April 1, 2018

Showing up for the Resurrection

It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with [Jesus] from Galilee followed [Joseph of Arimathea], and they saw the tomb and how [Jesus’s] body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.

Luke 23:54—24:3

We rarely read the end of the crucifixion story as it flows into the story of the resurrection. The story ends with Jesus’ burial on Passion Sunday and Good Friday and we pick it up on the way to the tomb with the women at dawn on Easter Sunday.

The women are in a hurry on Friday. The Sabbath fast approaches and they are faithful Jews. They are able to make only a quick trip to see where their beloved Jesus has been laid. They return home and work fast to prepare to properly anoint Jesus’ body as soon as the Sabbath ends. They rest and – I imagine – they grieve. But they don’t sink so deep into their grief as to forget their purpose: to continue to care for the one they have loved and followed, even in death. As soon as the new day dawns, they are on their way, maybe before the sun even rises. We know the story from there. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is empty.

If it had not been for those faithful women and their urgency, who would have noticed the resurrection? How long might it have taken? If they had taken Jesus literally, let the dead the bury the dead, and gone about their other business after the Sabbath, who would have seen the stone? Met the angels?
As so many of our churches struggle, it is easy to forget about the possibility of resurrection. We are working so hard to make things work, especially things that used to work, things that we are told should work, things that have worked for other people. We are more like the eleven remaining apostles, locked in a room out of fear of the outside world, hunkered down and plotting our next move in the midst of our grief and disappointment. We may even sneer at the people who maintain a steady faith in their purpose, whose dedication to simple tasks seems unlikely to make a dent in the huge challenges we face. The Eleven sneered at the women who brought news of the resurrection. They dismissed their report as idle gossip.

I’m not entirely sure what a faith like that of those women at the tomb would look like in practice. I’m not so sure I don’t sometimes sneer at simple acts of faith and ritual and community life that might mirror their commitment to anointing Jesus’ body properly. I do know that I don’t want to miss the resurrection. When the stone is rolled away, I want to be early on the scene. I want to meet the angels. I never want my own moments of grief and despair to obscure the possibility that something utterly new and completely unexpected might already be happening, right here, right now.

Thank God those faithful women showed up for the resurrection. May we have the courage and the faith and the good fortune to show up in our time and place.

Happy Easter!