The Resurrection of the Lord
Mary, Mary and Solome, Pastor Kinsey
It was, Mary – and Mary – and Salome who went to the tomb. And that’s all I need, I think, to prove, that the resurrection is real! Why? Because if someone tried to make this thing up, I’m sure they would have used different names for each of the three women, right?! I mean, two Mary’s? If Mark were creating this himself, surely he would have chosen 3 distinctly named characters. Surely he would have traded one of the Mary’s for, a Rachel, or an Elizabeth, or a Naomi?
Mary Magdalene – named first – is definitely a keeper! Even to our modern imagination, she’s a character we still wonder about, and, many have speculated about her relationship with Jesus. And Salome is a great choice too! Who doesn’t know of the Salome who danced for King Herod, which led to the beheading of John the Baptist, and who fills centuries of works of art, in a myriad of poses?! This isn’t the same Salome, of course. But why not have a Salome, who was a follower of Jesus, a caring twin, there at the cross and resurrection? I vote we keep her in, too! But, Mary the mother of James? Who was she? No one is quite sure. Jesus has a brother James, but most don’t think this Mary was meant to be her. Mark would have just said, if it was, Mary mother of our Lord! Mary the mother of James is also mentioned earlier, at the death of Jesus, where she is called, “Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses…” Obviously, it’s somebody known to the early church, those first readers of Mark, though lost to us now.
Mary, Mary, Mary. It’s a popular Jewish name, too, so I suppose you could argue that, even a made-up story, could have two Mary’s. So I guess, it’s still up to you, whether you want to believe in the historicity of the resurrection story, or not.
Let’s assume you do, or at least, you’re agnostically curious enough to consider at least one more plot device in the story. E.g., if the reason the women went to the tomb, was to anoint Jesus’ body, and indeed, this was a traditional task of burial, done by family, or in this case, by friends, were they going, with the purpose of anointing his body for burial now that the Sabbath was over? Or, were their plans to go and anoint their risen king? Who was Jesus to them, at this point, early on the first day of the week, the first Easter morning?
Mary, Mary and Salome, had only one worry on their minds that early morning, according to Mark, how in the world were they going to roll away that big stone over the entrance? But, as you know, that becomes the least of their worries. Instead, when they arrive, the stone has already been moved, and there inside, the body of Jesus was not to be found, the tomb is empty, except for a very polite young man, full of mysterious glad tidings. Greater than the stone, we are now confronted with a much larger problem. And here, of course, is where historicity and faith begin to blur lines, and fracture our interpretation, a thousand different ways. What do you think the women expected? Were they inclined toward resurrection – or perhaps foul play, like grave robbers?
But what strikes me, here, is this messenger – that’s what angelic apparitions in the ancient world, like this one were, messengers from God – and so, as I read the story again, what strikes me is that he delivers the news like a Receptionist at the most posh corporate headquarters downtown, sitting behind a high pristine desk: “Sorry,’ says the young man, dressed in a white robe, who clearly had expected them, “you just missed Jesus; he had to step out; there was a very sudden turn of events, but I assure you, he still considers your appointment important. If you want to catch up with him, he left this forwarding address for you – looking at his sticky note – Galilee! Umh, I’ll see you there! Just as I told you! He had very pressing business there,” the Angelic young Receptionist says.
Mary, Mary and Salome are speechless, fleeing the tomb for the elevator, “for terror and amazement, had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Sort of an unsettling ending, to this otherwise spectacular Gospel! We don’t actually get to see the risen Jesus in Mark’s writing of events. Just an empty tomb, and that Receptionist, whose word we are free to interpret: he has been raised. We are perhaps – like Mary, Mary and Salome – left wondering what to believe! When tragedy suddenly interrupts, when things don’t turn out as we expect, when our normal expectations are reversed – how do we react? Isn’t doubt and terror normal? How do you feel, for example, when you experience the brokenness of the world, which can’t be fixed?
Doubt itself –planted by the Ruler of this world– will get us stuck here, at this point in the story. It wouldn’t take much to follow this story thread of the fleeing women who tell no one what they have seen and heard, to reach the conclusion that this is the end – there’s nothing more. We too, might find comfort, in fleeing, and going home, if we’re honest with ourselves, without confronting the deeper and more troubling realities we live with, each and every day.
Like, looking for work in an economy that is still limping along for most of us, and most new jobs in minimum wage positions, often with no benefits, far from what is needed to meet the basics of living life in America; schools, that are no longer supporting everyone equally; social security, pensions and Medicare under siege and retirees taking part time jobs to make ends meet; violence, especially against women and people of color here at home, and trillions of dollars spent on meddling wars overseas that have increased the levels of violence there; and, our elected leaders, polarized and unable to pass needed legislation for our communities, except that which their campaign contributors kindly write, making sure to benefit themselves.
There is plenty to make us mad, and tempt us to give up hope, to pit us one against the other, in our world today. Jesus knew about this temptation of those worldly powers too. The burden of his journey, and his cross, were not light or easy.
So, what do you think? Did the women at the end of Mark’s resurrection story continue to stay silent? Or, did they tell the other disciples at some point? Do they even remember the message of the angelic young receptionist – I’m sorry, Jesus had to step out, but – he still plans to meet with you!?
Jesus has pressing business, back in his home neighborhood, and there is no time to waste! The resurrection is exactly the troubling, challenging puzzle, that the women portray to us, fleeing the tomb, when both “terror, and, amazement” seized them! Christ is risen – is terrifying. Christ is risen – is amazing!
There is a reality in Mark’s gospel that sticks with us even today – this invitation to go back to Galilee, back to the place where Jesus started; where Jesus gathered his first disciples; where it all started – which is an invitation to read the story over again. Because now, we will begin to understand all the better! We will see it with different eyes! We go back to the beginning, not because it’s some nostalgic, going back-home tour. But because only after the resurrection, do we begin to understand more clearly, the identity and mission of Jesus. The risen one, is the crucified one. The prophet, is the king. The Son of God, is the healer and liberator of the outcast and poor. Jesus turns this world of injustice we live in, upside down, in a grand forgiveness, opening up the possibility of reconciliation, justice and peace.
Mark’s gospel is an invitation to engage, to get involved in the mission of Jesus because we believe in the identity of Jesus as the Christ. The reality of the risen one appears in, and through us, when we follow Jesus back to Galilee. It re-focuses us, beyond doubt and death, to live life, and to reap the beautiful reward of loving one another, as he loved us. Our focus then, is not on hate or division, on jealousy or violence. But especially, by the gift of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we find meaning in the way we live fully for others, helping to create a world of love, justice and equal opportunity for all of God’s people.
I admire Mary, and Mary and Salome, and I don’t fault them for feeling both terror, and amazement. God needs people with both doubt and faith, who can honestly evaluate themselves and the world, and fight harder for the coming realm of God here among us. I believe, Mary, and Mary and Salome, were transformed into followers when they went back in Galilee – I believe, and therefore I follow.
For, Christ is risen,