Mark 16:1-8

Easter without Good Friday is a hollow celebration.

Without the sham trial of an innocent man,
without the mocking of the empire’s stormtroopers
without their purple robe and crown of thorns,
without Pilate’s hand washing abdication of responsibility,
without the religious leader’s plotting,
without the crowd’s baying,
without the torturous execution of the Son of God
without all of that darkness this day makes no sense.

Who will roll away the stone?

Mark’s Gospel tells us of the staggering alliance of all of the powers of the world where the religious leaders enlist the empire to do their dirty work.
Judas has betrayed him.
Peter has denied even knowing him.
Even the criminals on either side mock him.
Jesus issues a cry that echoes through eternity,
my God, my God, why have you forsaken me…
Even God it seems is missing.

It is finished.

But Jesus was not alone.

These are the women who stayed.
These are the women who watched
and who waited.
These are the women who listened
to the jeers and insults
of those who had shouted Hosanna just days before.

These are the women who watched the leaders,
emboldened now as Jesus was nailed to a cross,
mock him,
tell him now to show them some sign,
to come down from the cross they had nailed him to and they would believe.

These are the women who saw Joseph of Arimathea, one of the religious leaders, go to Pilate and ask for the body.

Usually the crucified were left on their cross to serve as a grim warning,
A final cruel punishment.
Denied of the last care of family and friends.
All dignity stripped away.

But the none of the leaders wanted Jesus hanging there as a rallying point.
The crowd were fickle.
It wouldn’t take much for him to become a martyr and for them to be the ones being vilified. So they send Joseph to take the body and dump it in an unmarked grave.
Out of sight… out of mind.

But the women,
these women,
these faithful women
had watched and endured the long Sabbath wait
until they could go and perform one last duty for their Lord.

As these three women, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, they go with no hope, no expectation of finding anything other than a body to tend to. The walk through the morning gloom towards the tomb where the broken body of Jesus was hurriedly left three days earlier and their question gives voice to their concerns….

Who will roll the stone away?

They expect everything to be just as it was when they left.

It has been the sabbath after all. No work was permitted, so any movement of the stone would have been a violation of the rules the religious leaders were so very keen on.

I wonder, as we join here on another Easter Morning, what our expectations really are?

There is much about these women we can relate to, I think.
They have ventured out into the world for a single purpose as the others stay inside.

I wonder, do we share their lack of hope?
Do we come here expecting to find something blocking the way?
Do we journey tentatively, carrying all of our fears, all of our doubts and all of our grief?

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.

Who could have done that? The Romans? Have they moved the body?

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.

Do not be alarmed.
Yeah… sure! Ok.

When you go to embalm the body of your friend and find instead that the stone blocking the tomb has been moved and his body is missing the one thing you are going to be is alarmed!

It had all been bad enough… but now this? They can’t even leave him in peace in death?

You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.
He is not here.
He is risen.

I wonder what those words mean to us?
He is not here… He is risen.

For these three women it meant more fear and confusion.

It’s important to say what Mark doesn’t tell us.

We could have read John’s account where Mary meets the gardener who calls her name. A beautiful passage that takes us back to the very beginning, to Eden, where God walks in the garden and it is the woman who is there to meet him.

But this is Mark. What Avril read for us this morning is all there is.
This is how Mark’s Gospel ends.

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.

And so they should be.
And we should be too.

Dead men don’t come back to life.
Everybody knows that.

On Friday we stood witness at the foot of the cross with these women.
We watched and waited
as the sky turned black and all the colour was drained from the world,
as the curtain in the Temple was wrenched in two exposing the empty room
while God was hanging on a cross.
We listened to his last words.
We heard him declare ‘It is finished!’.

It was over.
All of it.
Completed. He said so himself.

And even in this moment, where the tomb is empty and an angel declares He is not here, he is risen, there is still fear and confusion.

Why isn’t he here?
Where is he?
Why can’t we see him?

In Mark’s Gospel the resurrection leaves a Jesus sized hole in the story. And the scary part is that we are invited to step in to that space.

The resurrection is an invitation…
To follow in faith.
To journey, going Jesus wherever he might lead us.

Mark doesn’t need to say anymore.
This is all we get… and all we need!
Jesus is risen.
A statement of fact… and a statement of faith…
‘He is not here, he is risen!’

and one huge question…

Do you believe it?

And if you do, then we should be at least a little bit terrified?

Stepping into that gap is called discipleship.

Jesus has gone on ahead…
You have all that you need.
You have heard what he said.
You have watched what he did.
You have seen how he stood in opposition
to oppression,
and even death.

You have seen how all of those powers work,
these kingdoms of the world,
where people grasp at
and greed,
and ambition,
and position
and authority.

These kingdoms of the world
hold no sway over
and over love.

Mark’s story of the resurrection is the start of a pathway,
a compass bearing for us to follow.
It’s the invitation to step into a new way of living,
following a dead man… who is alive!

Now go!
Go because the story is not finished.
Go because
He is not here.
He is risen.
He goes ahead of you…
and invites us to follow.

So go… because hope is real.
Go… because love wins.
Go… because Jesus is alive!

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