Grace to you and Peace from God our loving Father and Christ our risen Lord!
Dear friends, I am ashamed. I stood with them and him. All the day on Friday. I was so scared. But I wouldn’t move. I, Mary Magdalen, stood there at the food of the cross. Waiting for the miracle to happen. But nothing happened. He died. This was the end. All that we had hoped for died with him. And we had many hopes, dear friends. Women were allowed to learn and talk and ask questions with him. He dinned with lepers, tax collectors and law breakers. We had even hoped that his kingdom would come true and that we would get rid of the Romans. Oh those cruel Romans. It was them who nailed him to that horrible cross. We took him from the cross after he died and laid him into the tomb of one of his followers. We couldn’t do more because it started to get dark and Sabbath was approaching.
But Mary, Salome and I had made plans to go back to the tomb the day after Sabbath and prepare his body for burial. I have no idea what we were thinking. After all the Romans had rolled this huge stone in front of the entrance to the tomb. How were we three supposed to roll it back? But we still had to go. We couldn’t help it. I had loved him so much I needed to see him once more and say good bye. But when we arrived the stone was already rolled away. I was scarred now. And I didn’t want to enter that tomb. But Salome insisted. So in we went. The tomb was empty! Well, not totally empty. There was a young man. Telling us that Jesus was not there. He showed us the clothes in which we had bound Jesus Friday. And he told us to go and tell Peter and the others to meet Jesus in Galilee. We ran out of the tomb. Terrified! Scared! Frightened!
I am ashamed dear friends. Because we never told Peter or the others. Who would have believed us? I am not sure I myself believe what happened there in the tomb! How could Jesus go ahead to Galilee? I saw him dying! He was dead Friday when they closed that entrance. And now? And now? No, dear friends, I can’t talk about this? Who would believe me? Who?
Who would have believed her indeed? And who would believe us if we tell this story today? Isn’t that the reason why we always run away and say nothing to no one? We all are the Marys of this world today. We all are too ashamed, too intimidated, too afraid to witness to that person who died so shamefully on the cross but who was raised by God to eternal life. Do you talk about your faith? Or about what God has done for you? Do you?
Well, I most certainly don’t most of the time. Because I don’t want to be in the same boat with those weird Christians. Those loudmouths. Those people who always talk about what we have to do to earn eternal life. Or those who always talk about the last day when they will be saved and we, those not born again, won’t. See, I don’t want people to think I am such a crazy girl. And so I don’t say anything. Also who knows how people react when we tell. Maybe they laugh at us. Or maybe they won’t speak with us anymore. I don’t want to loose a friend over that!
Whatever our reasons are, we all fall short in being a good witness of God’s love and grace. And so we run away and keep silent, leaving the witness to other people. And then when we don’t like what those other people share about their witness, we complain.
We are not alone in this. As you know we do not have the original gospel texts. Instead we have copies of copies of copies of the original text. And somewhere along all this copying one of the people copying the gospel got uncomfortable with the text we read this morning. What kind of an end to the story is this? Mark starts his gospel with the words: this is the good news about Jesus. But what good news is this that ends with the words: “and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid” ?!? That does not sound like good news at all. People still do not obey what God tells them. They run away, keep silent. They hide. And so our brave copyist had an idea. He could not change the ending since it was already very well known. But he added a few more lines. Now the end of the text reads:
“And all that had been commanded them they told briefly to those around Peter. And afterward Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”
That sounds so much better. This is the fitting end to a really good news. This is an ending Hollywood would be proud of!
But it this how our life in and with God is? The glossy Hollywood fairy tale? Or might this be one of those unexpected stories? Where the protagonist constantly messes up? Never listens? And in the end, totally undeserving, still is made a winner?
So what is this Sunday (and every Sunday) about? It is about the risen Christ. It is about God who forgave us all our sins. About God, who proclaims us good, even though we proof over and over again we are not worthy to be called good. This is the miracle of this day. This is the miracle Mary had been waiting for at the foot of the cross: That through our biggest sin, through the killing of God’s own son on the cross, God has declared us good and righteous. God has turned our biggest sin into His grace.
But together with Mary we have such a hard time believing this. We might feel that there are some things in our lives that God cannot forgive us. They are too horrible. Too mean. They drag us down. We live in shame because of them. And we fear that one day other people may find out and will run away from us. But Jesus died also for those sins in our lives. He died for all sins. No matter what we have done, God has forgiven us. Our sins, our bad past, those things we do not want to admit, are wiped out. They died with Jesus on that cross.
Or we might feel that God has other things in Her mind than our problems and concerns. God takes care of the big things, the really meaningful things, but not of our small, little, insignificant lives. But God loves all of us so much that He gave His only son for us. So nothing ever could be too small for Him.
Or we might think that God mostly helps those who help themselves. So we work hard, we try not to sin and if we do we ask God for forgiveness. We labour and toil and try to do what is good. But while doing this we have lost sight of our real sin: that we do not trust God with our lives. We are concerned about our behavior, while it is our heart that really sins. Because the biggest sin is not murder, or abuse, or whatever other horrible act we could imagine, but our unwillingness to trust God. We put ourselves in the middle of life instead. Thinking that we can do it on our own. Or we despair and feel that God’s promises are not for us and that we belong cast down into darkness and punishment. Both is sinning. God came down to us. He came down to help us. He became one of us. He lived with us. He shared our problems, feelings, and fears. He also died for us.
All our sins, all that we do and did not do, nailed him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead. Jesus is risen and the tomb is empty. We had been captive to our sins and had been condemned to death. But Jesus died our death so that we may be free and live. This is the good news of today. This is the true kingdom of God. Not the kingdom Mary had hoped for. We are all still part of the community and all that is going on in that community. God did and does not change that. But through God’s grace we have been made into brothers and sisters. God is our Father and through Christ we have become heirs to God’s promises. We are His free people. Not bound to death and sin anymore. But free through Christ’s blood on the cross.
We might try to run away from sharing this good news like Jonah did. But the good news cannot be kept silent. God has made us free. God has made you free. The sin we were so ashamed of; the sin we fear if it is found out: forgiven. Not there anymore. Erased. Our feelings of unworthiness; our fears and our untrusting nature: forgiven. Our old self, our old Adam and Eve died on the cross with Christ. And together with Christ we now have come to new life.
This morning we ran away with Mary. Too scared to share the good news. But this world needs to hear the good news. This world needs to hear the good news of forgiveness and reconciliation. This world needs us to witness to God’s love for all creation. This world needs you and your witness!
So now we should come back to the tomb. And instead of running away let us proclaim the mystery, wonder and good news of this day.
Christ is risen! And let all the people here this morning answer “He is risen indeed!”.
Christ is risen! “He is risen indeed!”
Christ is risen! “He is risen indeed!”
Christ is risen! “He is risen indeed!”
May the mercy of God and the love of our risen Lord be with you always!