Salem Lutheran Church

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It's No Joke!

Happy Easter! You know, Easter is probably my favorite holiday. For me I can’t even say the word Easter without smiling. It is a happy day because for so long now, 40 days, we have been focusing on what needs to change in our lives and how we are to do that, and now, today, we get to focus on he joy that will make that change possible. We get to hear how Jesus overcame death and that he has been raised. Instead of focusing on the bad news of his arrest and trial and crucifixion, today we get to focus on his new life and how awesome that is for us. I mean, doesn’t that just make you smile?

But to be honest, this Resurrection story as it is told in Mark’s gospel today leaves a little to be desired, doesn’t it? While Jesus is mentioned and his promise is invoked, he does not even make a cameo appearance. And, to make this story somewhat anti-climatic, Mark claims that the women who went to the tomb leave and don’t even tell anyone about what had just happened. Is this a joke? I mean, Mark is sharing the best news we could ever hear and he ends his story in such an odd way, “So they (the women), went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said noting to anyone, for they were afraid” (Mark 16:8). What an odd ending.

You know what else is really odd about this story? Well, throughout Mark’s gospel every time Jesus did something incredible he would beg the people to keep quiet about what he was doing. But, the more he told them to be quiet, the more they insisted on telling everyone what he had done. Scholars call this the “Great Messianic Secret” of the Gospel of Mark. But it wasn’t a secret at all, and in fact, one of the reasons Jesus ended up dead was because people kept telling other people about what Jesus was doing.

But, here in the Resurrection story, while in the empty tomb, Jesus finally sent word through the young man in the white clothes that it is OK to go tell everyone what Jesus is up to and where he is going and now they say “nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” You have got to be kidding, right? I mean it’s almost like a joke, isn’t it, where the punch line is “and they sod nothing to anyone…”.

Make no mistake, this is no joke! I know it is April 1st and we also call this April Fool's Day, but this story we are hearing this morning and the promise it brings to us is no joke. So what is it that Mark wants us to hear in this great story of love and hope? Let’s go back and take a look.

Mark tells us that it was early on that first day of the week and the sun had just risen and the two Marys and Salome went to the tomb expecting to find a dead body that had been unceremoniously shoved into the grave before dark on the previous Friday because it was the Sabbath and they could not prepare the body properly for burial. So now they return to the tomb expecting to find a dead body. They knew all about what had happened and they had seen him crucified, so they had no doubt that Jesus, their Lord and Messiah, was dead. So when they find the tomb open and empty and the young man says to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here” (16:6) , you can imagine that such news would have been more than just a little startling. I mean, think about how you would react if you had seen someone killed and then a few days later you were told they were alive. You, too, would be terrified and freaked out. You too would probably think someone was playing a joke on you, and more than likely, before you went and told anyone, you would need time to process the news and take time to try and make sense of it all.

Now, as the story ends today, it leaves us wanting more, doesn’t it? Since there was no “resurrected Jesus” in this story, when did the disciples get to see him? Where would they see him? And what would happen when they saw him? Now, we know the answers because other writers added to Mark’s story, but they are still great questions for us to ask ourselves today. Since, to my knowledge, like the Marys and Salome on that first Easter morning, none of us have seen the Resurrected Jesus, maybe we ought to be asking, “Where can we find him?” “How can we encounter him and who should we be telling?”. Well, as was true on that first Easter, Mark gives us the answer to these questions. If we want to encounter the Resurrected Jesus we only need to go to Galilee. No, not literally to Galilee, but to those places that are like Galilee. Going back to Galilee means going to the places where Jesus ministered. To encounter Jesus one need only to feed the hungry, seek to help people who struggle with mental, physical, and/or spiritual illnesses; in Jesus’ day they called that driving out the demons. To encounter Jesus one need only offer words of hope to the brokenhearted, healing those in distress, and breaking down the barrier walls that separate people. It is these places that we can and will experience the power of, and witness, the Resurrected Jesus. It is in such places that we experience the Resurrected Jesus meeting and leading us into new life, and for me this is the good news of today.

Jesus is alive and he has gone ahead of us to those marginalized places where the poor remain, where those who live in fear seek peace, where the hungry seek food, where the homeless seek shelter, and it is in those places that we, like the Marys, Salome, Peter, and the other disciples, will find the Resurrected Jesus.

You know, just recently the staff here at Salem took a Wednesday morning to go down and work at MLM, and I can tell you I saw the Resurrected Jesus that morning. I saw him in the eyes of an old woman who could barley walk but came early that day to work and help people sign in to get help there at MLM. I saw Jesus in the eyes and the hands of the two women who so joyfully gave up their mornings to be there to set out the food for the numerous seniors who came to get food. I saw Jesus in the people who came to receive help as they smiled and shared their lives with us as we carried their food to their cars or helped them put it in their carts. I saw Jesus in the eyes of our staff as they so willing gave their time to serve. On that Wednesday morning just 10 days ago I remembered those words of the young man in the white robes, if you are looking for Jesus, he is not dead, he has been raised and “he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” It was in Galilee, that is MLM in Kansas City, Missouri, that I saw Jesus, right where he said he would be.

Brothers and sisters, today, we gather to celebrate Easter, and as hard as it is to not think in this crazy, messed up world that God must be dead, let me assure you, it is no joke, He is Alive and he has gone ahead of us to those places we probably don’t want to go, and it is there we will find him. I pray you leave here with a smile on your face today, not because you have heard a good joke, or a funny story, but because you have heard and believed the Good News that Christ has Risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! Amen.


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