by Rev. Dr. Helen Svoboda-Barber
This morning at St. Luke’s we read the earliest account of the first Easter day. Each of the 4 Gospels has their own version of the resurrection. All of them include one or more women going to tend the body of Jesus, and finding an empty tomb. But the details differ from writer to writer. Mark’s gospel which we read today is stark, and a little bit terrible.
Mark reports that three women take spices to anoint the body of Jesus in order to prepare it for full burial. The women arrive. The sun is already up. And they see the stone which had sealed the tomb has been moved away. These three notice a young man who says Jesus has been raised from the dead. He commands them to go to the disciples and tell them Jesus will meet them in Galilee.
The women are filled with terror and amazement about this empty tomb and about this message. They are so overwhelmed that they do nothing. The final sentence of the earliest version of the earliest Gospel of Mark, is this: “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.” The earliest written account of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection ends with fear and isolation.
If you open up your Bible and check out Mark’s gospel, you’ll notice this is not the final sentence in that gospel account today. But verses 9-20 of the final chapter were added later. The original, first Gospel to be written down ends with fear.
This Easter morning in 2021 resonates with the original ending of Mark’s Gospel. This April, some of us continue to stay at home. Others tentatively gather together for worship in small groups, masked and spaced 10 feet apart. We now understand fear in a way that perhaps we didn’t for most of our lives. We now understand more completely that we can not guarantee our own safety, or the safety of those we love. We understand more fully that we can not bend others or the world to our own will.
Confusion and fear and astonishment is something we understand better this year. It is unfathomable that nearly 3 million people have died from COVID so far. It is unbelievable that mass shootings have returned in our country and we continue to refuse to create stronger gun laws. It becomes more and more undeniable that systemic racism is a reality of our world today.
Confusion and fear and astonishment. These feelings can lead to turning inward, to losing our voice, to giving up. And yet, those women at the tomb did not give up. Ultimately, they did not let their voices be silenced forever. At some point, despite the earliest version of Mark’s gospel, these three women did indeed share this confusing and frightening and astonishing news with others.
These three women began to share their story, and with that sharing, they began to build a new community: Followers of the risen Christ. Followers of The Way. Those who walk in The Way of Love. Beloved Community.
These three women are speaking in still small voices to us today: Jesus is alive. Even death can not conquer love. Keep walking the path. Jesus is already ahead of you, waiting for you to join him in his work of redeeming love.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen.
The Lord is Risen Indeed. Alleluia.