Mathew 28: 8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
The noise of Friday was over. The bodies taken down. Only a few close family members and others stayed. They watched as the bodies were taken. Jesus to the borrowed tomb, the others to what ever space was available.
The majority of the disciples had long since scurried back to a safe place, no doubt lost and bewildered by what had happened in one short, or was it, long day?
After the body was gone, the women and the one remaining disciple trudged off into the night, weary with sorrow and sadness. Grief is an extremely tiring experience, especially grief received under tragic circumstances. They walked home in the dark.
And how dark it was. Not just physically but spiritually and emotionally. You see they did not know about Sunday yet. Unlike us who leave the Good Friday service, they didn’t know Sunday was coming. They were to spend Saturday, and possibly forever, in the dark place of grief and loss of hope and a future.
Saturday would have been a long day. The day after a funeral when all have gone away and you are left on your own is a long, long day. There is no distraction, no action to keep you occupied. You sit and think about what was and what could have been. “If” only becomes something of a mantra. It is a day of no thing doing. The world has stopped and you can’t get off.
Saturday is the space in between the past and the future and as they had no idea what the future would look like, the space became more of an abyss than a short interruption.
It was something they shared with Jesus without knowing it. Jesus, too, was in the space-in-between. In the tomb he was alone, descending into the abyss that is death, without support, wisdom, love, without God, his Father. He was facing the loss of a life he had embraced willingly for a death he faced obediently. Now, what was the future to look like for him? Did he know or was this a journey into a new way of being for him?
We can’t answer those questions. Nor should we try.
Yet the questions are answered, and as John Purdy suggests, amateurs not theologians, the religious elite or academics, found the answers. Amateurs. Amateurs are those who undertake something out of love for the task at hand. They are not professionals. Amateurs unravel the answer to the riddle of Saturday.
Purdy continues: “Surely the Marys’ went to the tomb out of love…if we know anything of human nature, we know that love was the primary force that drove them there. Love is a more reliable alarm clock than Faith or Hope – more likely to get you out of bed and get you going early in the morning.”
Just as love had led them to the cross, love brought them to the tomb. They could stay in the darkness no longer. They had to go and see where he lay and to hold a vigil if they could do nothing else. Their steps to the tomb would have been as heavy as those that lead them away from the cross. Their heart was no lighter, their tears no less urgent. Yet go they did.
Standing outside the tomb they experience the revelation of the empty tomb. Matthew tells the story with all the bells and whistles with the intention to get the reader to understand what a world changing experience it was. It was scary and exciting. Most scary things are exciting. One can hardly begin to understand the emotions they experienced. To say it blew their mind would be an understatement. Earthquakes, a moving boulder, an emptying and an angel!
How long they stood there we do not know but we do know, according to Matthew what they did next. “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” What a mix of emotions – fear and great joy. One could say it scared the hell out of them! Their fear was one of not understanding what had happened, what would happen, what it meant. Their great joy was because the one they loved was back with them, although I would have probably thrown something at him if he, after he had been crucified and buried, met me with “Greetings”! Was that all he could say? Didn’t he know how they felt?
In the midst of our darkness between Friday and Sunday we now get a glimpse of the light re-entering the world. Our darkness at the loss of Jesus is to be illuminated by his presence.
We know this as a personal truth. We know this as a church to be the truth. We are to celebrate this incredible moment with fear and great joy, because once you have encountered the resurrected Jesus everything, and every shade of things is possible. It is something to fear abut it is something to rejoice in.
Melinda Quivik suggests “The sermon on this day should propel the assembly to leave worship with both awe and celebratory power, eager to see where and how the risen one will meet them in their neighbours and friends, their prayer, their advocacy for what is good and just, and in their own gratitude for life and resurrection.”
This moment changed our world. If it has changed your world what are you doing to be the change Christ brings into the world and your relationships? How does this event illuminate your darkness and empower you to go and do as Jesus requests, as the Marys do, despite a sense of fear but with great joy?
This evening we move from the space-in-between towards the coming light. Tomorrow we meet Jesus for ourselves, what is that going to be like for us? Amen