A few weeks ago i wrote why the sadness of holy week matters to me; here is why the resurrection matters to me, as it interrupts and subverts all that grief. (And while Easter is past, the good liturginerd in me assures you: Easter is a season! So indulge me?)
Luke 24:1 – 14
24 Very early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women went to the tomb, bringing the fragrant spices they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 They didn’t know what to make of this. Suddenly, two men were standing beside them in gleaming bright clothing. 5 The women were frightened and bowed their faces toward the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He isn’t here, but has been raised. Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Human One[a] must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8 Then they remembered his words. 9 When they returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the eleven and all the others. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. 12 But Peter ran to the tomb. When he bent over to look inside, he saw only the linen cloth. Then he returned home, wondering what had happened.
“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense.”
Resurrection is nonsense.
I don’t mean resurrection is not real – or even that resurrection did not happen – no, the resurrection is real, it happened, but it is nonsense.
Non-sense, non-sensical, non-sensible – resurrection does not make sense.
I mean, can you imagine what Joanna and Mary Magdalene and Mary were thinking that morning? In the dark quiet, we are told, very, very early – probably before the sun has pulled itself over the horizon, when the night sky is blue-ish black and everything feels heavy.
Our Palm Sunday reading reminded us that all of these womyn had been with Jesus since Galilee. They had been with him since John had baptized Jesus in the river – maybe, even, since Jesus was a precocious and curious child wandering the streets of Nazareth.
And they had watched him, heard him, on the cross. They had been helpless to stop the powerful state from executing Jesus as a criminal whose crime was to care for the most impoverished and powerless. They had to watch as their own community – perhaps, even the same community who had also known Jesus since his childhood days – they watched their friends and neighbors and religious leaders turn on Jesus. They watched the horror of what happens when we give into the fear of the other.
Lamenting and shocked, the women gather in the heavy darkness of early morning to care for their Jesus one last time.
In the midst of a world that does not make sense, they are trying to find something to cling to.
Maybe they were going through the motions – trying to schedule a good time for the visitation, picking out flowers that reminded them of when Jesus was young, thinking about a hymn for he funeral. Maybe they had picked up each ointment and spice with deliberate care, thinking of how they would wash his body so their last memories of his face and his hands would not be his ragged breaths or his crying.
To me, it seems like these womyn were doing a healthy and normal thing to do with grief –they were facing it, and facing it together.
But there, there in the midst of their numbness and their fear – right there, God interrupts.
All of Lent – but especially in Holy Week, when we have had service after service remembering the betrayal and the sorrow –when we have repented and lamented – Easter, almost rudely, interrupts our lament.
The men appear in gleaming bright clothing and the womyn are so shocked and afraid they bury their faces into their hands.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” they ask.
To me, this questions seems a bit obvious, if not cruel – these women have been through a real trauma. They did not come seeking the living among the dead, they came to tend to the dead.
But i don’t think these men – these angels – are chiding the womyn for their grief. “He is not here,” i imagine them saying tenderly. “Remember?”
Remember all those times Jesus began to talk about dying and we all got a little tight in our chests, a little uncomfortable in our seats – sure, Jesus, you’re the Messiah, but dying? No thanks. Remember all those times Jesus touched a bleeding woman or a leper or an exploitative tax collector and they were suddenly new, brand-new and healthy and believing?
Remember your God? Remember the God who knows your sitting down and your standing up, who made you so fearfully and wonderfully? Remember the God who is so big, and so wide, that even if you descend to Sheol, She is there?
Do you remember your God?
The God who wept when Lazarus died because Mary and Martha, you hurt was his hurt too – and the God who calmed the storm with one hand – do you remember your God?
Perhaps most nonsensically of all – these women did remember.
They remembered what Jesus had told them. They remembered the Jesus who wept with them, who healed them, who walked with him.
They don’t even get to touch their fingers to his pierced side, they don’t see the floodgates of heaven beckoning them into a new world order – they remember their friend. Their son. Their brother. Their Lord.
They remembered that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus never made sense – Jesus was both the human who wept on the cross and the God he wept to – Jesus never made sense because his love turned tables and healed wounds.
The womyn remembered their nonsensical Jesus.
I wonder if having hope is a kind of eschatological remembering. I know that sounds like an ostentatious Divinity Student thing to say, but i mean it – i wonder if hope is remembering that Jesus walked out of the tomb, the dirt of it still under his nails, his body still broken – i wonder if hope is remembering that this pierced, crucified Jesus did not walk away from the crucifixion unscathed but he walked away from it new.
Revelation 21:5 tells us that in the last days God will make a new heaven and a new earth and i wonder – i wonder if this Jesus with rough hands and feet teaches us that hope is not perfect, hope is new.
Hope comes from the rough edges, from pierced hands that still bless us, from pierced feet that keep walking, from a head that was crowned with thorns that still looked to the sky for God.
Hope does not say that the crucifixion was not real. Hope does not expect us to be whole or perfect or emotionally ready.
Hope does not mandate that we be crucified or demand that our suffering become the reason we can now have hope.
It is no wonder that the disciples heard this hope as nonsense. Hope doesn’t make sense. It would have made a lot more sense if the womyn had just gone to anoint his still-dead body, or if the body had been taken by the Romans so the Jewish martyr would not incite any more rebellion.
But hope does not make sense because hope is bigger than the rules and the fears and the predictability of this world. Hope is knowing that Jesus is risen, Jesus is with us, and that he who was put to death for loving in all the non-sensible places lives.
And this Jesus who lives is saying do not look for me among the dead, because I am right here.
Right here. With you.