Times have never been easy for those who follow the Lord.
told by Deborah
After the Sabbath had ended, on the first day of the week, just as the sun was rising, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb.
Suddenly there was a huge earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, rolled back the stone, and sat down upon it. His appearance was like a flash of lightning, his clothing radiant. Struck by terror the guards fell down like dead men: speechless, insensible.
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and is, in fact going before you to Galilee; you will see him there.’ This is my message for you.”
So they left the tomb at once, fearful and ecstatic at the same time; and ran to tell his disciples.
And then, all at once, Jesus was there. “Rejoice!” he said. And they rushed over to him, knelt at his feet, and bowed to him reverently.
Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; it is there that they will see me.”
What to believe, what to do, what to hope for?
~ a disciple’s question — then and now
This morning a couple of grief-stricken women got it into their heads to go to the place where Jesus’ body was buried.
They say that there, in the misty half-light of dawn, they saw an angel descend from heaven and roll away the stone that sealed the entrance to our Lord’s grave. And, although the strong young men who were guarding that place fainted in terror, these women were somehow able to keep their wits and hear what this celestial messenger had to say.
What makes their story seem … well, at least possible is what the angel said, beginning with a phrase that carries a heavenly stamp of approval: “Do not be afraid.” The times that God has passed along this message are simply beyond counting: the prophets, the psalmists, the priests, and the rabbis all insist that — whatever else may happen — these words are true. And, of course, our dear Lord said precisely that, many times, as well.
After giving them this reassurance, the angel revealed that Jesus was no longer where we had left his body but, that, through God’s grace and power, he had been raised from the dead. Not only that, but he had set out for Galilee, where we are to go to meet him.
Unbelievable as all this seems, there’s more. As the women were rushing away, dazzled by the light of the rising sun — astonished, frightened, and anxious to tell us what they had seen — they say that they met up with Jesus. In the flesh, in person.
Suddenly, there he was: standing before them as large …. well, as large as life: alive, whole, real; fully present; warm, smiling, laughing, calling out to them, “Rejoice!” Seeing him, it was as if a stone had been rolled away; as if the bright morning sun had warmed their hearts and restored their hope. It was as if a new day had dawned — in their lives and upon the earth.
At least that’s what they have told us, implausible, illogical, unlikely as it seems. So now, what shall we do?
We can either sit here, steeped in our misery and despair, or act in faith, in hope, and in trust, and make our way to Galilee.If we stop and think — and the more we talk together, the more we remember — Jesus did promise to be with us, always. He said many things that we didn’t understand at the time; but that are now beginning to make sense. Especially if… if what the women have said is true.
Nothing is guaranteed. Even if we do meet the Lord in Galilee, we have no assurance that the authorities will not pursue us and persecute us and seek to destroy us. But if we go and he is not there….
It is risky.
Yet my heart calls to me. I must go, I must know.
Fear has no part in our following of the Lord. After all, that is what the angel said; and what Jesus repeated to the women: Do not be afraid.
Easier said, than done. Fear has begun to feel normal, natural, as if there is no alternative, no other Way to live. It affects what we do, how we think, what we hope for, believe in, and imagine. It crushes our spirits and erodes our strength; it leads us into despair.
As Jesus’ disciples, we are to follow the Lord; to do as he did: to walk in the Light of God’s love, fully and fearlessly. We are to heal, to bless, to comfort and encourage and have compassion for one another. We are to pray as he taught us: faithfully, frequently, persistently — in good times and in bad.
Let us pray that we be wise, not terrified; hopeful, not desperate; caring, not combative; that each day be for us a new beginning: an opportunity to be more understanding, more merciful, more fair, and more forgiving. Let us pray for kindness, for strength, for faith to walk in the Way our Lord taught us.
Rejoice! Christ is risen. He is risen, indeed!
Christ's holy peace and grace from my heart to yours,
an apostle of the Lord Jesus
Pray for wisdom and courage; and for the dawn of new day, bringing healing and hope to all the peoples of the earth.