The Resurrection of our Lord

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The Resurrection of our Lord

April 8, 2012 – Mark 16:1-8

More than we could hope for

 

            On Monday morning our radio alarm went off.  Among the stories that we heard was the news that none of the three winners of the Mega Millions jackpot had yet stepped forward to claim their prize of over $200 million each.

            I turned to Sylvia and said, “You aren’t holding out on me, are you?  You’re waiting until Easter to surprise me with the news, right?”

            She looked at me and said, “Since I haven’t bought a ticket, that would be quite a miracle.”

            Whenever I fantasize about winning the lottery and suddenly becoming fabulously rich, there are a few moments when I think about what I would do with the money.  Then I remember that, while money makes some things easier, having lots of money makes other things much harder.

            Having money means keeping track of it, holding on to it, helping it grow, and, most of all, using it wisely.  It could easily become a full-time job.  It could take over my life.  I’d probably have to give up things that I now enjoy doing. 

            So, all in all, if I somehow won the lottery without buying a ticket, I might say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”

 

            You can almost imagine the women at the tomb in Mark’s gospel saying that.  “Thanks, but no thanks!” 

            They have followed Jesus in his ministry.  They have come with him to Jerusalem.  They have stood by and watched his crucifixion, his death and his burial in a tomb.

            Now, following the Sabbath, they return to the tomb so that they can attend to the body of Jesus in the proper way.  I imagine that they have done this before – for their parents, for the husbands, and perhaps for their own children.  They know what to do.  They know what to expect.  They even know what they will do after they leave the tomb – how they will spend the coming days in mourning.  Their only concern is, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 

            But when they arrive, they get a shock.  The stone is rolled away.  The tomb is open.  Inside there is no body of Jesus.  There is a young man, dressed in white, sitting at the right side.  They are completely taken aback.

            The young man speaks.  “Don’t be afraid.  I know you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, the one they crucified.  He’s been raised up; he’s no longer here.  You can see for yourselves – the place is empty!  So, here’s the message – go tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee.  That’s where you’ll find him, just as he promised.”

            But the women get out as fast as they can.  Their heads are swimming.  They are stunned and they say nothing to anyone.

 

            And it is stunning to us, who have heard this story year after year after year, how the women could react in this way.  But this is the first time for them.  It has also happened before in the gospel of Mark.  The people who should understand are confused.  The people who should know are clueless.  This is especially true of the disciples who hear again and again what is going to happen to Jesus.  He is not going to ascend to the throne in Jerusalem.  He is not going to take charge of the temple.  He is going to be betrayed by those closest to him and rejected by those who should welcome him and crucified by those who should hail him as Lord.  And, after three days, he is going to be raised from the dead, because that is what he came to do.

            But the disciples, those closest to Jesus, those who should know most fully who Jesus is and what he is about, don’t get it.  Jesus says he is going to suffer and die, and the disciples are quietly arguing about who among them is the greatest.  Jesus repeats himself and James and John step forward and ask for the two best seats in the house in the kingdom of God.  But Peter, as he usually does, leads the way.  When Jesus first announces to them that he is going to suffer and die and be raised, Peter declares, “This will never happen to you!”

            And Jesus says, “Get out of my way, Satan!  You don’t have a clue about how God works!”

            So, perhaps we should not be too surprised at the reaction of the women – their shock, their fear, their silence.

            What I wonder is – mostly we think that it is the rejection and death of Jesus that gives the disciples so much trouble.  I won’t deny that.  But maybe the resurrection gave them trouble, too.  Maybe the resurrection as much as the crucifixion meant that all the plans the disciples had for themselves and the way their lives would be would go out with the garbage.

            The resurrection would change their lives in ways that they could not have imagined.  But it would also open up a completely new future.

 

            The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a best-selling, young adult book, turned into a hit movie.  Collins tells a story, not of a utopia, but a dystopia, a future no one wishes for.  In the land of Panem, a place that used to be the United States, a region simply called, “The Capitol,” rules the land and controls nearly all of the resources – all the wealth – all the power.  The rest of the land is divided into 12 districts, all very poor, all subservient to the Capitol. 

            For the entertainment of everyone, every year the Capitol hosts the Hunger Games, a competition pitting representatives from each of the 12 districts against each other.  The winner achieves glory, but, more importantly, food and oil for their home district for a whole year.  The others get death.

            I’m not going to spoil any more of the story for you.  I only want to point out one scene that occurs in the movie.  The authoritarian president of the Capitol, President Snow, says to the director of the games, "Why do we have a winner?  Hope; it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous." 

 

            You can almost hear Pontius Pilate say that.  But Jesus didn’t come to bring us a little hope.  He came to bring us a lot of hope – a whole universe of hope.  If he had continued to live, he could have given the disciples and the people around him a little bit of hope.  He could have continued to heal.  He could have continued to teach.  He could have continued to feed the crowds.  He even could have ascended the throne and reformed the temple and that would have given a lot of hope to some people for a short period of time.

            But Jesus didn’t come to bring us a little hope.  He came to bring us a whole universe of hope.   He came to suffer and die.  But he also came to rise again, so that we might continue to follow him out of the empty tomb and into the future.  That may be too much hope for us.  But it is not too much for God.

            For with the resurrection of Jesus, the future is completely open.  It is open in this life.  It is open in the next life.  All of our sins are gone.  And the future is completely open.  It is open for you.  It is open for me. It is open for the whole world.

            For the Lord is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!