The Resurrection of Jesus
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 (NRSV)
Year after year, we gather to worship on Easter morning, and we celebrate! We invite our family and our friends to join us. We fill the church with flowers and special decorations. We wear our best Easter clothes, and we sing and pray and praise God as we shout, “ALLELUIA!” Each Easter, we are once again filled with hope and joy and excitement upon hearing the Good News—the good news that tells us that the tomb is empty and that Christ IS RISEN! And then it is our job to go out and share that good news with the world.
The truth is, our world is hungry for good news right now, because it seems as though everywhere we turn, we are surrounded by bad news. Every time we pick up the newspaper or turn on the television or check the news feed on our phones, someone is hurting someone else. Or we hear of churches and temples and mosques burning. Or there has been a natural disaster. Or a war has begun. Or we hear of illness and disease. Or people are fighting. Or a horrific accident has occurred. Or we simply hear stories of people making poor choices. These aren’t only stories that we hear about, but they are stories that we experience in our own lives.
Day after day we are bombarded by negativity and difficulty and hurt and struggle and pain because friends, unfortunately, we live in a world that is shaped by bad news, and that’s why we are so hungry for good news. We need good news. We need a positive message. We need to be reminded that there is still a chance for kindness and hope and peace in the world because good news inspires us. It renews us. It gives us courage and strength. It assures us that we are loved and that we are never alone, and most importantly, it fills us with hope. My friends, the Good news is why we have gathered here this morning, isn’t it? It’s why we’ve invited our family and our friends to join us, and why we have filled the church with flowers. It’s why we have worn our best Easter clothes. It’s why we sing and pray and praise God, and it is definitely why we shout “Alleluia!” and celebrate. But here’s the thing: the good news that we’ve come to celebrate was not actually seen as good news in the beginning.
Last week, we gathered here shouting “Hosanna!” and celebrating Palm Sunday, as Jesus made his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. We talked about the fact that Jesus’ disciples, the ones that walked with him and talked with him and watched as he healed and taught and performed miracles, had no idea what Jesus was talking about most of the time. They didn’t understand. They didn’t get it, because they were too close to the story. They were knee deep in it. They didn’t have the luxury like us to be assured each step of the way, because they didn’t know the whole story. They didn’t know what was coming next. They didn’t know how the story would end. They didn’t know that it was going to be okay. They knew Jesus, but they didn’t know the good news. It’s that same way in many of the biblical stories we hear. We experience joy and assurance, because we know what happens next, while the people in the stories were usually confused and afraid.
Just think of it. As we heard today’s scripture lesson, we were filled with joy and anticipation as the women approached the tomb, because we knew that they’d find it empty and we knew that it would be good news. But on that day so long ago, as the women approached the tomb, they didn’t know. And rather than feeling the hope and joy and excitement that we feel when we hear the story, they were filled with grief and apprehension and downright fear. All they knew was that someone that they loved had died and that they were going to prepare his body for burial.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to the tomb and anoint Jesus’ body. On the way there, they were worried about how they would roll the large stone away that covered the entrance of the tomb, but when they arrived, they found that the stone had already been rolled away, and then they found that Jesus’ body was gone. Alleluia, right?
For the women at the tomb that day, their first reaction was not one of joy. They did not think that it was good news. After all, where was Jesus? Had someone stolen his body? Or was someone playing a terrible trick on them? This was the worst news they could imagine. And then as they entered the tomb, they saw a young man—an angel—dressed in white, and they were terrified! As most angels are recorded saying, he said to them, “Do not be afraid,” or as our translation today said, “Do not be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here. For he has risen!” Alleluia my friends?
Can you imagine how the women must have felt? They were worried on the way to the tomb. They were surprised by the sight of the stone rolled away. And now to hear that Jesus had risen? They must have been filled with a mix of emotions: elation and fear, utter joy, and absolute confusion.
But the story does not end there, my friends, because the angel then says to them “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.” And this is where most of the gospels end the story, with the women or the disciples going out to share the Good News. But in the gospel of Mark, Mark leaves us in a very uncomfortable place, because though the angel instructed the women to go and tell the disciples and Peter, the gospel of Mark goes on to say, “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.” They said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Friends, many times on Easter we are so focused on the fact that the tomb is empty and that Christ is risen. We sing and we praise God, celebrating and shouting our Alleluias, and then go home to have dinner with our families. And though we are not afraid, like the women in story we still go home, and we tell no one about what we have seen or heard.
