Experiencing resurrection

Mark 16:1-8

Some years ago someone received a letter from the then DHSS, informing him that his benefit would be stopped at the end of March 1986 because he had died. The letter then went onto say, “you may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances.”

Someone once wrote into the problem page of a magazine:
“Our preacher at Easter said that Jesus just fainted on the cross and that the disciples nursed him back to health. What do you think? Yours sincerely, Bewildered of Tunbridge Wells.”
The reply read:
“Dear Bewildered, beat your preacher with a cat-of-nine-tails with 39 heavy strokes, nail him to a cross; hang him in the sun for 6 hours; run a spear through his side, and put him in an airless tomb for 36 hours and see what happens.”

There is no conjuring trick with bones: Christ is risen!

That is not to say that Jesus knew everything would be alright in the end. None of us can ever be absolutely sure that things will be all right in the end. We may believe they are going to be all right, we may have faith in the future, but there’s always that nagging doubt. And there are times that are so awful that we may be convinced things will never be all right again.

That’s the position those three women were in when they went to the tomb in the garden early on the Sunday morning. Their favourite person, the person in whom they had invested all their hopes, had been killed. And he hadn’t done much to prevent it. He hadn’t even protested his innocence or attempted to load the dice in his favour. So on that Sunday morning the women must have been experiencing a huge tumult of emotions, anger and terror and shock and horror all overlaid by immense grief.

All four gospels are slightly different in how they describe things, and the resurrection is no different. Matthew has the James Bond version of the story, all excitement and rapid movement. It starts with an earthquake, during which an angel of the Lord floats down from heaven, rolls back a massive stone which normally requires three or four men to move, and then perches himself on the stone. The guards were so terrified they collapsed. Luke offers the chick lit version, telling the story from the perspective of the women, who were scorned, but proved right in the end. John, which we’ll read tonight, offers the biopic version: Mary Magdalene and her encounter with the risen Lord.

And yet Mark’s gospel, which we read today, provides the most low-key of all the accounts of the resurrection. It simply ends with the disciples running away because they were afraid. Had the disciples invented the story of the resurrection, I’m they would have used more colourful language – Jesus emerging from the tomb to the accompaniment of trumpets sounding, drums beating, lightning flashing. What for the disciples had been a life transforming event, was so precious, holy and true that they seem to have felt that to tell it in anything other than whispers, would dishonour it. So, they understate rather than overstate. I suppose this is British version of polite understatement.

What are we to make of this story today? Because each of the gospel writers has a different version of the story I don’t think we’re expected to literally believe every detail we’re told. But however they report it, all the gospel writers consistently report an event which was out of the ordinary, an event which had a huge impact on the lives of those who witnessed it, and an event which they all refer to as resurrection from the dead.

There seems no doubt that many people, at several different times, experienced Jesus in a very real way after he had died. The disciples met Jesus in several places. Paul never met Jesus before the crucifixion, but he did have a dramatic experience in which he saw a blinding light and heard a voice from heaven, and he immediately identified this as an experience of Jesus.

Such experiences of Jesus continue today. They may not often be sudden and dramatic, they may be more often slow and gradual, an almost imperceptible growing towards God. All of us have God within us. Discovering this, and sensing the new life is how we can know the resurrection of Jesus. It doesn’t mean that nothing bad or painful happens ever again, but it does mean that when anything bad happens, we have strength to handle it. In our darkest moments, God is within us, offering hope to us. Often people tell me they wonder how they’ll find the strength to cope with something. Even more often, people look at someone and ask how they find the strength to cope. Of course, that strength is the risen presence of Jesus, and if we can discover that in us and our world today, then the power that rolled away the stone, and brought new life in seemingly impossible situations can be real in our world and our lives.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Similar Posts