In Mark 16:1-8, we find the women going to the tomb of Jesus. They have seen him crucified. Now they come to anoint his body. They go out of love and devotion to Christ, but they don't know who is going to help them roll the stone away.
When they arrive at the tomb, they discover that the stone has already been rolled away – Mark gives no explanation. Inside the tomb, they encounter a young man dressed in white sitting to the right of where the body lay.
It is interesting. Matthew's Gospel, written about 20 years later later than Mark's Gospel, and using Mark's Gospel as one of his primary sources, heightens the drama of the story. He writes that as the women arrive at the tomb, an angel of the Lord comes down from heaven with an earthquake. And going to the tomb, rolls the stone away and sits on it. His appearance is like lightening. The angel then speaks to the women.
Mark's Gospel, the earlier one to be written is far more measured. According to Mark, as they enter the tomb they encounter a young man inside the tomb. He says to them these words:
“Don't be afraid. You are looking for Jesus! He is not here, he is risen. Go and tell! He is going ahead of you.”
1. Don't be afraid.
Resurrection Sunday is a reminder that we do not need to fear. God will always have the final word. The world may do it's worst, but God's final word is resurrection, New Life.
Ekhart Tolle, the contemporary spiritual teacher writes: “...Death is not the opposite of life. Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.”
Desmond Tutu expresses the same idea in the form of a prayer:
Goodness is stronger than evil.
Love is stronger than hate.
Light is stronger than darkness.
Life is stronger than death.
Victory is ours through Him who loved us.
2. “You are looking for Jesus! He is not here, he is risen!”
Isn't this in some way, the story of our lives. Looking for something, but not sure what it is. I am reminded of the words of that classic song by U2 “I still haven't found what I'm looking for”. Or the Rolling Stone's hit song “I can't get no satisfaction.” It is the story of a lot of people in the world, that we are looking for that one thing that will fill the hole in our hearts.
For many people, their seeking leads them to dead-end places, to empty tombs, to places of death and darkness. Places that don't bring life. The words in our passage ring true “He is not here!”
As the women come to the tomb and see a young man dressed in white, I believe that the words he addresses to them are words that can speak to the heart of our search: “You are looking for Jesus!”
For over 2000 years, many, in following the way of Christ, have found a life of deeper meaning and purpose that they have not been able to find elsewhere.
St Augustine, one of the major figures in Christian history and whose writings shaped many of the Reformation theologians found a peace and a contentment in Christ that he had failed to find in a life of sex and debauchery.
One of his great quotes: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in you.”
3. “Go and Tell”.
St Francis of Assisi, is quoted as saying: “Proclaim the Gospel at all times! And if necessary use words!”
Too often in Christian history there have been too many people proclaiming the Gospel with their lips and tongues, and too few people proclaiming the Gospel with the way they live their lives.
May people encounter the living presence of Christ through the way we live, and only if necessary through our words.
4. Lastly, “He is going ahead of you!”
These words are a wonderful reminder that in life we are never truly alone, and there is no place that we can travel to where God is not already present.
Often in our prayers, we pray that Christ, or God should go with us. But in some ways that is an unnecessary prayer, because God is always with us and goes ahead of us. Our prayer should therefore not be “O God, go with us”, But rather, “Give us grace to discover that you are already present where-ever we may go”.
“Do not afraid!
You are looking for Jesus!
He is not here, he is risen.
Go and tell!
He is going ahead of you!”