“He has been raised, he is not here.” Mark’s account of the resurrection still bears some of the rawness of a recent event – an event so alarming and unexpected that it has not yet been fully integrated. The terror and amazement that had taken hold of the women who first discovered that Jesus was not there in the tomb remains in the story and has not yet been refined by the later accounts and their confidence and sentiment. And in our wearied world this may be the account that resonates the most. (RCL Mark 16:1-8)
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome come to the tomb with the spices and the intention of anointing him properly for burial as it had been such as improper hurry two days before. They go expecting to touch and care for the body of the one they have loved and lost so terrifyingly. They are probably fearful of the state of the body, they would have had reason to fear soldiers keeping guard, they were almost certainly grief struck at their loss of a friend, a leader, a reason for their own lives. They go expecting only the small comfort of doing properly for the body of their once beloved. And they find the stone rolled away, the tomb empty, and an alarming stranger telling them he is not here, he has been raised. No wonder they are filled with terror and amazement.
In this half light maybe we can get in touch with that rawness, that unpreparedness for the news of resurrection. For while the news of the resurrection of Jesus is well known to us there is a sense in which, for me at least, I hold my breath each year to see if it will happen this time, if this year it will also feel true.
Part of the discipline and the painful gift of Lent and Easter each year is to give oneself to the process of struggle and death and therefore to enter into the terrible possibility that resurrection might not come, that life may not spring up again. It is an act of deep faith or maybe just deep need that we give ourselves each year into this dark mystery in the hope and trust that the news shall again prove true, that he has been raised, he is not here in the tomb. And is this not the way that new life sometimes comes to us? Before the full blown blossom is just the hint of green, the fragile green edge of new growth erupting through blackened bark. Before the certainty of a new stage of life just a hint of hope in the anxious space of what has been taken or given away. Before the joy of a new life in your arms just the strange sickness in the morning, a shift of gravity with increasing size, and a strange sense of being taken over by another being, another agenda of life.
Resurrection in many aspects of our life, personal and communal, often has this raw and uncertain manifestation at first. Something important is happening but its outcome is as yet uncertain. We must trust that the messenger is from God and that the message is for our good no matter what a stretch of understanding that may seem. And so still blinking, panting from running to tell this alarming news to others, we prepare to leave this place and to go out into the morning, our worlds having been changed in ways we cannot yet fathom but which we instinctively know will change everything.
For resurrection does change everything. For resurrection is not simply life again but life as it has never been before. For resurrection is not simply a new thing but an all consuming thing. For resurrection is not simply a new thing but is a new thing that changes us but returns us to where we came from to be different in the same place.
“ ... he has been raised, he is not here. But go, tell his disciples that he is going ahead of you ... and there you will see him just as he told you.” It is all waiting for us – out there, in here, ahead of us – just as he told us.
Even so, come risen Lord Jesus Christ and bring resurrection into our lives.