Happy Easter, everybody. It’s a beautiful day outside, the church looks fabulous, and you’re all looking pretty good yourselves. It’s been a while since I spent any time choosing what to wear on Easter morning; choosing which black cassock to wear is not terribly agonizing. But you’ve all obviously put some time into your choices, and I appreciate that, because Easter isn’t just another Sunday, is it? Easter is a morning of choices, some more important than others.
So why is this morning not like every other morning? St. Mark tells us that when “the Sabbath was over, the women purchased spices to bring to the tomb. And of course this purchase of spices had to wait a day because the law said you were not allowed to buy anything on the Sabbath. Think of that: Jesus was in the tomb. These women knew that he had been put there without the requisite burial preparations. Still, taking care of this simply had to wait. The death of Jesus notwithstanding, the Sabbath still had its routines and regulations. One did not simply change those sacred patterns on a whim (and anyway, Jesus wasn’t going anywhere!).
So I imagine that these women, though sad beyond the telling of it, nevertheless went through their normal Sabbath routines on that day after Jesus died. So the Sabbath came and went as always. The sun rose, the sun set, and then on the first day of the week the sun rose again at the usual time. Once they could see well enough to walk safely, they bought what was needed at the market and then made their way to the place where they knew Joseph of Arimathea had taken the body of their friend (and Lord). Again, the world of predictable patterns remained in place for these women. This would not be the first body they had embalmed and it wouldn’t be the last. No doubt they had a set protocol for how they would embalm Jesus once they got to the tomb.”1
We all know what happened when the Mary’s and Salome got to the tomb. Everything changed. Choices had to be made. Think about it: we know certain things, right? But for a long time we knew, just knew, that the Earth was flat and that the Sun revolved around us. Finding this to not be true ruffled some feathers, but the new knowledge that the Earth was round and revolved around the Sun didn’t really change much, life went on pretty much as it had before. We live our lives knowing certain things, but none of those things have any bearing on our lives, we still have to feed the cat and go to work in the morning.
What if Easter is like that? What if the Resurrection is just something we know? What if a man rising from the dead no longer has the power to shock us, to give us a jolt? What if Easter becomes something that has no force, that changes nothing?
But then again, what if everything changed? When the women reached that tomb, they found that the stone had been moved away; perhaps Joseph of Arimathea or Nicodemus had beaten them there, so nothing to worry about, in fact, the stone being moved solved the only problem they were immediately worried about. But they didn’t find Joseph or Nicodemus, but rather a striking young man, an angel with one of the best jobs ever. “Do not be amazed;” he told them, “you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen, he is not here; see the place where they laid him.” So the women end up fleeing the scene, Mark tells us that they ran away, they were trembling and astonished. They tried to yell, but nothing would come out, and really, who could blame them, for everything had changed. The women had to face what had happened, and they had a choice to make.
“The problem for most of us is that we are not surprised enough by Easter to realize we face a choice. Easter is a part of the background scenery of our lives. We’ve never been afraid of Easter, never been bewildered by it.”2 But facing down what happened, believing that Jesus rose from the dead, presents us with a choice, to either live as if the Resurrection was just another thing that we know happened or to live as if the Resurrection is the greatest thing that ever happened.
And so here we are, 2000 years later, looking fabulous, if I may say so. It’s Easter, so we’ve put a bit more thought into what we look like, how we’ve arranged the accouterments, what we’ll eat for dinner. That might be enough for one day, and I commend you all for it, but I hope you’ll make consider one more choice today, the choice to let yourself be shocked and bewildered, the choice to consider again the empty tomb, the looks on the faces of the Mary’s and Salome; consider again the Lord Jesus who was once dead but is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!
1Scott Hoezee, This Week