Revealing the Empty Tomb

April 4, 2015

Christ Church Episcopal, Norcross, GA

The Great Vigil of Easter 
Romans 6:3-11; Mark 16:1-8

(Gospel text is provided at the bottom of this post)537442_10200233033101250_2091201868_n

In the course of this evening, we’ve moved from the darkness of night – holding the painful, confusing crucifixion of Jesus on the cross – to the bursting-in of light – rejoicing and celebrating the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ anew!

We’ve heard our ancient stories retold: beginning again in darkness, until God’s “Let there be Light!” spoke creation into existence. We traversed the Red Sea alongside the Israelites. By God’s grace, our hearts of stone were made new, and we witnessed God’s generosity and power as dry bones were transformed to a new and reformed life!

And now we’ve extinguished our candles and in the bright light of Christ, we hear more good news! The tomb is empty! The crucified Christ is no longer confined by the cold stone walls of death! Alleluia, Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!

In Mark’s gospel, we’re told that when Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome – these three women – approach the tomb, they see that the stone has been rolled away. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in all white. He told them that Jesus had been raised and was not there. He instructed them to go and tell Peter and the other disciples that they will find Jesus in Galilee.

But what comes next isn’t your usual resurrection story… unlike the other gospel writers, Mark ends his gospel saying: “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.

What’s really ironic about this is that Mark’s gospel continually shows us images of Jesus doing something miraculous and then commanding silence. But they always go tell anyway.

  • In the very first chapter, Jesus heals the leper, instructs him not to tell, and then the leper goes and proclaims it freely, making it impossible for Jesus to go into town openly.
  • A bit later, Jesus heals a deaf man, and “Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it.” (Mk 7:36)
  • Later, when Peter professes Jesus to be the Messiah, even then Jesus sternly ordered them not to tell anyone. (Mk 8:30)

And this continues…

Yet now, the women who found the empty tomb are specifically told to share the good news of the resurrection. Yet, they are seized by terror and amazement and said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

They are the first witnesses to the miraculous resurrection. They are given instructions to go and tell others… those closest to them; those who they’ve been hiding with for the past couple of days; those who are just as confused about what’s happening in the world and in their lives; longing for some Good News. Yet, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.

During the 40 days of Lent we do “inner” work, intended to figure out where we are in our lives, where God is in our lives, and what God might be calling us to do.

I believe that during the 50 days of Easter and beyond, we are called to do some “outer” work. We are called to overcome our tendency to let fear prevent us from telling others about our experience of a resurrected Jesus in our life; to share the good news of God’s generous love and grace with others.

To shout from our Facebook page: “Alleluia, Christ is Risen!”

How would that feel? Would it surprise people? Would it spark conversation? Would you be seen differently by those closest to you?

It can be risky business – professing your belief; celebrating the unbelievable truth of a resurrected Christ. Someone might ask WHY you believe what you do? Or, in today’s reason-based world, HOW you believe what you do?

If they did, what would your answer be?

What is the Good News of Jesus in YOUR life? What does the crucified and risen Christ offer you that you could share with others?

There’s no ONE answer; no RIGHT answer – just YOUR answer.

Turing back to today’s gospel lesson, it says that the women, as they walked to the tomb, wondered to one another “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” Fortunately for them, it was already rolled away, so they could see the power and truth of the empty tomb.

We aren’t that lucky. We aren’t first-hand eyewitnesses, so the stone has to be rolled away by someone to reveal the risen Christ to us and to others. We could each look around and wonder “Who will roll away the stone?” But instead, I ask, will you be one who rolls away the stone to reveal the miracle of the empty tomb?

Not unlike the women at the tomb, we are given instructions to go and tell others… those closest to us; those who are just as confused about what’s happening in the world and in our lives as we are; those longing for some Good News.

The stone moves each time we share our experience of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit in our life; each time we love in spite of differences; each time we speak out against injustices in our community and the world; each time we show care and compassion for those in need.

The empty tomb shows us the generous love of God. I pray that we may reveal that generosity of love to others by continually rolling away the stone.

Alleluia, Christ is risen!

The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

jesus-christ-resurrection1

 

Gospel Text:

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. 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. (Mk 16:1-8)

I invite your thoughts and insights.

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