The Resurrection of Our Lord; Easter Sunday (4/5/2015)

Lessons:Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9 Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43 St. Mark 16:1-8 or St. John 20:1-18

Prayer of the Day: God of mercy, we no longer look for Jesus among the dead, for he is alive and has become the Lord of life. Increase in our minds and hearts the risen life we share with Christ, and help us to grow as your people toward the fullness of eternal life with you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

16:1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 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. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 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.” 8 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.

St. Mark 16:1-8 New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Terror and Amazement

τρόμος and ἔκστασις — “tromos" and “extasis.” The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (my personal favorite translation) translates these two Greek words as terror and amazement, but I like the transliteration better: trauma and ecstasy.

According to St. Mark, three women (Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome) make their way to the tomb on that first Easter morning. They have spices with them, and are prepared to pay their final respects to Jesus. Their most pressing concern is the stone that has been rolled against the door of the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea, one of the few religious leaders in Jerusalem who seemed to have a positive interest in Jesus, had taken the body down from the cross, wrapped it in a burial linen, and laid it in a tomb. When he had finished, he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome had been looking on from a distance when Jesus died. Afterwards, Mary and Mary followed Joseph, and saw where the body was laid. So as they make their way to the tomb, just after sunrise, they are wondering how they will get inside to complete the final preparations for his burial.

When they arrive, they are surprised to discover that the stone has already been rolled away. And not only that, a young man with a white robe is sitting on the right side of the tomb. (Can you say “angel from God?”) His message is consistent with just about every angelic message in the Scriptures: “Do not be alarmed.”

To come face-to-face with an angel is an alarming experience. But in this instance, it is even more alarming: the large stone is rolled back, the tomb is open, they are in the presence of an angel, and Jesus is gone! All of this is quite unsettling, compared with what they had expected as they walked towards the tomb. But none of this compares with what the women are about to hear: Jesus has been raised. He is not here.

Tromos and extasis, St. Mark writes. Trauma and ecstasy. In retrospect, these women will describe Holy Week as a traumatic experience. Witnessing the suffering and death (and confusing disappearance) of their Lord and teacher is a deeply disturbing experience for them; one that leaves them shaken and unsettled. Yet the announcement that death cannot hold him — that he is alive — is one of the most ecstatic moments they will ever experience.

They are paralyzed with fear. So much so, that they can’t even begin to imagine themselves responding faithfully to the angel’s command: “Go, tell the others that he is going ahead of them.” Instead, they flee the tomb, and they refuse to say anything to anyone. Tromos and extasis. Trauma and ecstasy. To be face-to-face with the reality of resurrection is a life-changing and inspiring thing. A breathtaking experience.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. Why is this so troubling for the three women on that first Easter morning?
  2. What might they have thought the angel’s words meant?
  3. Why do the oldest versions of St. Mark’s Gospel that we know about end with this verse?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. How will we respond, when we find ourselves face-to-face with the reality of resurrection this coming Sunday?
  2. Will our worship be traumatic? Will the announcement of resurrection feel ecstatic?
  3. Will we leave worship in fear, and say nothing to anyone? Or will we obey the angelic command, and share it with the world?