They did not come expecting to find resurrection but resurrection found them anyway.
It was dawn, early morning. I can picture them walking, beginning in darkness and, with each step, the sky slowly transforming around them. Deep blues and indigos gradually broken by faintest lines of pink and tangerine. Did they sit long at the tomb before the earth quaked? Or did the earth quake as they walked, spurring them forward? They had just been there a couple of days ago. Mary and Mary were among the women who were with Jesus at his death. Although at a distance, they were there when Jesus cried out to God. When he was given drink to ease his suffering. When he breathed his last. Mary and Mary were there and they were there as Jesus’ body was carefully wrapped and placed in the tomb. And they were there, sitting opposite the tomb, when its great stone door was rolled shut. So of course, of course, they would go back as soon as they could after the sabbath was over, “to see the tomb,” to go back to the grave of their friend. But a grave is not what they found.
In dramatic, almost cinematic fashion, the earth quakes, an angel like white lightening descends *kachow* from the sky, it rolls the stone away, uses the stone as a seat, and the guards faint. No wonder the first thing the angel says to the Marys is, do not be afraid. I would be terrified. But they do not faint, they stay, they listen, and they believe. “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” And while running to tell the disciples, Jesus himself stops them. Mary and Mary immediately recognize him and Jesus gives them further encouragement and hope.
Mary and Mary become the first people to share the news of the risen Christ but that is not what they set out to do. All they went to do that day was sit vigil and visit the tomb of their dead friend. They came seeking Jesus who was crucified and found Jesus who is risen. They came for mourning and found rejoicing. They came to grieve their friend and instead resurrection found them.
Several years ago a journalist and a world-renowned musician worked together to perform an experiment in a Washington DC transit station. The article the journalist wrote about the experiment opens with these words:
“HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO…AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.” That youngish man was Joshua Bell. The violin was a 1713 Stradivarius worth $3.5 million dollars. The performance? Joshua Bell’s playing has been describe as “[it] does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live.” Now, for comparison, the journalist asked various conductors ahead of time how this scenario might play out. Out of a possible 1,000 people that might pass by they guessed that 75 -100 would stop and listen, that a crowd would gather, and that Joshua Bell would make 150 dollars. During morning rush hour at one of the busiest hubs in Washington DC 1,070 people passed him. No one stopped. No crowd gathered. And Joshua bell made $32.17. 1,000 people, in the midst of their regular old every day life, had the opportunity to experience something extraordinary, it was right there, right along their path. Almost as if the extraordinary had found them.
Think about the Moses and the burning bush. Moses was going about his day, tending sheep, leading the flock to a new area, when *kachow* there’s this bush on fire that isn’t burning up. Moses is like, I think I should check this out, and God speaks to him. That is the start of the liberation of all of Israel. Moses did turn aside, but God found him first.
Think about the disciples. Most of them were also just going about their day, fishing, working, when Jesus says hey, come with me, I got something good going on. They did respond and go, but Jesus found them first. Scripture is filled with people just going about their days and God finding them, the extraordinary finding them, grace finding them, resurrection finding them.
Mary and Mary did not come to the tomb expecting to find resurrection and resurrection found them anyway.
Every day we wake up, go to work, go to school, run errands, spend time with family and friends, enjoy retirement. Some days are great. We feel confident and productive. We feel loved, joyful, and happy. Some days are rough and we struggle. We struggle with self-doubt, grief, diagnoses, depression, addictions, anxiety, fear. Let’s be honest, some weeks, months, and years are rough. Some days, it may be hard just to get out of bed. But no matter what, however we are feeling whatever we are going through, God is reaching out to us. God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and resurrection are the goodness and mercy from Psalm 23 that follow and pursue us all the days of our life. I don’t want to minimize the importance of us recognizing the resurrection around us. Moses, the disciples, the Mary’s, all experienced the extraordinary, where the people in the metro train station didn’t, because they noticed and acted or followed. I don’t want to minimize our role but that is a whole sermon unto itself. Today, we celebrate that resurrection is around you. That resurrection is looking for you.
Resurrection, where your worst moments, your deepest pains, your hardest struggles, do not get the last word.
Resurrection from whatever fears, anxieties, stressors, shame, guilt, the things that weigh on you or keep you up at night.
Resurrection, from the mistakes you’ve made, the things you’ve done, the things done to you.
Resurrection. Where love, grace, hope, forgiveness, and redemption are alive and real.
Resurrection. Where God is making all things new.
It may not occur *kachow*, out of the blue like a burning bush or an angel of the lord. It may be subtle, like Joshua Bell in a train station. Or it may be slow and steady, one day, one habit, one medication, one breath, one moment at a time. But the good news is that whether you’re looking for it or not, or whether you’re expecting it or not, resurrection will find you anyway. You can have resurrection here and now. The good news, is that the resurrection we celebrate on Easter is not just Christ’s resurrection but the hope of our resurrection to.
Christ is risen, Christ is risen indeed.
We are risen. We are risen indeed.