Distant ... faint ... soft echoes ... like the incessant drip of a faucet, barely audible, but maddening in the pre-twilight of sleeplessness. You want to ignore it ... and can for a moment or two ... but then it returns ... relentlessly ... nagging at something in your soul ... making sleep impossible. And in grief, this incessant dripping is torturous ... agonizing ... and mocking. No one knew this better than the women. "And after three days ... after three days ... after three days ..." Now what was it that he said? "After three days ...
... I will rise again?" No way. Just wishful thinking. Just the disconnection with reality deep grief brings. But, "after three days ..." That's what he had said, wasn't it? Or did I imagine it? I think he said it when he talked about being rejected and slaughtered like a sheep at their hands. But, I didn't really get that. But he did say something about "after three days," didn't he?
Slowly, tortuously, the women made their way to the tomb while the men slept. They wouldn't wake them because sleep had been hard to come by in their shock and grief and shame. But, who would roll back the stone for them? Moving into place was a one person job, but getting it out of the mouth of the tomb was a chore for three strong men. How could a small band of women perform this? Maybe the soldiers would be accommodating? Or maybe someone else would help, like the caretaker of the tombs?
Slowly, tortuously, incessantly, they moved toward the tomb. The faint streaks of sunrise filtered through the clouds making a glowing edge on some of the clouds hanging low in the spring sky. Golds, oranges, reds, and browns blazed against the fading indigo of the moonless night sky.
They couldn't help but be struck by the strange parallel as they brought their oil and spices to anoint his body this last time. Some remembered the anointing just a few days before and remembered Jesus' sweet words, "She has done a beautiful thing." This would be the last beautiful thing they would do for him. This one, however, was much harder and bitterer, for by now, the body that had blessed others would carry the pungent odor of death and the awful bruises and spatters of the beating, the gouges from the scourging, the place where flesh had been penetrated and ripped by nails, and the rip in his side from the spear. They came to offer him their love one last time as the sun streaked its first rays over the distant horizon.
But still, in the background noise of their hearts, the women heard a distant dripping ... an incessant soft echo in their souls. Hadn't he said something ... promised something ... something impossible, inconceivable, something ... they could not quite recall.
The next evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene and Salome and Mary the mother of James went out and purchased burial spices to put on Jesus' body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they came to the tomb. On the way they were discussing who would roll the stone away from the entrance to the tomb. But when they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone — a very large one — had already been rolled aside. So they entered the tomb, and there on the right sat a young man clothed in a white robe. The women were startled, but the angel said, "Do not be so surprised. You are looking for Jesus, the Nazarene, who was crucified. He isn't here! He has been raised from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died!" (Mark 16:1-7 NLT)
Astonishment, fear, and awe. That's their reaction. While we know the rest of the story from the other gospels, Mark wants us to linger with them here in this moment of fearful and astonished awe. He wants us to pause for this awesome moment and hear the words of God's messenger.
Don't be surprised — literally, "Don't be afraid!"
The Crucified One is not here, he has risen.
He will meet you in Galilee!
Those are the three words we also need to hear in our day.
Don't be afraid!
Life is more than you can master. Life is fragile and will be crushed. You can't hold it or preserve it or protect it. But don't be afraid. But how? How can we not be afraid? He is not here, the Crucified One is risen.
Jesus, who shared with us our every human struggle and bore with us every human strain and endured with us every human suffering, also suffered with us our very human death ... at our own hands. He is the crucified one. There is no escaping that. But, look, the tomb is empty. Death couldn't hold him. Satan couldn't have him. The tomb couldn't contain him. His enemies couldn't crush him. He is risen. He is alive. He is ... and was ... is to come. Everything, everything, has changed ... for us. He has gone ahead of you to Galilee and you will see him, just as he said.
He said he would be rejected. He said he would be killed. And he said he would be ... resurrected. Yes, he did say those things. Again and again he said those things. And they are true. They have happened, just as he said. So if what he said about those things is true, then the Galilee thing must be true, too.
But why Galilee? Why not Jerusalem? Why not Mt. Sinai?
Simple. Galilee is home. They will see him at home. He will be with them ... at home!
And Galilee is the place of the Gentiles ... the place where the front porch is open to all peoples ... no one is excluded. They will see him in multi-cultural ministry shared with all and open to all people.
And Galilee is the place of ministry. The place they saw him serve others. The place they learned to serve others. The place where the resurrected Jesus will be found again ... the place where others are served by the power and in the name of the risen crucified one, the servant who gave his life as a ransom for many.
And if they return home, to the front porch, to the place of ministry, they will see him there. And we will, too!
Jesus is not only raised from the dead, he is also living. He longs to be more than someone from the past we study. He longs to be the one whom we meet in our daily worlds. So let's not leave this Easter season without a profound conviction that resurrection power, the resurrected Jesus, can be found ... at home, among the common things of life, to make them less common and more glorious ... if we will listen to those distant echoes of his promise. The Lord can be found ... on the front porch where people are welcome no matter what their background and where they've left behind. Jesus can be really present for us ... in ministry, where folks serve out of love, like their Master ... the Crucified One ... who now lives through their service to others.
Let's not let the echoes be so distant and faint! Let's meet him in Galilee ... he's waiting there for us!