The Trembling of the Resurrection
Rev. Kurt Lantz Easter Vigil Mark 16:1-8
April 03, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people who have come to the tomb,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is another one of those days in the church year when we have a mixture of emotions. Last Sunday we went from the joyous shouts of victory at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, to the solemn passion of His suffering and death. Tonight as we pass through from the darkness of Holy Saturday to the dawn of Resurrection morn, the emotions take another turn and I am glad for it.
In all of the readings that we heard tonight of God’s great acts of salvation, His Word propels our emotions. We go from the dark chaos at the beginning to the safe and peaceful haven of Eden’s paradise; and from the overwhelming waters of the flood to the perpetual promise of God’s protection; then from Abraham’s outstretched arm, knife in hand, to the provision of the substitutionary ram; from the threat of Pharaoh’s army to the awesome deliverance through the Red Sea; and from the fiery wrath of King Nebuchadnezzar to the saving presence of the Son of God.
And finally, the glorious good news of the resurrection, recorded by Mark in the most penetrating way. The account from John is usually the preferred reading for Easter morning with the touching, personal account of our Lord’s appearance to Mary Magdalene. But Mark’s record hits even closer to home for me. For with the roller-coaster of emotions that have been stirred within us, up and down and up and down, Mark’s resurrection Gospel has one more unexpected turn that gives us a final lurch.
The women bought spices because apparently the 75 pounds that Nicodemus had bought was not right for some reason. Maybe they were not the correct essential oils for this specific application. No doubt the job of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea was hastily done Friday night as sunset came on to begin the Sabbath. The women saw where their Lord had been buried, but that was not enough. They couldn’t leave Him like that. They had to make it right. But they hadn’t given any thought to how they might remove the stone from the entrance of the tomb. Some aspects of their plan were more thought out than others.
There is so much around us that demands fixing. The job is not quite right. There are times when I have to rearrange the eggs in the egg carton because someone has left it unbalanced. I have a few little eccentricities like that, particularly about things that don’t really matter. The problem is that with the things that really do matter, I am content to leave it as is. Perhaps I feel that I won’t be able to make much of an improvement and don’t want to be confronted with my failures.
People need to be fixed, straightened out. Neighbours need help. Family members need to be rescued. And because of my insistence on fixing things that don’t really need to be fixed and my disregard for the things that I ought to give more attention, I know that I need to be fixed and straightened out. I need help because I’m not doing it right and making a mess of things. I need to be rescued from my own sinful arrogance and incompetence. I need to be saved.
I don’t know exactly how the women were feeling that early morning. I shouldn’t project my feelings onto them. They were likely not all feeling the same way about what they were up to. But from Mark’s details, honest as they are, we can see that they didn’t have it all together. If he were making up the story they would have been more composed with a better plan that didn’t double down on the spices but provided some means to move the stone.
I can’t blame them. They were in the midst of grief over a loved one, whom they believed to be their Saviour, whom they saw humiliated and brutalized, then dead and buried. I’m sure that everyone who has had to plan a funeral thought afterwards, “That decision was really quite silly. What was I thinking? We should have done this instead.”
And it is into this mix of human discombobulation, that the good news is sent. And it is alarming. “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you” (Mark 16:6-7).
It’s too much information all at once. Their heads are spinning. They haven’t even gotten over the shock of the man’s appearance. Jesus’ body is not there. Their plans are spoiled. More spices wasted. They won’t be able to set this right. The crucial egg is gone from the carton and they are left off kilter. All they can do is let the unhinging incident spring them to a stiff posture and twaddle off with quick short steps clinging to each other, “for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” (v. 8). That’s it, end of the reading.
It is so real, at least for me. It ends with fear and paralysis over not being able to fix what you thought needed to be fixed. It reveals ineptitude and inability to set things right. It reveals a need for the Saviour, not just to fix the people around you, but to fix you, to set you straight, to forgive your arrogance for thinking that you could be the fix for yourself or for someone else; to forgive your apathy for not wanting to try to help even when your meagre effort would have made a difference to someone.
And with all of this need for rescue just spilled out everywhere while you tremble in silence, there is hope abounding. Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified is not lying dead in the tomb. He has risen. You will see Him, just as He told you. The Saviour has come to set things straight and He has done it for you. Death is not right, so He put it straight. He rose and He will set right all that death has disrupted. You have been separated from Him by sin, and He will set that right. He forgives you so that you will see Him, just as He said.
All will be put right. He has done all that is necessary for that to happen. It will all be straightened out for you and for everyone else. He has risen. You will see Him. That is more than enough information to handle. You will get over your trembling and bumbling around with that alarming announcement. Your fearful silence will give way to bold confession at the right time and place. He is setting it all straight. You can rely on that, for He has risen... you will see Him.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.