The Gospel of Mark leaves much to be desired. Were it the only written material on the life and death of Jesus, as we know it today, Christmas would be omitted and Easter would have more panic than promise. And such painful realities of betrayal and denial would move beyond speculation.
Yet, the proclamation of “Do not fear,” in the face of an empty tomb, added to “He is not here; go and share the news he has been raised,” are the foundation truths of my religious journey.
Of course we have the fuller accounts of the resurrection from Matthew, Luke, John and Paul. Of course we read about filling nets with fish, about how death no longer has a sting, how we are triumphant, victorious even over death. Of course we affirm that in any circumstance, God’s love trumps any sin, any hate, any indifference, any scoffing, any fear, any anxiety, any dread.
So it is this Easter morning. The tomb is empty. Jesus died, was buried and rose again from the dead. I believe that. And in its fullest and deepest essence, it makes, every moment of up and down, more than tolerable and manageable. It makes life itself a wonderful moment. All because of God’s Power.
Sure there are moments when we’d like to have the cup passed on without partaking. Certainly doubt isn’t always stranger, wants to intrude into our common experience. Without hesitance we can say that the clouds of Good Friday and the reality of burial become persuasive headlines.
Yet, today is Easter. And, hope can be realized, the future clearly resolved…at least in the ultimate sense.
Many years ago—in fact it was my first Easter sermon as ordained pastor—I had preached the earlier service, about the Empty Tomb, a time for faith, of trust. During the 2nd service the senior pastor made it clear, “The tomb was not empty.” After the service I called my mentor in ministry, Fred Trost, and said, “Fred, please tell me the Lord is Risen.” Fred has always been a source of assurance and resolve.
Fred did not whisper, “Markie [my moniker from him], the Lord is risen; the Lord is risen indeed.”
The truth prevailed…and it makes all the difference in the world.
One more notion…Easter is not a one-way event, Christ raised from the dead by the power and love of God. Easter is not the Risen Lord saying with compassion and promise, “I am with you.” It is more…the Preacher this morning made it clear: the reciprocity of Easter. Yes, Jesus says for all time and even more, “I am with you.” But. That declaration brings an inquiry from Jesus, “Are you with me?”
The answer is important, to do our part, to fulfill the most important relationship we can ever experience.
So, Happy Easter dear family, friends and colleagues. May this day be known for its light, for its love and for its hope and for our response to the Risen Lord’s question.
Certainly the tomb was empty. Jesus was no longer there. He is with us…in spirit and in truth. Always. And hopefully no less, we are with Him. Let us be vigilant and resolved to keep Easter a two-way street.
I close with this prayer:
O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light: Grant that we, who have been raised with him, may abide in his present and rejoice in the promise of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be dominion and praise for ever and ever. Amen.