When Jesus is born, a new moment begins in the History of the Kingdom of God. Never before, throughout all of creation, throughout all the universe and its many wonders, has God ever become human. Never before has the Creator become one of the Created. This is new. But it is the moment after he dies and is buried--the moment of the Resurrection--that changes things forever.
The Resurrection of Jesus is so important that it is one of the few moments in Jesus' life that all four Gospels include. Not all four have his birth. But St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John all tell of his death and they all tell of his Resurrection.
The four accounts of the Resurrection are not identical. We have to remember that for a long time the Word of God existed only in the voices of the people. They would tell what they had seen and what they had heard and what they knew to be true. It is pretty normal for different people to tell the same story in different ways. I remember listening to my mum tell a friend about something our family had done and she skipped some details and changed things a bit. I told her that she had told it wrong. She said, "The story is true, I am telling it so it can be understood." That's what St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John do. They write about the Resurrection so that it can be understood.
Let's think about what St. Mark wants us to understand.
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.
At the time of Jesus, when someone died, their body would be anointed. They would pour olive oil onto the body before wrapping it in linen cloths. The olive oil would be spiced with a beautiful fragrance, possibly myrrh, the gift the wise men brought. The smell of the spices would linger reminding them of their love for the person who died.
Jesus' friends have no time to anoint him after his death for two reasons. First, Jesus dies late afternoon on a Friday. Jesus' body has to be buried quickly without anointing before the sun goes down. At sundown it is Saturday, which is the Sabbath, the holy day of rest made by God. No work, including burying the dead, is done on the Sabbath. All day Saturday, his friends wait and pray. When the sun sets Saturday evening, the women can finally go to buy the spices they need for the anointing oil. Then, early on Sunday morning, they come to the tomb to take care of his body properly, and they discover the second reason why Jesus cannot be anointed after death.
And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.
What might they think when they see the stone already rolled away? They might be relieved; they were not going to be able to move that heavy stone on their own. They might be slightly irritated; someone else got there ahead of them to take care Jesus' body. It is a service they wanted to perform. They might be curious; who will they find inside the tomb?
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
Relieved, irritated, curious? No. They are alarmed. Why? The young man doesn't seem to be doing anything, just sitting on the right side. The Greek word that St. Mark uses for their feeling means amazed or astonished. What is it about this young man that alarms, amazes, astonishes them?
But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.
Who is this young man? He knows Jesus was crucified. He knows the women are looking for him. He says, "Do not be alarmed." This might remind us of the angel Gabriel who says to Mary, "Do not be afraid." St. Matthew and St. John say that there were angels at the tomb of Jesus. St. Mark just says young man dressed in a white robe. We can wonder if he might be an angel. Could he be anyone else wearing white?
“He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.
Now this is alarming, amazing, astonishing! This is completely new. This has never been said before. Jesus has been raised, he says. The question, "Who raised him?", does not need to be asked. The women know--and so do we--that the young man means God. God has raised Jesus from the dead. This is completely new.
The young man points to the shelf in the rock tomb where Jesus' body used to be. His body is not there. The women now see for certain that, except for this young man, the tomb is empty. There is no death here.
“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.”
They have seen the empty tomb, they know what it means, and the young man gives them a task to do. They need to go and tell what they have witnessed. The disciples and Peter need to know. They will see Jesus in Galilee, the young man says, just as Jesus told them. (When did Jesus tell them that? Who is this young man?)
The young man says that Jesus is going ahead of them to Galilee where he has spent so much time teaching them. Jesus, the Good Shepherd always goes ahead of his sheep. This should be a soothing message to the women, soothing to their alarm, amazement, astonishment.
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.
Wait a minute. What? The women are not soothed. Their alarm has turned to terror. They are afraid. This must be all too new for them. Too shocking, too different from what they expected.
But now there is a problem, here at the very end of St. Mark's Gospel. If the women say nothing to anyone, how will anyone know that Jesus is Risen from the dead? How will they know that something absolutely new has happened in the History of the Kingdom of God? They are not telling. The women are saying no to God. The most shocking action of God, the news that Jesus is Alive--no one will know.
But we know.
Someone must tell. Someone must tell what they have seen and what they know. Someone must whisper it into the ear of someone else. The news must pass from lips to ears. It is Good News, it is the best news. There is life after death. Jesus lives. God loves us.
Over and over people tell what they know to be true. The Word of God is passed from one person to another. Over and over, and St. Mark writes it down. The Good News spreads to one country after another. Further and further, and St. Matthew and St. Luke write it down. Parents and grandparents who treasure the Good News tell their children the Word of God--Jesus is Risen! God is Love! Alleluia! Alleluia! Generation after generation, and St. John writes it down. The Word of God written. The Word of God spoken.
And here we are--you with your adult who loves you and I at my computer typing away--telling each other the Good News. The Word of God lives here, too, between us. We know the Good News and we say yes to God.
Jesus is Risen! He is Risen indeed! God be with you.