When the women coming to anoint Jesus’ body discover that his tomb is empty, their first reaction (understandably) is one of shock and fear. But their next impulse is to try to locate the missing corpse. While in John’s resurrection narrative Mary Magdalene pleads with someone she thinks is a gardener to “tell me where you have laid him,” in Mark’s version a young man (presumably an angel) pre-empts that line of questioning, telling them that “you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here.” Just like those women who first discovered the empty tomb, we are also on a quest -- in the wake of such a mind-boggling and transformative event, where can we find Jesus? Of course, we are looking not for a dead body but for the resurrected, living Jesus... and in the next installment of The Immediate Word, we’re offering a pair of articles discussing the answer the young man in Mark’s account provides to that question: “[H]e is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
Team member Chris Keating ponders that metaphorical yet quite explicit clue about where we can find Jesus... and what we are to do with the news of his resurrection. Chris suggests that we won’t find him in our fancy church buildings; rather, we are to go to Galilee ourselves -- i.e., out into the world. If we remain cloistered and inward-looking in our churches, we are essentially searching for Jesus in a tomb that we have already been told is empty. Moreover, Chris notes, if we don’t engage with the world we may be dooming our faith to the slow death of cultural irrelevance... a fate backed up by some alarming data from recent sociological research. That means we must leave our temples and take the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection out to Galilee -- to people and places in dire need of the comfort and joy that the gospel can bring.
However, sharing that message is not always easy -- especially in the face of events so heart-wrenching that you don’t think you know what to do or say. Yet, as team member Dean Feldmeyer points out, Jesus challenges us to get up and go to Galilee anyway... to proclaim the gospel and do the work of sharing and being with those who are in distress. Dean considers how we might go about applying that mission in one extremely difficult instance -- that of last week’s fatal plane crash in the Alps, which was apparently a case of mass murder by the airliner’s co-pilot. How does one go about preaching the hope and new life of the resurrection to the surviving friends and families of those who perished? At first glance that seems cruel, especially for those mourning the young lives of those who were on a school trip. But Dean notes that if we cannot communicate the resurrection message to them, then we cannot communicate it to anyone. That is our challenge -- and our scriptures this week offer hope, as Isaiah tells us in a foreshadowing of the resurrection that the Lord God “will swallow up death forever” and “will wipe away the tears from all faces.”
Here are brief previews of each article:
Jesus Has Left the Building
by Chris Keating
There’s something missing from Mark’s Easter story.
Each gospel writer puts a different slant on the resurrection, though only Mark leaves out someone pretty important -- Jesus.
He’s all over in the other gospels. John shows Jesus consoling a weeping Mary, while Matthew offers a vignette of the two earthquake-shaken Marys being surprised by him. While Jesus has fled the tomb in Luke, he does show up on the road to Emmaus and then breaks into the disciples’ fear-filled conclave back in Jerusalem.
But Mark’s abrupt ending to his gospel is different. There’s fear, consolation, and a commandment to get moving. But Jesus is nowhere to be found. He’s gone ahead to Galilee, and the fearful yet amazed women are told that’s where they will see him.
This may surprise us -- you wouldn’t have Easter Sunday without a preacher. No church would celebrate the resurrection without festive hymns and maybe even crowded pews. Don’t forget the peeps and jelly beans either. But Easter without Jesus?
Mark has important instructions for us on where Jesus will be found. And in a culture where millions have fled religion, perhaps we’d do well to pay attention to what the angel tells the women.
by Dean Feldmeyer
Easter Sunday is finally here, and what a relief it is!
Frankly, we’re all tired of the sturm und drang (storm and stress), the angst und zweifel (anxiety and doubt), the drama and passion and wailing and moaning of Lent.
And we’re tired of giving up whatever it is we’ve given up.
It’s all such a downer, such a nuisance, such a massive inconvenience.
So let’s strike up the band and carve the ham, unwrap the chocolate and put our dancin’ shoes on, because Easter has finally, mercifully arrived and we can get back to life as it should be.
Praise the Lord! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!
Only it’s not that simple or that easy for some.
There are those in our midst, our brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, for whom Lent has been more than just a nuisance. There are some among us for whom this particular Lent has been a descent into hell, a journey into the darkest reaches of the human soul, an abrupt encounter with unimaginable grief and despair.
When the co-pilot of Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed the airliner into the Alps, killing all 150 souls on board, he plunged hundreds of families, husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, friends, and co-workers into a kind of absolute darkness of the soul.
If Easter brings a message of light and hope, it must speak not just to the petty nuisances and inconveniences of our lives. It must speak to the families and friends of these poor victims in the midst of their grief, and to all who suffer from that despair which Keirkegaard called “the sickness unto death” -- for if Easter has no message for them, it has really no message at all.
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