Mark 16:1-8, Easter Day B, April 5, 2015
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
Mary Magdalene, the other Mary, and Salome collapsed into a heap of wails and tears on that hill named Golgotha. They were quite a distance away from Jesus, safely out of reach of the soldiers. Even so, for all three hours they could hear Jesus' labored breathing and as he cried out. When he breathed his last, their tears grew bigger as their wails grew louder.
They remained there and watched Jesus' limp body as the soldiers drove a spear into his side. By the time the men took Jesus' body down off the cross, the three women were out of tears. Their emotions moved from uncontrollable crying to sheer numbness.
When the men were about to take Jesus' body away to the tomb, the women simply stared. They were so numb that they could not move, yet they desperately wanted to follow Jesus' body. Gathering up what little strength she had left, Mary Magdalene grabbed the other Mary and Salome's hands. There was something in that gesture that empowered these women to share their strength. They arose in silence, walking hand in hand as they followed Joseph of Arimathea.
They kept their distance, yet they never let Jesus out of their sight. Once Jesus was safely in the tomb and the stone was rolled to block the entrance, the ladies remained there, hand in hand, until it was almost dark.
Still in silence, they returned to where the disciples had stayed the night before. The men were nowhere in sight, yet the women were too exhausted to care. They collapsed once more, this time falling into deeply troubled sleep. Not one of those ladies had any actual rest that night.
The next day was the sabbath, so the ladies were limited in what they could do. They found some food and tentatively tried to speak to each other. They wondered about what they saw the day before. How could God's will be done in such a brutal death? What would come from Jesus' crucifixion? That entire day, they did not see any of the disciples.
When evening came and the sabbath was over, the women finally felt safe enough to leave their small dwelling. They thought about Jesus' body in that tomb and couldn't stand the thought that he was not properly prepared for burial. They could not save Jesus from dying, nor could they raise Jesus from the dead. Yet anointing his body with spices was the one thing that they could do. They needed to do this as a part of their grieving process.
So they gathered their money together and headed to the marketplace. They hid their faces so no one could discover their Galilean identity. They found a merchant who sold them the proper spices and scented oils for anointing a dead body. He looked aside at them as they were leaving. They wondered if he suspected who they were, so they rushed off.
Mary Magdalene, Salome, and the other Mary spent one last night in their cramped little space. As they shared a bite of food, they wondered what happened to the disciples. Without their strong fishermen's arms, these ladies had no clue how they would get that massive stone out of the entrance of the tomb. They fell asleep wondering and hoping.
Early the next morning, even before first light, the women awoke with anxious excitement. They continued to grieve for Jesus, and they were looking forward to anointing Jesus' body. So, they gathered up their spices and oils and left their abode for the last time. No matter what happened at the tomb, they were ready to leave Jerusalem.
As they approached the tomb, they noticed something very odd. The stone was on the ground next to the doorway. It was not covering the entrance to the tomb. Something seemed to be faintly glowing inside. Cautiously, nervously, Mary, Mary, and Salome approached that tomb entrance.
Still standing outside, they all leaned in and poked their heads through the opening. They saw then that the glowing was coming from a young man in a white robe. He was sitting on the right side of the tomb. This man had no wings of course, but his appearance certainly was heavenly. This man must have been an angel.
Seeing the fear in their eyes and in their body posture, this man quickly started talking. "Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, whom you watched be crucified. I smell that you brought spices to anoint his body. Well, I have good news! You no longer need those oils! Jesus isn't here! He has been raised - God raised Jesus from the dead. See for yourself the place where his body was."
At that point, all three women fell on their knees, crossing the threshold of the tomb. They could not believe their eyes. Truly, Jesus' body was not in that tomb! Where could it be, they wondered? Could this young man truly be telling the truth?
Then the women looked back at the young man with hesitant hopefulness written across their faces. He continued, "Go. Tell all his disciples, even Peter, that Jesus is already on his way to Galilee. You will see him in your hometown, just as he told you he would."
Tripping over their own clothes and each other, Mary, Mary, and Salome dropped their spices and ran away. They didn't say a word to each other or to anyone else. They ran out of Jerusalem and followed the path to Galilee. They were going home, home! Where they hoped to be reunited with the disciples. And maybe - just maybe - they would see Jesus too.
"The shorter ending of the sermon"
The original ending of the gospel of Mark states that the ladies said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. They were afraid for their lives if they would be killed for believing that Jesus was raised from the dead. They were afraid that the disciples would not believe them. They were afraid that the angel had lied.
"The longer ending of the sermon"
But we have the benefit of history. We know from the other gospel accounts that these ladies did see Jesus resurrected. We know that Jesus is alive and that we have new life because of this. We have no reason to be afraid of the good news.
So your task this day and always is to share the good news. Tell everyone you see that Jesus is alive! Live your life every day a bit more joyfully because Jesus has been raised. Heal the sick, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the lonely. Whatever you do, do it in Jesus' name. Because Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.