What happens when hopes aren’t realized? When the things you have believed in or worked hard for fail? Is it better to have no hope than to have hopes that are dashed? These must have been the complex emotions of those people who left their nets, their families and their homes behind and hung all their hope on the itinerant rabbi from Nazareth. As they followed, they witnessed time and time again Jesus teaching with authority, the healing in his touch, the grace in his voice and the blessing in his eyes. This was no ordinary rabbi. And he spent his time with such ordinary people, which gave them hope. A hope that something special, even revolutionary was brewing. He spoke in riddles and parables but it all seemed to point to a claim he continued to make. He was special. He was the son of God. He was Israel’s long-awaited Messiah.
But he hung out with the ordinary, even marginalized folk; not people of power, like the priests and lawyers. He spoke about forgiveness and turning the other cheek, not a violent over-throwing of the Roman occupation. Jesus was different. His kingdom was about giving up power and trusting the words of God fully. God was in control. God would prevail. God’s people must love God and love neighbor as oneself. Even their enemies deserved their love. It sure was different than anything they had heard of before but they went along, often stumbling and doubting. Jesus was quick to correct but patient to the end. Jesus made them believers in the Way. A new Kingdom was on the horizon. It would come about by God’s doing, not human action.
Yet, in the end, were they foolish to believe the world would ever operate differently? Instead of love triumphing, it was the powerful, the wealthy, the possessors of violence and fear that dashed their hopes. One of their own sold Jesus out for just thirty pieces of silver. That’s all it took. It’s hard to resist power and money. Once Jesus was under the authority of the ruling class – the Romans – and their uncomfortable bedfellows, the priests and Sadducees, it all moved quickly. The revolution was squashed with the violent death of a man who only loved everyone he met. His one crime? Exposing the excesses of the religious elite and their propensity to love themselves rather than embracing the privilege to serve God and others.
In the aftermath of such devastation. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were walking to Jesus’ tomb in the early morning light. What must they have been thinking and feeling? The man who had so inspired them and gave them a hope they never knew possible was suddenly no more. The authorities once again had proved who was really in charge. As Cameron Murchison mentions in Feasting on the Word, “The women on their way to anoint Jesus’ body (may have been) making peace not only with the death of Jesus but with the death of Jesus’ claim to embody the reign of God for the well-being of the world.” What sadness, fear, and even depression must they have been feeling on that early morning walk? Have you ever walked in their shoes?
The utter despair of the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is all but lost on most of us who follow in the Way. We leave the Good Friday service touched by the sacrifice of Christ but with chores to do, soccer games to attend on Saturday, and the Easter ham to prepare. Life goes on. We know how the story ends.
But for these women, who thought the story had ended in death, and for the disciples, who fled in fear for their own lives, the darkness and despair were real. So imagine, if you can, the disorientation, the confusion, the utter change in perspective the empty tomb and the angel provides these ladies. Utterly stunned? I imagine it would have taken time for me to work all this out. To hash my experience out with other followers. Then, to begin to comprehend that, in fact, this new Way is possible. It is real. What’s more, the powers of violence and self-preservation had taken their best swing at God’s son and had fallen short. The cracks of man’s kingdom were showing and God’s Kingdom was possible, after all.
It’s a great story – and a true one, too! So now we must ask: what does this reality, Jesus raised from the dead, mean for me?
- How do I live in the reality of the resurrection when it seems like the powers of deception, confusion, domination, violence and self-aggrandizing are in firm control all around me?
- What does resurrection say to me when my life seems out of control and hope is lost?
- In whom do I trust? The creator of all things and the one who raises the dead or what I see and touch and hear?
- How does the power of God and the power of man present differently in our world? Which is easier to follow?
The angel’s instructions to the women were to go and tell.
- For the women, who expected to find Jesus’ dead body, would this have been a hard task?
- When we experience amazing, transformative experiences, how do we respond? Are we compelled to talk about the news? Is it fun or hard to share our experiences?
- What happens when the new of resurrection is not shared?
May the sudden, good news of Easter transform our lives and make us eager to go and tell!