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  • Writer's pictureLou Hernández

31-03-24 - HE IS NOT HERE - Mark 16



Let us pray: (In this Special Easter week celebrating the death and resurrection of our Beloved Jesus Christ) "Dear Father God we ask you in the name of your Beloved son Jesus Christ for health and healing for our beloved friends and family who are going through a period of pain, anguish, uncertainty of losing battle with illnesses that are causing their faith to break from not having answers to their prayers, but we know that you are a God full of mercy and that you are working in their lives, since as it is written in Ephesians 2:2, 4-6 according to the Scriptures, "we may be dead in faith but you are a God rich in mercy, because through your great love, you give us a life full of faith together with Christ, and through your grace, we will be redeemed and we are saved "bring us back to life with great faith in you Lord Father God and remove from them all illness that is causing pain in their lives we ask this in the name of your beloved son Jesus Christ. AMEN!"

The Sabbath was past and Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.  And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?”  And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large.  And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.  And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.   Mk 16:1-8

Peter:  Impetuous.  Loud.  Words spoken, often before being thought through.  Words often said of me.  But no words spoken now.  Not here.  Now I didn’t have a word for anyone, not even to myself.  Besides what would I say?  That bold brash Peter cowered like a child at a time he should have stood like a man?  Some man – who on the eve of this Sabbath, spoke words that denied, words that betrayed.  Now those words continually speaking back at me.  Woman, I don’t even know this man!  

How do you do that to someone who loved you without reservation?  Who gave you so much?  To someone you loved in return, promising you’d follow even to death? And yet when that time came, you denied.  Doing the unthinkable. 

And now, this Sabbath the ‘unthinkable’ was all I could think about.  This Sabbath is just overwhelmed with unspeakable grief.  No Sabbath rest allowed escape from turmoil unlike any I had ever known.  

How do you rest and take refuge in His unfailing arms Dt 33:27 and worship God when worship won’t come?  Understand, I needed it too – needed to find God in a time like no other but needing and finding aren’t the same thing.  More than me needing to find Him, I needed Him to find me because I was the one so hopelessly lost.  Yet as far as I could tell, given what I had done, so far, God wasn’t anywhere I’d been able to find.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying God may not have been close but He wasn’t in any way I could feel.  And I needed to feel something other than excruciating pain because He was the only One who could make sense of the events we had just witnessed.  I can’t begin to explain the ugliness of it all because you can’t possibly understand. You’ll only hear words and some descriptions of what it was like but we were there – seeing, when we would rather have been blind.  Hearing, when we would rather have been deaf. Not even sleep stopped the replaying of events.  Not that sleep came.  How could it?   

We’d watched the horrific.  The impossible actually.  He was the last one deserving to be treated as he had but what difference had that made?  Deserving hadn’t stopped the whip.  Deserving hadn’t stopped the mocking or the driving in of thorns.  And tell me, by what measure does deserving and a Cross add up?  

This wasn’t something any of us who had been with Him could make sense of.  Together we’d seen things that defied understanding.  Things only God could do.  Who else makes the leper clean with a word?  Who else tells the winds and waves to stop and they do or bring healing with a touch?  Who else speaks life into places death has sealed away?   

Different than the Christ followers with me, I’d experienced what they hadn’t - I held onto His delivering power when He rescued me from the waves.  I was beside Him when He gave back an ear I had taken, given back as if his face had never been struck.  And on a mountain, I witnessed heaven’s glory falling on Him or probably more accurately, His glory falling on heaven, filling it with Himself.  Those who, with spears and swords, took Him saw none of these.  Don’t mistake what I’m saying – they witnessed the amazing - blindness opening to sight, limbs stretched and strengthened as if born that way, miracles of a lunch turned into bounty, the breath of life long gone from a child, returned as if it had never left.  They witnessed all these but they saw none of it.  Their unbelief, unwilling to give away control and position to another.

One day they will give the answer but how was I to give answer for denying the only One who is  True? 

