Easter 2015: Alleluia! I shall behold him in my body

Isaiah 25:6-9 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 Acts 10:34-43 Mark 16:1-8
Alleluia! Christ is risen! [The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!]
I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.

On this day, these words from the burial service become real, alive! Not only was Jesus resurrected, he IS resurrection; and in his resurrection is our new life. How can we not shout “Alleluia!” to that news? Alleluia!

The next stanza contains our joyful response:

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth.
After my awaking, he will raise me up;
and in my body I shall see God.
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

In those words, we know “a whole bunch” of good news:

We can in confidence declare that our Redeemer lives – because he does. We can say with confidence that the crucifixion of Jesus happened: it was a real death of a real human being who also happens to be the Son of, and co-eternal with, God. The event is real. There were eye witnesses to Jesus’ trial, torture, and death. Jesus was taken from the cross, anointed, and laid to rest in a stone tomb. Three days later – today! – he is not there.

In the gospel of Mark today, we join the event shortly before the discovery that Jesus is gone.

It is very early on the first day of the week, and a most unlikely woman, along with two others, is going to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. Anointing in this way was a customary thing to do. We remember Mary Magdalene, that is, Mary from the town of Magdala; she is the one that Jesus healed of seven demons. In line with the writing of our gospeler Mark, she is not a very credible witness. We remember the writings of Mark: it is the demons that are being exorcized who know who Jesus is; it is a Roman centurion (soldier) who first says “Surely this man was God’s son!” A soldier of the ruling political power is not going to glorify Jesus too loudly. He could be killed for his (alleged) blasphemy. Mary Magdalene becomes the first eye witness to Jesus’ resurrection. Women were not considered credible witnesses, either, but this is the Lord’s story that Mark is telling, not ours. “In” credible witnesses, outsiders, know Jesus while his close friends do not. It is fitting, then, that an unnamed “young man” tells the women that Jesus has been raised. “He is not here.”

And even though the young man told the women not to be alarmed, afraid, they are. “They fled from the tomb and said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”

And that, my friends, is the unsatisfactory ending of the gospel of Mark. Mark begins his gospel in an ambiguous place: the wilderness, and ends in the ambiguous place of an empty tomb.

Jesus has been risen from the dead! Our proof right now is an empty tomb and some very frightened women who are not speaking.

“But I know that my Redeemer lives”

We are reminded that Mark’s ending is not the end of the story: it is not the end of Jesus’ story/life, and it is not the end of ours. We are at another beginning …

“at the last he will stand upon the earth.” We are not there yet. After Jesus’ resurrection appearances, which also happened – we have eye witnesses, Jesus goes to God; Jesus will come again. We are in that “not yet” time, and in counting time in the way that only God can, we do not know when that time is. We are not yet “at the last.” We are at some sort of beginning. Jesus has been raised from the dead!

“After my awaking, he will raise me up and in my body I shall see God.” If you’re here today, as we are, we have not yet experience this awaking. There will come another glorious day in which, in our bodies, we will see God. Now we see God and resurrection life in a different way; that is, in all of the ways that we live out our faith and that we live into our faith.

One day, then,
I myself shall see, and my eyes behold him
who is my friend and not a stranger.

In those words is our Christian task: to behold him who is my friend and not a stranger.

Our good news, fantastic news that Christ is risen includes the invitation to be Jesus’ friend.

Will we run away from resurrection life in fear? Or do we have the courage to run from the tomb in a life in which we know that we call Jesus “friend.”

The gospel of Mark is very good news. That we begin and end our story with Jesus in ambiguity means that there is plenty of room for us to write a new ending – or a new beginning. Where did we or do we begin our life with Jesus? Mark joined up with Jesus, not at his birth, but in the desert. Where, if you have not, would you like to begin? Okay, that’s great. Tell us your story; live it with your friends; live it fully and with joy.

Today we leave the empty tomb. How will you choose to write the story? Our lives are new today.

Let’s figure out how we might know Jesus the Christ as our friend.

Alleluia! Christ is risen! [The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!]

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