Seward United Methodist Church
Friday, May 24, 2013
Worship God! Proclaim Jesus! Serve With Love!
Go And Tell
Let’s pause for a moment to remember the timing of Jesus’ death and resurrection because they figure prominently in this passage. Jesus’ crucifixion, of course, took place on Friday afternoon. According to the Hebrew tradition, a dead person had to be buried by the end of the day, which was sundown. In their reckoning of time, the day began and ended at sundown, rather than at midnight. Saturday was the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and during that time, no work could be done and nothing could be bought or sold. So it was only after sunset on Saturday that the women were able to go and buy spices for the anointing of Jesus’ body.
Normally that anointing would have been done before burial, but there just wasn’t time on Friday, so they went very early in the morning on Sunday, which by their reckoning of time would be the third day since Jesus’ death, even though it’s only two days by our reckoning.
As they went to the tomb, their chief concern was the stone covering the entrance. The “tomb” they were going to was really a family crypt. It was a small cave, dug into a hillside. Most crypts had a number of small chambers branching off of a “main room.” In these chambers, bodies would be placed on a shelf for one year. By the end of that year, the body would have decayed almost completely, and the bones would be gathered into a small box called an ossuary, and then placed in a different room in the crypt.
The entrances to these small crypts were covered by stones. The usual way of doing it was to carve a disk-shaped piece of rock and place it into a shallow groove in the ground. These stones would be fairly easy to roll into place, but very difficult to roll up and out of the groove. Most of them weighed about 800 pounds.
The women were concerned about who would roll away the stone. They didn’t even know that the tomb had been sealed and placed under guard during the Sabbath. They asked each other, “Who will roll away the stone? Who will open the way for us to get to Jesus.” They did not yet understand that Jesus had risen to open the way for them and us to come to almighty God. But we’ll talk more about that at the 10:15 service. We’ll be talking there about the significance of the resurrection.
When they arrived, they found the stone already rolled away. And inside the tomb was an angel, clothed in white. They didn’t immediately recognize him as an angel, since usually angels are known not by their appearance but by their words and actions. And the angel tells them, “Do not be surprised to find an empty tomb. He has risen. Go and tell his disciples.”
It may not be immediately obvious to us, but this is a wonderful story about how God works. In the first century Hebrew culture, women were considered to be so unreliable that they were not even allowed to testify in court unless a man was able to corroborate their testimony. And yet, that is who God chose to be the first witnesses of the most remarkable event! God chooses the things that the world considers to be “weak” and “foolish” to shame those who think themselves wise.
But what did the women do? Did they go and tell? Well, yes, we know that eventually they did. But what was their immediate reaction? They fled, dumbfounded, fearful, and trembling. And for the moment, they said nothing to anyone.
The Gospel of Mark closes with a great irony. All throughout the Gospel of Mark, there has been what many bible scholars call a “Messianic Secret.” All through the Gospel, Jesus has been telling people to be silent. He tells the demons not to speak of him, but they do. He tells people he heals not to reveal it, but they do. And now at the end, the women are told to proclaim it, and what do they do? They keep silent.
Maybe that’s a commentary on us! When we’re supposed to keep a secret, we can’t. But when we’re supposed to share something, we won’t.
The women had excellent excuses, didn’t they? They were confused. They were frightened. I’m sure they still had doubts about the resurrection. And who would believe them? They were women; too unreliable to be believed!
How about you? What is your excuse for not talking with others about the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Are you afraid to talk about your faith? Do you have some lingering doubts about it? Do you wonder if you will be believed?
If what we believe about the resurrection is true, and we’ll be talking more at 10:15 about what we believe, then it is the most important thing that has ever happened? And we must not be silent.