Click here for the reading: Mark 16:1-8.
The women were too slow. But who can blame them? The crux of the matter is that the Lord is just too fast. Judah’s lion bounds out from the grave. The bridegroom leaves his chamber like a strong man running his course with joy. And by the time the women arrive, somberly walking to anoint his dead body, He is not there, their task rendered utterly unneeded.
The speed of our Lord is not emphasized here as though he just intends to win a race. Neither is our Lord trying to avoid his people. Rather, it is as the young man (angel) says, “To Galilee he goes before you…”. He makes haste to pave the way for his people to follow.
It is strikingly odd that on Easter Sunday we have a reading from which Christ is absent. We know from later verses and the other Gospels that Jesus didn’t simply leave them in his wake. He came back to those women, to his disciples, and eventually even to 500 others. But, on Easter morning, at the tomb, it is the “going ahead” that is emphasized.
Much can be made of the “going ahead” of our Lord. So much is spoken of in our times about forming and becoming good leaders. But already long ago Christ was, or shall we say, is, the great leader. That primal call, “follow me,” which he spoke with such magnetic force that Andrew and Peter, James and John, abandoned their business and their own fathers to follow. The Lord has always been the one who “goes ahead,” of his disciples.
Accompanying his speed, his going ahead, though is a title and a promise. The young man at the tomb makes sure that the women know that the crucifixion has not receded into history. It has left its mark. So he titles the Risen Lord, “the crucified one,” which in Greek is a perfect passive participle, emphasizing the ongoing effect of the crucifixion. Easter Sunday is probably not the time to take your congregation on a Greek grammar tour, but the point can and should be quickly and powerfully made. The one who goes ahead is not an unknown enigma. He is now and forever, “The Crucified.” All who know him as this, know Him well and can safely and confidently follow where he goes.
The promise is given after the title, “You will see him in Galilee, just as He said to you.” Context is important here, lest we suppose we must book a flight to Tel Aviv and make plans for a trek to that ancient village. To the apostles the Galilean appearance was promised. Not so the church. But do we not have our own promises? Where has the crucified one who is now risen promised that we will see Him? (Every Lutheran preacher worth his salt will know how to answer and proclaim this)
Finally something should be said about the women’s reaction. We shouldn’t blame them for being too slow, and neither should they be faulted for being fearful and silent. After all, it isn’t every day that a man is raised from the dead. While we do not aim to generate emotions, there is value to proclaiming the fear, the awe, the dread of the Lord that overcame them there at the tomb. Do we dare to become accustomed to the risen Lord? Do we suppose Him to be at our beck and call? Let it never be so! He, the crucified one, still is He who goes ahead of you.
Consider what and who your people follow. Who are the wise and learned who go ahead into the future and call us to follow their guidance? What token of trustworthiness do they leave behind that would garner our faith? Is there anything people stand in awe of anymore today? Is there a sense of wonder or excitement or has all been reduced and explained away? What would a healthy dose of the fear of the women do for a Christian? Might it be worth inculcating?