After seeing all I had, so easily let it all go as I warmed hands at a fireside, as I stood before a guard, and most incredibly, as I responded to the accusations of a child.  So no, there’s no reason to wonder why on this Sabbath, I couldn’t hold to anything that provided me any rest.  Not sleep.  Not Scriptures.  Not prayer.  Not comforting words.  None of these brought escape.  Just restless darkness, far darker than any night around a warming fire. 

John: I envied the women.  So different from us, they didn’t hesitate to let their tears flow.  They were far more honest in their grief than the confusion swirling within us.  Don’t misunderstand.  Our grief was unlike anything I can explain.  Grief and confusion.  Like some overwhelming storm wreaking havoc within.  Inexpressible despair.  Despair over our cowardice and fear when we ran like insects escaping the light.  At least Peter had the courage to draw a sword.  

How we ran – each in whatever direction seemed best – not knowing where we were going – just knowing, that we needed to be anywhere but there.  Away from torches and swords.  Away from the hatred and demonic dressed in the religious.  We gave little thought to leaving Him there alone to face what evil had in mind.  I’d like to think that if we’d known what happened next, we would have stayed and given our lives for Him but we hadn’t and, if it were possible for events to be repeated, we likely would have done the same.  That shame kept us silent and incapacitated.

So yes, I envied these women who did what we couldn’t, moving about as if disconnected from things just witnessed but I knew they weren’t.  Instead, they were focused on what they would do as their last act of honouring Jesus.  Their love is was expressed over tears.  Tears that came like the opening of a spigot – flowing one minute then momentarily closing, only to burst open again.

Days before they wouldn’t have imagined visiting a tomb or carrying spices to anoint the One so loved but then again, who sees themselves in places like these? They came to Him differently than we.  We were just doing life, and in that place, called to follow - just a ragtag of fishermen and the unspectacular but it was as if He saw something greater in us, something of value.  Value wasn’t a word many would use for us.  Some, like Matthew, do just the opposite.  He, a tax collector whom so many despised, and if honest, we were among them.  What sort of Jew works for his oppressors against his own people?  Some of the women knew what despised was like – used and abused, then cast aside.  Of value when it suited someone’s purpose but disdained when their use was considered done.  But Jesus speaking worth to them, not valued in the shadow of some man, but valued as the creation and reflection of the everlasting God.  Value reflected back to them from His eyes.      

No wonder their tears flowed so easily yet no tears would get in the way of making preparation for what they were determined to do the next day.  Early in the morning they would go and anoint Jesus’ body.  They wouldn’t let Him go without paying tribute.  Had we not been so lost in our own thoughts, we would have remembered the obvious but mind and emotion are often strangers to one another so it never occurred to us to ask, Who Will Roll Away the Stone? Better yet, we should have gone with them but as events had proven, we were far better at running away.  

Peter:   Until the women came to us, I never stopped to consider how long I’ve been running since that night.  Running from myself trying to escape the demons reminding of what I had done.  But then the women told us things that were too unbelievable to comprehend but their faces spoke truth eyes couldn’t deny.  They had seen Him.  It had to be true because the look on their faces was even greater than the look we had on ours, that night on a mountaintop when we saw Him in a way we’d never done before.  His face radiant and reflecting that, our faces as well, yet in much smaller measure.  Just like these women, their faces still wet with tears but no longer of grief.  But joy.  Overwhelming, radiant joy.  And such talk – one talking over the other, about angels and don’t fear and He’s not here and ...

There was more being said as we bolted up, knocking over the table and started running but John and I couldn’t wait.  We needed to see for ourselves the things of which they spoke.  Me much more than John.  Because if things said were true, it changed everything.  Everything.  The priests, the soldiers, the Romans – everything.  They were just actors in a far greater play.  As I ran, thoughts swirled - about the time I was there with Lazarus and the time with the child when He stood outside what death had done and in that hopelessness, He brought back life. Could what we were going to see be something like that?  The amazing because with Jesus, even in the worst, there was hope.  But even as I ran, the thoughts still dogging – no matter how great that hope was, it couldn’t get rid of the inevitable - in time death and disease would still come – it was only delayed, not destroyed.  John the Baptist still died.  His father, Joseph still died.  And Lazarus, in days to come, would also die.  But with Jesus dead, undeniably dead, hope itself was dead. 

