear. We do not, anymore, prepare for death. We anticipate life. We rise up. We rise with Jesus day after day, moment by moment. The body of Christ, alive in the world.

 

And make no mistake—Jesus is alive all around us.
There are moments of resurrection, daily.
Glimpses of Easter, embodied.

 

We see resurrection…
When the flowers bloom.
When the sun is close enough to warm our faces.
In those liminal moments when we know for sure that we are part of something bigger than ourselves.

We see resurrection…
When one who has suffered a stroke learns to walk again.
When one who was estranged from the family is reunited.
When the baby learns to crawl, to walk, to speak, to say “I love you.”
When the adoption goes through.
When the sorrow of loss begins to lift.
When FIVE kids are baptized on Easter Sunday.

 

We see resurrection…
When D.C. and downtown Baltimore are flooded with people insisting that lives are more important than guns, so that those same kids who were just baptized—so that all kids—all people—can be truly safe.


It is resurrection when we hear chants of #BlackLivesMatter after Stephon Clark’s murder, and when women scream #MeToo, and it is a joyful Easter when people across the country wash the feet of immigrants.

It is resurrection embodied when a little church in South Baltimore decides to open its doors and its actual home to women reentering society after serving time in prison.

 

It is resurrection—it is Easter—when we refuse to stay down. Refuse to give up. When we hope. Dream. Teach. Nurture. Love each other.

 

No one ever said it would be easy or comfortable all of the time—this resurrection thing. No one ever promised Easter would be a cake walk. It’s been a little intimidating, actually, since the beginning.

 

But beloveds, do not be afraid. Jesus is alive, and you were made to be alive, too. To have breath and to love and to risk and to tell this story.

 

The one about Jesus. Who by all accounts should have just given up and stayed dead. But who chose instead to turn the whole world upside down, or, really, right-side up, finally.

 

Who invites us now to do the same.

 

And here’s the best part: when we get really tired of rising up over and over, and we need a quick lie down; when we are overcome—for a time—by the hardships of life; when we find ourselves like those first faithful disciples, with sadness or doubt or fear creeping in—even then—especially then—Jesus still rises.

 

Even then. Jesus doesn’t. stay. dead.

 

And it’s fascinating, isn’t it, that the gospel of Mark ends with the women—Mary, and Mary, and Salome—running off in terror and amazement. Saying nothing to anyone… 

…And yet here we are today, a couple thousand years later. Hearing their story. Our story. The Easter story. Proof positive that resurrection—new life—always finds a way.

 

Thanks be to God. Amen.

The women went to the tomb to anoint his body. In the original Greek, it actually says, that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—these three courageous disciples—went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body.

Let’s be quite clear—Jesus was dead.

I mean, these very same women had watched him die with their own eyes. They were there during the crucifixion—that old Roman lynching. They stayed even after all the other disciples had fled. They stayed after the crowds had dispersed. They stayed until Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross.

They never hid their faces from the truth. These women.

These women kept vigil during the sabbath after Jesus had died—those long hours of waiting, wondering, not quite daring enough to hope.

They spent a holy Saturday—the longest of days—between Good Friday and that first Easter knowing only one thing for sure: Jesus. Is. Dead. Have you ever had a day like that? Where you only knew one thing and it was devastating?

And so they go the tomb that first Easter morning—Mary, Mary, and Salome—full of grief. They go to anoint a dead body—the shell of their rabbi. They go with spices that smelled like a mix of funeral and what could have been.

And they expect to find Jesus, still dead, right where they left him. It’s a reasonable expectation, don’t ya think? It’s how nature works. How the world works. How life and death work.

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