Reflections on Matthew 28:1-10 (Resurrection of Jesus)
…what it felt like going to Jesus’ tomb that Sunday morning? …how Mary felt when Jesus’ body was not in the tomb? …what it was like to hear, “Jesus is alive! Jesus is risen!” … how both Jesus’ followers and his detractors felt when everything they thought they knew
about how the world worked was radically disrupted and turned on its head?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have to wonder about those questions any more. I believe we all now know exactly how that feels.
Let us pray… Lord, now may the words of my [pen] and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight – you, who are our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
In so many ways, this is has been a season of Lent – Holy Week – Easter like no other. It is the year when, what E. M. Forster called “The Machine”, the unseen, almost omnipotent network of faceless systems that govern everything from global economies to the choices we have for where we can go and what is for dinner have been forced to “Pause.”
Leaders around the globe, and every individual and family have been given the un-asked-for and uncomfortable task of trying to figure out which of our accustomed activities, preferences, and dreams are “essential” in this moment.
Mary Magdelene and her companion (the other Mary) chose to go to the tomb to keep vigil, armed with spices to properly prepare Jesus’ body after the hasty burial before the Sabbath began. They were essential workers, walking into a task that would soon overwhelm and change them.
As the women approached the tomb, the writer of Matthew’s gospel goes to great lengths to help the reader understand the magnitude of this Radical Disruption. There is an earthquake – literally the once- solid ground moving under their feet. An angel descends from heaven, rolls back the stone, and announces “There is nothing to fear here. I know you’re looking for Jesus, the One they nailed to the cross. He is not here. He was raised, just as he said.”
I’m sure the Marys appreciated the angel’s words “There is nothing to fear,” but I’m fairly confident that fear was one of the many emotions they were feeling in that moment. Fear, shock, disbelief, anxiety – these and many more were present in those first days of heavy media coverage surrounding the spreading pandemic. Those first weeks when “it’s just a flu” turned quickly into suspended activities and a patchwork of “safer at home” orders. Here, too, essential workers showed up only to be told “as of now, everything has changed.”
And then there is the confusion and doubt around the angel’s message, “He is not here. He was raised.” What could those words even possibly mean? To be perfectly honest, people of faith continue, more than 2000 years later, to debate the “what” and the “how” and the “why” of this Radical Disruption we call “Resurrection.”
About the only thing I can say with any real confidence is that “something” happened. Something profoundly disruptive and profoundly life altering. The Resurrection changed the lives of Jesus’ earliest followers and the spread of Christianity over two millennia has shaped and changed the course of human history in ways that have been both inspiringly beautiful and unquestionably horrific. There is no question that the power of the Resurrection continues to change lives in remarkable ways today.
We are Easter people, living in a time of another Radical Disruption. If we are willing to do the hard work that our faith demands, we have an unprecedented opportunity to choose how we shape our future – at every conceivable level of human interaction.
On the first Easter morning, the angel promised that the risen Jesus has gone ahead and will meet the disciples in Galilee. The risen Jesus goes ahead of us as well, leading us through this time of Radical Disruption. If we follow where Jesus is leading, there is much more possible on the other side of this pandemic than simply a return to what had been “normal” – a re-firing-up of Forster’s “Machine.”
Already there are signs that different choices can lead to different outcomes. The earth is showing signs of healing – air and water are cleaner, oceans are calmer, the earth itself moves less. Light is being shined on the unacceptable discrepancies of our healthcare and economic systems. Racism and nationalism are showing themselves to be the viruses they are.
I personally hope that this time will profoundly change the Church as well, that we look inward to what is essential as a faith tradition and that some of the ways we are finding to BE THE CHURCH continue and become a “new normal.”
There are new questions I wonder about. I wonder how this time will be remembered by the generations to come? I wonder what will be asked of us as people of faith? I wonder if any of us will have the courage and strength to go where Jesus leads?
My prayer is that we let an empty tomb remind us that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love – a love that is forever for and with ALL people ALL creation; that we awaken this Easter with new eyes to see the path Jesus has shown us; and that we choose to be Christ’s church – scattered, blessed, and moved by fear and joy to faithfully proclaim the Resurrection throughout all the world.