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Coming and Going

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Coming and Going

Mark 16:1-8 (NIV)

As I read the gospel lesson I began to think about the many sisters and brothers that do things around the church that very few of us know about. Those of you that come during the week to fold bulletins, the messenger and just help with office work. Those of you that prepare our worship space with banners, communion set up; those that stay behind on Sundays to clean up after ourselves. Even those that come often and look at those things that needs to be repair and fix them without being asked. There is so much work behind the scene that is done by so many of you that it would take a long time to mention them all; to all of you thanks in the name of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.

This working behind the scene, working without expecting any recognition, satisfied with only the knowledge that God is aware of your devotion; is one that was demonstrated by the three women mentioned by the gospel according to Mark. The gospels tells us that because Jesus died just hours before the beginning of the day of rest, the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea wrapped his body in a linen cloth and placed it in a tomb. Joseph did not have any time to prepare Jesus body for a proper burial, so he did the best he could by placing the body in a tomb until better preparation could be done.

Mark tells that as soon as the Sabbath was over, the women went to the store and purchased the necessary spices to anoint Jesus’ body and make it ready for a proper Jewish burial. It was still dark when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome started out to the tomb to do work behind the scene. I wondered what they were talking about as they were on their way towards the tomb. Mark tells us that one of the issues of their conversation was about who would roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb. But that did not stop them from their goal. I guess they thought that they would cross that bridge when they got there.

Who were these hard working, loving women that venture into darkness to minister to their dead leader? One of them was Salome, wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John. She was present at the crucifixion and besides these two occasions she is mentioned when she asked Jesus that her two sons would sit at the right hand and at the left of Jesus in his kingdom. Now her dream of Power for her two sons was buried with Jesus. Another of the women was Mary the mother of James and Joseph, wife of Clopas; besides this we know very little about her. The other was Mary Magdalene, of whom Jesus had driven out seven demons and who has lately become a source of revenue for Hollywood. These women did not only supported Jesus ministry when he was alive and they hoped to see his kingdom, but now were ready to show their love by readying his body for burial.

I wondered what, besides getting into the tomb, they talked about during their journey. We know that those that were on the road to Emmaus were talking about how the whole thing was a failure. But what about the women, how were they feeling as they went to perform this painful final act of love towards their teacher. How was their experience of going towards the tomb? Were they sharing their personal memories of the man from Nazareth? Were they thinking about the things they wished they had told him while he was still alive? We all experience death differently. Some of us see it as a final act, as the end of their loved ones. They believe that death has the final word; for them there is no rest, no hope, and no future. They believe that at the end there is nothing but dust. But since they were Jewish women, they believed in the resurrection like Martha testified to Jesus during her brother’s Lazarus death. What were they thinking?

When they finally got to the tomb they discovered that the stone had already been rolled away. They asked themselves who had removed the stone. Was there anyone inside? Who might have come before them to prepare Jesus body? I believe that it is a testament to their boldness that instead of going for help, they decided to enter the tomb. Mark tells us that: “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.” Mark does not describe him as an angel, only a young man. I wondered if they just asked the young man, who are you? What do you want? What have you done with Jesus body? I do not see any of these women as being shy; they were powerful women, courageous disciples.

The young man responded by saying: “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go; tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” The gospel of Mark is believed to be the memories of Peter written by one of his disciples. So it is not a surprise that only in Mark’s gospel are we are told that the women were sent to his disciples and Peter. Peter is specifically mentioned because he needed to know that he was still part of the family, that his denial had not change God’s will to forgive and redeem him.

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.” We need to think about the gospel point in telling us this. Mark shows us a group of women that were courageous enough to be at the crucifixion, they followed Joseph of Arimathea in order to know were they place Jesus’ body; they got together to prepare Jesus body and did not even blink at the issue of rolling the rock from the tomb. All of this for a known political prisoner, a criminal, someone that was judge and found guilty. They saw the rock removed and boldly entered the tomb; they were a very determined group of women. And yet when told by a young man that Jesus was alive they began to tremble became confused and ran out of the tomb totally afraid. Why were they not afraid of a dead Jesus, but became fearful at the thought of a living Christ?

Too many people, even many Christians would rather believe in a very nice dead Christ than in a Christ that will come to judge the living and the dead. If death is final, if there is nothing after this life; then suicide can be a solution. It would end suffering and pain. But if there is an eternal life and an eternal death; if there is consciousness after this life then how can we prepare for it. What if there is really a heaven and hell, the pressure to make the right choice, a choice that would have eternal consequences is too much for many of us. We prefer the notion of nothingness, not remembering our pass sins and mistakes, not remembering those we have hurt and those we have not forgiven. Nothing appears to comfort us and reduce our fears, except to think that death is the end.

But I came to tell you about another option, one that confronts the reality of death and resurrection and is bold enough not to be afraid. It is based on the words of the young man who reminds us that Jesus is going ahead of us. We are not alone, but Christ is leading us through life, death and resurrection. It is based on the knowledge that the perfect love of God cast out the fear we may have about life and living. It is the certainty that our future life in the presence of God is beyond our wildest dreams. A life that can only be described as heaven.

 

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