Easter Sunday Sermon (Looking at Mark 15)

Mark 15:40-16:8

There is a gentleness about this passage which is very appealing. It stands at odds with the sheer awfulness of the subject being narrated.If the men had fled the scene, at least the women remained, “looking on from a distance”And if the bold and determined Peter had been ousted by his own weakness from Jesus’ right-hand, then the shy and retiring Joseph at last found his voice, and his courage, and stepped out.Why did they do so? Because they wanted to minister to Jesus. They wanted to care for him out of their love and tenderness. They had done so right through his ministry –and Joseph had wanted to, but never quite made it, until this moment.And his small piece of bravery has a huge effect. Joseph’s request to Pilate produces an enquiry of the Centurion who confirms the fact that, yes, Jesus is really dead. Notice that: No amount of imaginative alternatives can ever gainsay that inescapable truth. Jesus died. As someone once preached: “The centurion said so. Take the word of a professional killer!” He didn’t swoon or fall into a coma. He really died.And then the Sabbath falls, like a curtain… preventing work and ministry, and even the sorrowful excursion to the site of the tomb.  When the curtain rises, the women are carefully named once again. It reminds us not only that God knows our names, but that these are the named witnesses of the most famous event in history.This is the central point: they are called to be witnesses. The young man in the tomb –who is clearly envisioned as an angel-  declares the amazing message. “He is not here! He has risen! He has gone before you!”Sometimes we linger at the tomb –in the consideration of death and suffering . Of course, sometimes the shadow of the cross falls so heavily across our lives that it is difficult to see clearly. Today I prayed with a lady whose doctor has just told her of a shadow on her lung.  The grief and confusion… the fear of what is to come… these things can be overwhelming. Isn’t it important to realize that “He is not here!”? That Jesus leads us on a journey that does not end at the tomb. No wonder that this passage includes so many reminders to “Fear not”, of them being “amazed” and “afraid”. Death is an enemy to be overcome. And this is the very moment of Jesus’ victory. He is not here!“Go, tell the disciples and Peter” –that lovely reminder that Peter is still part of the group despite his cowardice- the passage moves actively into the direct consequence of the resurrection. GO! TELL! HE IS GOING BEFORE YOU! YOU WILL SEE HIM! These are the instructions and the promises that shape our lives as Christians. We are a vocal movement –people who go and tell! Maybe I need to revisit that lady and tell her the wonderful news about Easter from this passage. That news is breathtaking… overwhelming in its joy. It tells us that her life is not defined by the shadow that has now fallen on it, because Christ really rose from the dead! He is not here! He is going on ahead of you, and you WILL see him again.

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