But if what the women told us were true, this time life brought back in a completely different, ‘had to be miraculous’ way?  Jesus is alive.  Life given that could never die.  Life that could only come from God, That hope was why I couldn’t stop running even when John stopped outside the tomb’s door, just looking in.  I had to go in where He had lain, had to see what we’d been told.  And in that moment, I knew – really knew!!  Everything He told us, everything we hadn’t understood, came flooding back, Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in 3 days Jn 2:19 and greater than Jonah, The Son of Man will be 3 days and 3 nights in the heart of the earth and will be raised again on the 3rd day Mtth 12:40;16:21.  He wasn’t talking about a building and some rocks.  He was the Temple of which he spoke.  He was the fig tree that promised life.  He was alive!  Hope was alive!  Though I hadn’t yet seen Him - what the angels told the women was true – He is risen just as He said!  And that meant I was forgiven!  Forgiven of my foolishness and my sin.  Forgiven of my failures, my denial, my unbelief.  Forgiven of words rashly said and a life recklessly lived.  I am forgiven! 

So what does the resurrection mean for you and me?  For some – it’s remaining in the story – reciting, revisiting and remembering a great event.  For others – it’s going one step further, believing and embracing this as far greater than a story.  Believing the greatest truth - that in Jesus’ death and resurrection, our sins can be forgiven and our lives made new.  Like Peter and John, an introduction to a new life. There is no greater truth than knowing, that through the blood of Jesus, we have been made right with God.

But there’s another side of the resurrection that some of us may also need to hear anew this Easter and that is what it means today to live with Resurrection hope.  Not just hope for ‘some time when’ but for ‘this time now’.  And this comes by understanding that Easter Sunday only marks the beginning of what God wants us to know and enter into.

That Jesus didn’t come just to save us, to make us Christ believers, He came, calling us to be Christ followers.  To become like Him.  To know Him, to trust Him, to obey Him. In our today and for our tomorrows to come.  

To follow Him.  To value what He values and detach from things that, despite appearances, are valueless.   To know and experience His ongoing, never-failing love.

Following Him when life is great – going the way we want it to.  And following when life gets uncertain and hard.  When death comes, perhaps not physically but when death seals us in.  When our sin seems too great, our addictions too strong, our lies too large.  Those times we feel we are buried 6 feet under.  

When like Peter, we experience the death of hope – when life has been crippled and destroyed.  When the actions we’ve taken have convinced us there is no getting out, no getting free. – the failures that have come, the wrong turns taken, the relationships destroyed, the disappointments felt, the sin that has overwhelmed.  

And the message of Easter? The story of Easter has never stopped. Jesus, the Son of God still does resurrection when we come to Him to bow and repent. Jesus coming right into the places where we have given up hope.  Speaking life into the cold and bitter places.  Abandoned places.  Unreachable, can’t come there places.  The ‘we’ve sinned yet again’ and God won’t forgive places.

And yet – these are exactly the places Jesus does come, with His word of resurrection.  Not just giving us resurrection into new life but giving us the power of new life in our everyday.

Listen to what Ephesians tells us: You were dead in your trespasses and sin but God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by Grace you have been saved – and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus.  Eph 2:2,4-6

Understand this – Jesus knows the places death takes hold.  He’s been there.  And He’s not afraid to go there again and again and again.  But understand, He refuses to take up residence where death is, instead He breathes into what’s dead to have us walk out into life – life in the now and far better, in the abundant life of ‘what’s ahead’ where we will live with Him forever.

This is why we aren’t called to just believe, we are called to follow.  All is possible because of Jesus’ forgiving shed blood and the reality of a wide open, empty tomb. So this Easter, Jesus’ words to us are the same as those He said to Martha: 

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though

he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes

in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”  Jn 11:25,26   

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