And you were expecting Easter Eggs? – Easter Vigil – Mark 16:1-7
The Gospel text of today’s liturgy ends at verse seven. A young man dressed in a white robe (presumably an angel) announces the Easter proclamation, “he has been raised, he is not here.” The three women, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James and Salome have been asked to go and tell the disciples and Peter (singled out by name) that he is going ahead of them to Galilee, that they will see him just as he promised. (verse7)
But while our text for today’s liturgy ends with verse seven, the following verse almost seems to be dropped from our liturgical reading in order to ‘preserve’ our Easter joy. Verse eight is an irony of sorts, instead of a triumphant Easter response the three women flee the tomb. “Terror and amazement” has seized them and the Easter proclamation is locked in silence as the women say “NOTHING TO ANYONE” (verse 8). It seems like the mission of the angel just bombed.
Perhaps the women said to themselves, “who will believe us”? Remember that in the Gospel of Luke the apostles dismissed the words of the women as “idle tales” or in other words plain gossip! The fact remains that first century Jewish culture did not entertain a woman’s witness; merely because she was a woman. Then why announce the greatest news of all humankind to a group of women who are fearful, terrorised and numbed into silence and whom no one would take seriously?
Before I jump in to answer that I want to look at the why were these women chosen in the first place to hear the greatest proclamation of all mankind. In looking at this we can learn something for ourselves too
These three women were devoted to Jesus. They find mention several times in the Gospel, perhaps more than some apostles who find their name mentioned just once. In Mark 15: 40-41 they find mention. These women, now seized with terror at the resurrection were just a chapter before brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross, though from a distance. Mark acknowledges their presence as those who stood by the Lord during his ministry and cared for him. He speaks of them as people who “followed him and provided for him when he was in Galilee.”
The Gospel of today begins the Easter narrative once again with these three women. We are told the sabbath was over and these three women have bought spices so that they might anoint the body of Jesus. There are two interesting details that might miss your eye. First, they bought spices; note they bought not brought. They spent money. Love knows no cost. Were these women wealthy, perhaps yes, maybe no but what we do know is they cared for the Lord cared enough to spend for him and take care of him. Not long ago, just before his death in Mark 14:3 a woman in Bethany (we know her to be Mary from the gospel of John) also bought pure nard worth three hundred denarii,( Mark 14:5) half a years wages, to pour out on the Lord’s feet and anoint them. Notice, on that occasion, Jesus in rebuking her critics for ‘wasting the ointment’ said that she had anointed his body beforehand for its burial. Why did he say so? Look carefully at Mark’s narrative of the burial of Jesus (15:42- 47). Jewish culture buries their dead immediately and there was another reason to hurry up with the burial of Jesus. We are told it was evening of the day of preparation of the sabbath. Remember, nothing, just nothing happened on the sabbath. So Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate to ask for his body and when given the body he (here comes that word again) BOUGHT linen cloth and taking down the body he wraps it in the cloth. Unlike the Gospel of John where Nicodemus comes with a mixture of myrrh and aloes about a hundred pounds to wrap it in the folds of the linen cloth, the synoptic gospels make no reference to any spices added at the time of the burial. In Luke the women go back to prepare the spices after having made note of where the body laid. Clearly the synoptic Gospels want to communicate the haste in which Jesus was laid as they were slipping into what could be called Jewish curfew. Now the women have come to complete the Jewish burial customs having waited a whole sabbath to pass by. It must have been a long wait
That wait is expressed in their eagerness to go to the tomb for the scriptures says that on the first Easter Sunday EARLY, as the SUN had risen, they make their way to the tomb. Not only do the spend their money to care for the Lord, they are so eager to wait on him that they wake up early. Most of us would hit the snooze button today even on a Sunday or slip into Church for the most convenient Sunday mass. The first Easter saw devoted women seeking the Lord and its no wonder that the early bird gets the worm, in this case it was a treasure.
But these women are also beset with doubt. While there were three of them and I am sure determined and strong enough to roll over a tomb stone (remember they were brave enough to stand at the cross while the men ran away) they still expressed a doubt. Who will roll the stone for us as at the entrance of the tomb? Perhaps such doubt has crossed all our minds. Like these women of faith we too ask ourselves, who will roll our stones of financial difficulty, illness, pain and stress? Doubt does not diminish our faith. Perhaps many ask who will roll back the stone and as a consequence never even begin the journey to the tomb, missing out on the resurrection. Don’t give up because you perceive a hurdle, go on because you have a loving task to perform. Remember that while the women had doubts on the way to the tomb, their love for the Lord encouraged them to walk the rest of the way to the garden tomb.
On arriving at the tomb the women should have been rejoicing that their prayers were answered for the stone had been rolled back yet they are alarmed. They are alarmed because they see not a body but a young man. This begs the question, what were they looking for in the first place? A dead Jew or a living Messiah. Jesus had spoken of his resurrection on three occasions in this very Gospel. He promised he would rise and yet the women went to anoint the dead. What are we looking for in our faith? Do we seek a living Messiah? The stone was not rolled back to let Jesus out, but to let the women in, to let us in so that we may enter and believe.
Yet there is that one question of verse 8. Why did the women finally choose to be numbed into silence in verse 8? The Easter proclamation is not a magic wand that once waved brings magical faith. The doubt does not magically go away. We are told in verse 9 that the Lord then had to step in. Encountering Mary of Magdala he tells her to go to his disciples with the message. They, we are told, did not believe ( verse10). In verse 11 he appears to the other two women with the same message as they were walking into the country. Again the disciples did not believe. So the Lord appears himself to the elven (verse 14) when they were sitting at table and UPBRAIDED them. Imagine yourself expecting easter eggs today and instead you get a sound firing from the Lord who is angry that you refuse to believe he is risen. He upbraids them for their lack of faith and stubbornness (verse 14).
What do I choose now to do? Should I sulk that I have been reprimanded on Easter Sunday or should I do as the Lord asked, to pick myself up and meet him in Galilee where it all began? Easter is that day when the Lord asks us to journey back with him to where it all began, to renew our commitment to him, renew our commitment to his kingdom. The resurrection calls us to MOVE, to ACTION. The lord is waiting for us today in Galilee not at the empty tomb. We have an Easter date with Jesus, a scheduled appointment as he promised to renew our mission and work for his kingdom
Fr Warner Dsouza
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