We give you thanks Holy Father, for your holy name which you have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which you have made known to us through Jesus your servant; to you be the glory forever. You, almighty Master, created all things for your name’s sake, and gave food and drink to men to enjoy, that they might give you thanks; but to us you have graciously given spiritual food and drink, and eternal life through your servant [Jesus]. Above all we give thanks because you are mighty; to you be the glory forever.*
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. Andentering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side,dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them,“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:1-6, ESV)
How exhausted they must have been.
The women who were part of Jesus core disciples, the women who looked on from a distance as he was crucified, the women who had followed him and ministered to him and provided for his daily needs, were now in mourning. It was the day after the Sabbath. They had obeyed the law and rested, though I’m not sure how restful that day could have been. There were tears, as grief over their dead friend and teacher continued to settle in. He had been in the grave for two days and two nights, and today, the third day, his body had surely begun to smell. They could not anoint him with spices on the night he died—there simply was not time before the sun went down and the sabbath began. But now, with the sabbath over, they had work to do. Work of love, work of honoring their friend.
But first, they needed to go shopping.
“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”
Take a moment to imaging that scenario. Shopping for spices. Walking to the tomb at first light. Arm in arm, comforting one another. This one handing that one a cloth to wipe her eyes and blow her nose. Talking, not talking, weeping, angry, frustrated, hopeless. Beyond the loss of their friend was the disillusionment of being so completely and utterly wrong. Were we crazy? They wondered. How could we have been so wrong to think that he was Messiah? Yet, still, he was their friend. And they loved him, even if they were wrong about who he was.
And so they went. As they walked, they chatted together about the one obstacle that would stand in their way: the rock. They knew it would be far too large for them to move. “Who will roll away the stone for us?” It is such an interesting question. Were they wondering if someone would roll it away for them? Or did they have full confidence that someone would help them, but they just wondered who that someone would be?
They didn’t have to wonder long. As they approached the tomb, they could see that the stone was already moved. That’s a relief, they might have thought. Now we can get to work.
The next part of this story is arguably the most important moment in all of history. The women entered the tomb and saw a young man dressed in white. “Do not be alarmed,” he said. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here.”
Sit with that for a moment.
Now sit with it some more.
You seek Jesus. Who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here.
Over the past few years, I have become friends with a number of people who do not believe Jesus actually physically rose from the dead. They love Jesus, they follow Jesus’s teachings, they have been baptized (and some have been ordained) in the church. Yet this part of the Jesus Story is not vital to them. It doesn’t have to be true in order to follow Jesus.
I am completely and utterly dumbfounded by this. Because if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then what is the point of following him? What makes him any different from any other good teacher or guru?
The apostle Paul believes this as well. In fact, he points to this moment—the resurrection of Christ—as the very basis of our faith. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only,we are of all people most to be pitied.
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. (1 Corinthians 15:12-26, ESV)
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain,” Paul writes. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Do you realize what Paul is saying here? If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is a sham. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, he is nothing more than a mere man, like any other mere man who lives a good and meaningful life and then dies. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then he was not who he said he was. He was not Messiah, he was not God’s only begotten son, he was not able to deliver on the promises of the kingdom.
But, as someone who reads this Book with a heart of faith—faith that it has been inspired, ordained, protected and preserved by the God of Truth—I believe that these words are true:
“He has risen. He is not here.”
And I believe that these words color absolutely everything else with meaning.
Sisters—Mary Magdalene, Mary, Salome—he is who he said he was. You were not wrong.
And life is about to get really meaningful.
Take some time to consider Jesus’s resurrection that hope that Paul offers. And pledge—again—your allegiance to the One who will “reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.”
*(This prayer is taken from Didache.)