Resurrection

[i]It is early and slightly chilly as the women tentatively enter the open sepulchre, fearing it may be a trap and they could be arrested. What other explanation could there be for the stone having been rolled aside? They had asked themselves along the way whether someone would be there to help them, relying on some kind of intervention, divine or otherwise, to help them with their devotional task.

Instead of soldiers, there is just a strangely dressed youth awaiting them. They are startled at first by the white clothing, but dread grows. A fear that they have come too late rises in them, or that they have entered the wrong burial chamber - but they have not erred.

“You seek Jesus, the crucified Nazarene. He rose and is no longer here. Look where he was laid.”

There is no doubt, he is gone. The women turn away as soon as they have taken in the strange scene, unprepared for what they had found and afraid that the soldiers they had anticipated would appear. As they leave the voice of the young man is vaguely heard, telling them to tell the disciples to go to Galilee, where Jesus has gone on before them. They start to run, suspecting an intrigue. Could this be true? Or is this all a very cruel game being played with them?

To begin with they tell nobody of what they have seen, afraid first that they would be held to be completely crazy, and secondly, that this was all a part of some scheme to capture the hiding disciples.[/i]

The account of Mark (paraphrased here) is very honest about the resurrection. The women flee from a situation they are unable to understand. Despite the open disputes between Sadducees and Pharisees about the “rising again”, which women seldom witnessed, who could be prepared for this situation without having misgivings about someone manipulating them?

The resurrection isn’t a case of Jesus marching victoriously down the High Street in Jerusalem, flaunting his wounds at the astounded authorities and crowds that had cried “crucify him ” There is something mysterious about it, it is secretive and unassuming, and yet it is heart-wrenching for the unsuspecting women. There is something afoot that nobody can explain.

According to John, Mary is alone in the grave perhaps a second time, and the messengers in white say to her, ‘Woman, why do you weep?’
She says to them, ‘Because they carried away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’
Then she turned backward, and saw Jesus standing, and she had not known that it is Jesus.
Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why do you weep? whom do you seek;’
She, supposing that he is the gardener, said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him away.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Mary ’ having turned, she said to him, ‘Rabbouni;’ that is to say, ‘Teacher.’

The description of Mary Magdalen’s encounter with Jesus is mystical, a turning and a turning again, a transformation takes place, a conversion, an enlightenment gives Mary the assurance that helps her confront the disciples with her message of confidence in the resurrection of her Master. According to Luke, when the women finally told the Apostles, they regarded their words as ‘idle tales’ or ‘nonsense’ and didn’t believe them. When the Disciples finally reach the tomb according to John, there are only the linen clothes wrapped up to see, but they are persuaded that Jesus indeed has risen, although the scriptural link is not clear to them.

Perhaps Jesu’s dislike of gilded tombs and the statement that the living is not found amongst the dead is a clue to the mystery of the resurrection of Jesus. Effectively, Mary and the other women were on the first pilgrimage to the tomb of Christ, but such pilgrimages were not going to advance the Jesus Movement. It wasn’t the bones, but the Spirit of the prophets that Jesus honoured. It wasn’t his grave that would be central to ‘the Way’, but the “advocate” or the proponent Spirit that (according to John) Jesus promised would counsel them after his death.

The “basileia” or Kingdom of God “hath come nigh”, it is time to believe the good news and reform. It ‘does not come with observation, nor shall they say, see here, or see there - for see, the reign of God is within you.’ The Way lies before, and death lies now behind you. That is the inspiring message that develops within the 50 days until Pentecost. That is the Spirit of Christianity which presses on, assured of the “rising again” and of the ability of God to turn loss into gain.

One by one the disciples are pulled out of their loss and put on the road to Galilee, to inspiration and hope. They are looking ahead, knowing that Christ is to be found ahead of them, not in the past. He is the one who will come, not just the one who has been. The direction is clear, the spirit of the movement is clear and the message is also clear:
Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man judged commendable of God among you by the miracles, wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, as you yourselves also know. This man, whom you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. But God has raised him up, having loosened the pains of death, since it was not possible that he should be held by it.

There is no holding back that which Jesus started, only the danger of loss of momentum. Paul continued this breathtaking movement amongst the nations, and it spread throughout the known world. Since then, his words have become renowned: “where is, O Death, thy sting? where, O Hades, thy victory?”

Shalom
Bob