I used to give my kids a hard time. You may not know this, but it’s sometimes awkward to have a mom that’s a minister. Every once in a while, not during the Easter season or while we were talking about church stuff, I would say to my kids, “Hey, did you hear the good news?” And they would get all excited like it would be something that they were actually interested in, and I would say “Christ is Risen!” And they would deservedly roll their eyes at me.
Friends, honestly, how are we supposed to share the good news out in the world? Do we need to tell the story of Easter to everyone that we meet? Or stop strangers in the grocery store, to tell them how our faith has changed us? I think you’ll all be relieved to hear that the answer is no. Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t share stories that you have learned. And it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad thing to talk about your faith with others. But sometimes when your faith has made you well, and you have been fed and nourished and filled with the love of God, you don’t have to say anything. It’s about the way that you live your life and the everyday things that you do that cause others to be drawn to you. It’s like you are offering a light to the world, that others long for. That, my friends, is how we share the good news—by simply being who God has created us to be, and by loving our neighbors whoever our neighbors are. Folks, we preach the gospel by the way that we live our lives and by the everyday things that we say and do.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the heaviness of the world because every day can feel like Good Friday. All around us we see darkness and struggle and we wonder if it’s all worth it, but the good news of Easter reminds us that no matter how dark the night may seem, the sun will always rise again. No matter how empty and hurt we feel, we will find healing and wholeness. Even when we feel afraid and want to give up, there is always hope!
That’s exactly when we need to remember the disciples and the fact they didn’t know or understand, but Jesus fed them and taught them anyway. And we need to think of the women at the tomb who didn’t understand and were afraid, but Jesus loved them and guided them still. Because when we stand on the foundation of our faith, we are assured that no matter how hard or sad or dark or bad the world may seem, the good news of God’s unconditional love and amazing grace is always there. And sometimes we can’t see it, but we have to be brave enough to believe it first. No matter what surrounds us, if we begin to feel God’s presence, and the assurance of the good news, and we begin to share it with others through acts of kindness and encouraging words, loving and serving others in Christ’s name, then it begins to grow. And we become witnesses to the light overcoming the darkness.
The good news that Easter brings is not a promise that life will always be easy or that we will never face trials or difficulties or that we will never hear bad news. But the good news that Easter brings is an assurance that even through the toughest times when we are surrounded by difficulty and pain and struggle, we are never alone.
Two days ago, we celebrated Good Friday—the day that we face the most difficult story in our Christian faith, the crucifixion of Jesus. Everyone always asks why we call it “Good Friday?” There are many different answers to that question, but I believe that we call it Good Friday because that was the day that God showed us that there is nothing that we can do that will ever separate us from God’s love for us. And no matter how many mistakes and bad choices we make, no matter what darkness this world brings, God will never ever leave us alone. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty good to me.
Friends, our faith tells us that there is always hope, that love always wins, and that even though some days we may only see bad news around us, there is always good news to be found. We may see a glimpse of it through the actions of others or in the comfort of our faith or in the support of a loving community.
I want you to know that the good news that fills us and feeds us and gives us a firm faith foundation to stand on, the good news that we can find no matter how much bad news is surrounding us, all began that very first Easter morning long ago when the women approached the tomb and found that it was empty and that Christ had risen.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, remember that no matter what bad news you hear or how dark the world around you appears, God is always there with a message of Good News bringing light to darkness, joy to sorrow, hope to despair, comfort to grief, relief to pain, and love to hate. My friends, God is always there wiping the tears from our eyes, holding us in our fear, and bringing wholeness into our broken world. And it is our job as faithful followers of Jesus to find that good news in the world and not just to keep it for ourselves but to share it with others!
Throughout the season of Easter here in Oldtown, we are going to be looking for ways to share the good news as we offer words of kindness, compassion, encouragement, inspiration, and love to the people we meet. So, friends as you go out into the world, think about the words that you use and the stories that you share. Are you adding to the darkness and struggle of the world or are you sharing the light and the hope that the Good News brings?
Friends, on this Easter Sunday of all days, may we all go out sharing words of hope and joy and encouragemen, because the tomb is empty, Christ is Risen! Let us all shout “Alleluia!”
Friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God, Amen!