2015-04-05 – Rev. Dr. Ryan Sato – First Baptist Church Edmonton
Echo the Story #30 of 36: Death to Life
“The Terribly Wonderful Good News”
“Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?”
“My God, my God…why have you forsaken me?”
In the half-light of dawn, Salome walks with her dear friends towards the graveyard that Joseph of Arimathea set aside for Jesus. The Sabbath rest is done and now the 3 women shuffle through the cool air and the dusty paths with their basket of oils and spices, longing to pay respects to their loving teacher and friend.
Trying to keep a clear mind…Salome is haunted by those last words of Jesus on the cross…
“My God, my God…”
She was there when Jesus breathed his last breath. His weakened body, his tortured brow, his swollen eyes sealed shut.
What will I do now? What will we do now? We poured out our lives for Jesus, hoping he would be the one to restore Israel!
Jesus’ last words, now become Salome’s words…
“My God, my God…why have you forsaken me?”
She knows this prayer, it’s a part of her prayer book…the prayer goes on:
“Why are you so far from helping me? So far from the words of my groaning?
O my God…I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest…”
Her silent introspection and lament are interrupted by Mary Magdalene’s practical wonderings…
“We’re just 10 minutes from the tomb…and I hate to dampen your spirits …but…who will roll away the stone for us?”
Mary, the mother of James responds: “oh no…you’re right! We’ll never move that stone! Perhaps a gardener will be there? What about Joseph, no?”
More silence…as the women wonder and wander…carried by adrenaline and the anticipation of seeing their beloved…
As they come upon the final incline that leads to the tomb, the women are astonished by what they see in the dusk-lit landing ahead…it looks as if the stone…is already rolled away?
The 3 women scramble up the rocky pathway, Mary tosses the basket to the side and they dive to their knees, frantically pushing their way through the hole that has been chiseled out of the rocky hillside…
To their horror, they fumble around and grope in the darkness and realize that Jesus’ body is gone! They shriek and cry out in disbelief and shock.
And then, a flash of light! Like lightning and yet inside this dusty, damp tomb?
As their eyes re-focus, they see… a man? Joseph? No. . . the gardener? “What have you done with him? Where is Jesus? If you’ve taken him away, give him back to us!!”
But this illuminated one…who is he? could this be one of the brilliant ones that Peter talked about on the mountain top? Elijah? Moses?
Yet this one is so young! Dressed in a white robe, saying:
“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.”
* * * * * *
Terror and amazement seize their souls. Salome feels faint, but is shored up by the Mary’s…they have a message to share with the disciples…who knows where Peter and the crew are, but at this moment in time, all they know is that they need to run….run back to the city…tell the disciples and Peter…that Jesus is going ahead of us to Galilee…there we will see him….just as he told us…
Just as he told us? Yes, it’s the words he said to Peter… “After I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Raised up!? Jesus? Alive!?
Could it be?….just as he said? “In three days, I will raise this temple…I am the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One…I AM that I AM.”
And here endeth…the gospel of Mark! [tho’ there are extended remix versions…this is the version that sticks most to the original manuscipts]
The gospel of Mark is the gospel of unfinished business and incomplete sentence clauses… in the greek rendering of v. 8, Mark is in such a hurry, the sentence ends with “that” or “of”!
In the greek it goes like….
kai exelqousai efugon apo tou mnhmeiou eicen de autaV tromoV kai ekstasiV [tremours & ecstasy) kai oudeni ouden eipon efobounto gar…
16:8 And they went out quickly from the place, because fear and great wonder had come on them: and they said nothing to anyone, because they were full of fear that …
We, too, are left hanging in mid-air…mid-sentence…
And what’s the good news of that?
Well, isn’t that more like the real life we have come from…and the life that we will continue walking in once we leave church today?
The gospel of Mark feels like it finishes in draft form…it’s got gaps, un-resolved drama…but isn’t that the life of faith??
Undone. Imperfect. Unknown. Unhinged!
If there ever was a sloppy gospel, Mark is it. Right up until the end.
And that ought be a place where we can find some place to live in…and live OUT of….shouldn’t it?
So, we take our place in today’s story….we get to shriek, gasp & run with Salome and the 2 Mary’s. We don’t run from a place/posture of of certainty and expertise (surety?)
We run from a place where we have been terrified by the presence and glory of God.
And we run with a promise. The promise is full of hope…even in the midst of terror and anxiety.
The GOOD NEWS of today’s Easter story is that we get to run into the promise…we get to finish the story with the story of our lives! And “Jesus is going ahead of us…we will see him.”
That doesn’t mean “happily ever after”…but it does mean…HOPE – – [hope-fully ever after??]
Joyce Hollyday (American peace activist and writer) writes about HOPE and the first women of Easter this way:
There is much around us that is awesome and awful. We know too well the divisions and suffering that plague our world. We have seen that the authorities today use tactics similar to those employed 2,000 years ago, and many people scheme to play to our fear, destroy our hope, and seal off our joy.
Mary, Mary Magdalene and Salome…challenge us to love and believe. To love Jesus …and to believe in the power of his Resurrection. Certainly they grieved and experienced their hope flagging during the dark moments surrounding Jesus’ death. But they never lost their faith. It remained a small, steady flame that was fanned to brilliant, bold new life in the light of that Easter dawn.
The women invite you and me to such faith. Their testimony stands through the ages. It is a reminder to “rekindle the gift of God that is within you…for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love” (2 Tim. 1:6–7).
With courage and joy, let us claim that same spirit that dwelt within our sisters,
the first witnesses of the Resurrection.
With courage and joy…
Q: Can you see Jesus going ahead of you? In your mind’s eye, can you see Jesus?
– – – in a quiet moment, pray for yourself…but will you also pray for the “others” in the congregation today?
– – – Pray that we might have eyes to see…ears to hear…the courage & joy to press into the promise of today’s story…this isn’t just good news for me…this is for us, for all!!
“Jesus is going ahead of you…there you will see him…just as he told you.”
the morning when she finds the tomb empty
leaps from her the way the first spry geyser
sprang from the Titanic. She bangs her knee
and ducks to look again. Her adviser,
John, warned her it was dangerous to come.
Holed up behind locked doors, the gang of guys
who claimed to love him. She runs her thumb
across the ledge where his dead body lies.
Or rather doesn’t. Her heart’s a cypress
forming a final growth ring, final grief:
his body gone, his lithe hand, the small scar
from the sharp chisel. To what can she say yes?
Who is she now? Where to put belief?
Her cry gashes the fragile morning air.
~ Jeanne Murray Walker